Connect with us

News

Alabama House Members Calling for Review of RSA Performance

Brandon Moseley

Published

on

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Alabama House member Jim Patterson (R) from Meridianville is calling for an outside audit of Retirement Systems of Alabama investment performance. Rep. Patterson said, in an exclusive interview with the Alabama Political Reporter. “We are not getting good information.”

Rep. Patterson said that during the last ten years Retirement Systems of Alabama has been one of the worst performing public pension funds. Those numbers are based on valuations set by auditors hired by the RSA. In the last fifteen years, the Alabama state teachers’ pension fund has invested heavily in hard assets like commercial real estate, Alabama TV stations, Alabama newspapers, golf courses, and a box car factory. Valuing real property like real estate and businesses is an inexact science and Patterson questions the methodology used by RSA.

“Commercial property has been the worst performing investment of the last five years.” Rep. Patterson questioned the real values of RSA’s holdings and says he suspects that the numbers could be worse than what RSA is reporting to the public. Patterson said that he fears that this could “the biggest scandal in this state (Alabama).”

Alabama House of Representatives member Blaine Galliher (R) from Gadsden says, “There is this erroneous assumption that Dr. Bronner is doing an excellent job. Maybe early on he did, but he hasn’t in the last ten years.” Dr. David Bronner has been the CEO of Retirement Systems of Alabama, which manages the pension funds for Alabama’s teachers, state employees, and state judges since 1973.

Galliher wrote on his Facebook account: it is “important that all read this article and realize, there is no such thing as “too big to fail.” I am not advocating taking over RSA–BUT–we put in close to $1 billion to shore up the RSA last session and it is anticipated that we will have to put in over $1 billion for 2013. That is money that could be used for raises, equipment, buildings, technology, and many other needs. This is real. I am really aggravated about those that advocate Bronner as the best thing since sliced bread, when for the last ten years RSA has been in the bottom 10 percent of retirement programs in the U.S. Again, I do not want to take over RSA but it is $1 billion of taxpayer money that should be going to the educational system and employees. I do think it is time that there be an accounting to the taxpayers since it is their money. If you are a public employee it is your money that is at stake. All I am asking for is answers to your return on investments and your retirement future. Again, not wanting the legislature to “take over” RSA as being purported but I do want some answers to tough questions like how much are the golf courses making? Why wasn’t there a prior lease on the rail car plant? Why did we continue to buy stock in USAir when we knew it was going bankrupt? I am not a financial genius but I too have an investment in this issue.”

By Alabama law, when RSA does not return at least 8 percent on its’ investments, the Alabama taxpayers have to pay in to the RSA to make up for the poor performance of RSA’s investments. This money is taken from the Alabama Education Trust Fund. Last year, the state legislature increased the amount of contribution that teachers paid into their retirements. Rep. Galliher said that this was due to the poor returns of RSA’s investments. Rep. Galliher said that when Dr. Bronner began diversifying into newspapers, television stations, and golf courses performance declined. Alabama House member Galliher says that the taxpayer money that the state legislature will have to use to shore up RSA could and should have been used in the classroom. “We are at the bottom versus other states. I would like to see some accounting. The teachers have not gotten raises in years. Every dollar is important.”

Public Service Announcement


Alabama House member Jim Patterson says that RSA has a “fiduciary responsibility to the teachers” whose pension funds that RSA manages. “His fiduciary responsibility is not industrial recruitment.” Patterson said that Dr. Bronner has made several investment decisions to increase political power rather than to get the best return for Alabama’s teachers. Rep. Patterson cited as examples: RSA’s purchase of Community Newspaper Holdings, which owns over 100 small newspapers including some in Alabama and RSA’s ownership of Raycom Media which owns over 40 television station in the Southeast, including Fox 6 in Birmingham and Channel 12 in Montgomery. Patterson said, “The reason they own the TV stations is political power.”

Rep. Patterson questioned the close relationship between Dr. Bronner and RSA and the teacher’s union (AEA) run by Executive Secretary Paul Hubbert until his recent retirement,. Paul Hubbert in addition to his duties at AEA as Chairman of the Board of the Teacher Retirement System and the Public Education Employee’s Health Insurance Plan (PEEHIP) Board of Control, Patterson said that “AEA is the political arm of RSA. If you ask the average teacher, they will say that David Bronner is doing an excellent job because that is what they read in that little paper AEA puts out (the Alabama School Journal). The truth is he hasn’t. Dr. Bronner has been allowed to do whatever he has wanted to do” and for the last fifteen years he has not performed.

