Saturday, May 29, 2021

Muth Hires Transparency Legal Expert to Battle PSERS' Refusal to Provide Public Information

State Sen. Katie Muth, D-44th Dist.

Blogger's Note:
The following was provided by the office of state Sen. Katie Muth, D-44th Dist.

State Sen. Katie Muth, D-44th Dist., has retained national transparency law expert, Terry Mutchler, to assist with her ongoing battle on behalf of teachers and taxpayers to obtain basic information related to investment decisions that triggered a federal investigation into alleged wrongdoing by PSERS. The engagement of Mutchler, a partner at the Philadelphia offices of Obermayer, Redmann, Maxwell and Hipple is notable given that it marks the first time in the history of a Pennsylvania investigation involving a state agency that a board member has hired transparency counsel.

Senator Muth, Policy Chair for the Senate Democratic Caucus, opted to hire transparency counsel following months of being denied access to documents she is entitled to as a Board Member such as investment information, building plans, contracts, pertinent documents, and board meeting materials for the period that preceded her appointment to the PSERS board in early 2021.
Image from screenshot
Terry Mutchler

“While I only joined the PSERS board several months ago, I have continuously been denied access to vital information related to the ongoing federal investigation into improper investment decisions using taxpayer and teacher money,” said Senator Muth. “Transparency Counsel will be instrumental in my efforts on behalf of teachers and taxpayers."

Prior to Senator Muth’s appointment to the Board, the PSERS Board voted (11-0, with 3 abstentions) to certify the member contribution rate for fiscal year 2021-22 based upon calculations for investment performance. During the March 2021 Board Meeting, the Board was informed for the first time that those calculations overstated PSERS investment performance due to a calculation error. The PSERS Board has hired independent counsel to conduct an internal investigation as to how the mistake was made and ascertain the actual numbers surrounding the investments. The difference in these calculations led to an increase in the contribution rate by PSERS members and has prompted investigations into the calculations.

“I am completely open-minded about what may have led us to the situation PSERS is in today, which has triggered a federal investigation. However, common sense dictates that when basic questions about what happened are being blocked, and I am essentially told to mind my own business, I start wondering exactly how $62 billion in taxpayer money has been spent.” Senator Muth continued: “At this point, I worry for Pennsylvanians that this debacle was either caused by sheer incompetence and lack of proper controls, or perhaps illegal schemes. Either way, I fully intend to fulfill my duty as a fiduciary and I will not stop fighting until taxpayers and teachers have full confidence that their money is being invested wisely.”

Senator Muth selected Mutchler due to her immense experience dealing with transparency law, her national reputation of openness in government and her background as the founding executive director of the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records, the agency tasked with enforcing the state's Right to Know