Both Representatives Galliher and Patterson were also critical of Dr. Bronner’s decision to invest $625 million in building a railroad car factory in Colbert County. Navistar has recently announced that they would lease the plant that RSA built.  Rep. Galliher estimated that the RSA has lost over $300 million on that investment.

Advertisement

David Bronner also used RSA funds for a leverage buyout of the airline USAir. Eventually, USAir ended up in bankruptcy and an estimated $300 million of pension fund was lost.

Rep. Patterson said that “AEA blames Republicans” for declining teacher take home pay. “They should be blaming Dr. Hubbert and Dr. Bronner for propping up their little empire.” Rep. Patterson was also critical of a contract that RSA has with a law firm in New York. According to Rep. Patterson, Dr.Bronner’s son is the highest paid lawyer at that firm on that contract. Rep Patterson said that Dr. Bronner and his staff, including Mark Reynolds, pay should be based on investment performance and not be paid direct salaries….salaries Rep. Patterson called “exorbitant.”

Rep. Patterson said that he did not favor giving the legislature control of RSA but said that the state “needs an independent investment guy” running RSA and the RSA “need to make money.” ”You can make money in any market. Hubbert and Bronner are running RSA. The RSA manager ‘needs to get the best he can get for the teachers.’”

Rep Patterson said that the state needs a report to teachers and taxpayers about the real health of RSA’s investments. “I would like to see an independent audit. All I want are the facts. Are we doing good, or are we not doing good?”

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with eight and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook. Brandon is a native of Moody, Alabama, a graduate of Auburn University, and a seventh generation Alabamian.

Advertisement

Health

COVID-19 hospitalizations in Alabama continue surge

On Monday, 1,335 patients with COVID-19 were being cared for in hospitals statewide, the most to date.

Eddie Burkhalter

Published

on

Data from the Alabama Department of Public Health shows hospitalizations have increased since July 1. (APR GRAPHIC)

Alabama on Monday saw the highest number yet of COVID-19 patients in hospitals since the start of the pandemic, and the second-highest single-day increase in coronavirus cases on record. 

On Monday, 1,335 patients with COVID-19 were being cared for in hospitals statewide. That was 172 more COVID-19 patients than were hospitalized the previous day — and the largest single-day increase in hospitalization numbers reported by the Alabama Department of Public Health.

The last record number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Alabama was on Friday, when 1,201 people were being treated statewide. The increase Monday is also 134 more patients than were being care for on Friday.

Friday was the sixth straight day of record-breaking COVID-19 hospitalizations in Alabama. Friday also saw the second-highest number of deaths in a single day in the state, when ADPH confirmed 35 new deaths as a result of COVID-19, nearly breaking the previous record of 37 set on May 12.

On Monday, the state also added 1,860 to Alabama’s total case count, bringing the cumulative total now to 54,768 confirmed cases. That’s the second-highest single-day increase in cases since the start of the pandemic. With 25,783 people presumed to have recovered from the virus, and at least 1,096 dead, more than half of the state’s cases, or 27,889, are presumed to be active.

Public Service Announcement


Testing has ticked up slightly in the last few weeks — Alabama’s seven-day average of tests conducted was 9,176 on Monday, 93 more than the previous high set on July 5 — but the percentage of tests that are positive continues to increase as well, a sign that new cases aren’t just due to more testing. 

The seven-day average positivity rate Monday was 16.18 percent, which was almost 30 percent higher than it was a week ago. Taking into account the Alabama Department of Public Health’s incomplete testing data on July 9 and in early April, which threw off the positivity rate, Monday’s seven-day average was the highest on record for Alabama. 

Advertisement

Public health officials say that the percent of tests that are positive should be at or below 5 percent or there’s not enough testing being done and cases are going undetected. 

Madison County continues to see a surge in new cases. The county added 267 new coronavirus cases on Monday, and over the last week added 1,044 new cases, which was 70 percent more than were added the week before. Madison County’s positivity rate this week has been roughly 16 percent. 

Jefferson County followed closely behind Madison County, adding 266 new cases Monday and 1,602 cases within the last week, which was a 30 percent increase from the week before. 

In Mobile County, there were 157 new cases Monday.

Mobile County’s weekly total of new cases for the last week was 23 percent higher than the previous week. 

Continue Reading

Economy

Extra $600 in COVID-19 unemployment benefits ends July 26

The extra weekly unemployment payment of $600 ends later this month. 

Eddie Burkhalter

Published

on

(STOCK PHOTO)

Despite surging COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations across Alabama and in many other states, an extra $600-per-week in unemployment compensation through the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program is expected to expire July 26. 

That extra money, meant to help those whose jobs were displaced by coronavirus and through no fault of their own, was made possible through the CARES Act, the federal aid program that is to continue through Dec. 31, 2020, but the extra weekly payment of $600 ends later this month. 

“At this time, the federal government has not changed or extended the FPUC program. States do not have the ability to extend FPUC,” the Alabama Department of Labor said in a press release on Monday. 

The end of the extra assistance will impact more than 25 million Americans, during a time when COVID-19 continues to spread actively through communities. 

More than $1 billion has been pumped into Alabama’s economy through the extra $600-a-week payments to Alabamians, according to the New York City-based think tank The Century Foundation.

The Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation payments make up 60 percent of total unemployment benefits paid during the pandemic. 

In Alabama, 35,760 people are receiving the extra $600 a week, which totals approximately $91.7 million weekly into the state, according to The Century Foundation, which estimates that benefits to Alabamians receiving unemployment assistance will decrease by 70 percent once the extra $600 a week dries up. 

Public Service Announcement


The average current combined unemployment benefits in Alabama is $854.95 and after the end of the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation payments, the remaining unemployment benefit will be roughly $254.95.

There are also racial justice implications in the end to the extra $600 a week in aid, according to the think tank.

“Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina all have average unemployment benefits below $300 per week, as a result of both low wages and unemployment insurance rules that simply offered less protection to predominantly black workforces,” The Century Foundation’s report notes.

Advertisement

In Alabama, 57 percent of those receiving unemployment benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic from March to April were women and 50 percent were white, while 43 percent were Black, while Black people make up only 27 percent of the state’s population.

The report states that the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation benefit was intended to be a public health measure, helping workers while they stay home until it is safe to go back to work.

“Just as rushed reopenings put families at risk, eliminating FPUC now will force people to rush back to work before it is safe,” the report reads.

Job seekers can visit their local Career Center or search jobs online without cost at alabamaworks.alabama.gov

Continue Reading

Elections

Barry Moore receives two key endorsements

Staff

Published

on

By

Barry Moore, Republican candidate for Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District. (VIA BARRY MOORE CAMPAIGN)

Barry Moore, candidate for Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District, received two key endorsements from the Alabama First Responders Association and the Veterans Leadership Fund. Both groups made the decision to endorse Moore because of his pro Veteran, pro Law Enforcement, and Pro First Responders stance. 

“We at the Veterans Leadership Fund, an initiative at GatorPAC, are proud to endorse Veteran, Barry Moore for Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District. At VFL, we have a rich history of supporting candidates who best represent true conservative values and have served our great country. As a self term-limiting representative, a devout conservative, and a true man of the people, Barry Moore is the ideal representative for veterans and conservatives alike,” said Rob Maness, founder of GatorPAC and the Veterans Leadership Fund. 

“The Alabama First Responders are proud to endorse Barry Moore for Alabama’s second Congressional district. Alabama’s heroes put their lives on the line every day. We must protect their jobs, and make sure that their families will be covered if something tragic happens in the line of duty. Barry always voted in support of first responder legislation while he served in the Alabama Legislature. We are confident that Barry Moore will continue his support while serving in Congress,” said interim Director Brett Trimble. 

Moore responded with the following statement:

“I am very honored to receive both of these endorsements. I am a Veteran and having the support of the Veterans Leadership fund is quite an honor. I have always worked to support and defend our Veterans. When I served as the Chairman of Military and Veterans Affairs in the Legislature, I always made sure our servicemen and women were a top priority.

“First Responders are the backbone of our communities. They serve the citizens and put their lives on the line each day. When a disaster happens we can always count on these brave men and women to respond with courage and empathy. President Trump has shown great care in protecting and defending our law enforcement officers. We can’t let the Democrats attempt to defund the Police. When I’m serving in Congress, I will stand strong with the President and DEFEND our Police and first responders.”

Moore is a small businessman, Veteran, former member of the Alabama Legislature, husband, and father of four from Enterprise.

Public Service Announcement


Continue Reading

Elections

Sessions says Alabama doesn’t take orders from Washington after Trump inserts himself in race again

Brandon Moseley

Published

on

GOP Senate candidate and former Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, released a statement pushing back against President Donald Trump’s endorsement of his opponent, former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville, in which he said “Alabama does not take orders from Washington.”

The blunt comments were in response to a Twitter post from Trump once again inserting himself in the Alabama Senate race.

“I’ve taken the road less travelled,” Sessions said. “Not sought fame or fortune. My honor and integrity are far more important than these juvenile insults. Your scandal ridden candidate is too cowardly to debate. As you know, Alabama does not take orders from Washington.”

This was after Trump tweeted, “Big Senate Race in Alabama on Tuesday. Vote for @TTuberville, he is a winner who will never let you down. Jeff Sessions is a disaster who has let us all down. We don’t want him back in Washington!”

Trump has called his decision to appoint Sessions as U.S. attorney general his “biggest mistake” as president.

The rift between the two former friends began in 2017 when Sessions, newly appointed as attorney general, recused himself from the Russian collusion investigation. Sessions has steadfastly defended the decision and continues to maintain that he was forbidden by U.S. Department of Justice policy forbidding anyone who was part of a campaign from investigating that campaign.

Sessions was the first U.S. senator to endorse Trump in the 2016 presidential election and worked tirelessly throughout 2016 as a surrogate for the Trump campaign.

Public Service Announcement


Sessions maintains that had he not recused himself from the Russian collusion investigation things would have gone worse for Trump. As it was, his duties in the matter fell on fellow Trump appointee Rod Rosenstein, who appointed former FBI director Robert Mueller as special counsel.

The special counsel investigation successfully prosecuted a number of close Trump associates for various failings in their personal and professional lives, but ultimately never was able to indict the president or a member of the Trump family, and it never was able to produce tangible evidence that the 2016 Trump campaign was involved in collusion with Russian intelligence agencies to defeat former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Sessions is running for the Senate seat he gave up to be attorney general.

Advertisement

Tuberville has been avoiding the media since a New York Times report detailed how Tuberville’s business partner David Stroud cheated investors out of their savings and was sentenced to ten years in prison. The two had formed a hedge fund, managed by Stroud, a former Lehman Brothers broker. Tuberville maintains that he was Stroud’s biggest victim, but the investors sued Tuberville, who settled out of court.

Sessions’ campaign maintains that incumbent Sen. Doug Jones’ campaign will capitalize on the scandal during the general election similarly to how they capitalized on allegations against former Chief Justice Roy Moore to win the 2017 special election to win the Senate seat vacated by Sessions to be attorney general.

Sessions was a late entrant into the Senate campaign. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, has endorsed Sessions.

“Jeff Sessions is a good friend and a respected former colleague,” Shelby wrote. “I believe he is well-suited to return to his role as United States Senator for the state of Alabama, where I served with him for more than 20 years. He has my full support and endorsement.”

Sessions was Senator from 1997 to 2017. He was U.S. Attorney General from 2017 to Nov. 2018. Prior to his Senate service, he served the state as Alabama Attorney General, Republican Party Chairman, and U.S. Attorney under Presidents Ronald W. Reagan (R) and George H. Bush (R). Sessions was also a former assistant U.S. Attorney and a U.S. Army reserve officer. He is a native of Alabama who grew up outside of Camden in rural Wilcox County.

The Republican primary runoff is on Tuesday. In order to vote in any Alabama election you must: be registered to vote, vote at your assigned polling place, and have a valid photo ID. It is too late to register to vote in this election or obtain an absentee ballot; but if you have an absentee ballot today is the last day to return it either through mail or by hand delivering it to your courthouse absentee ballot manager’s office.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Authors

Advertisement

The V Podcast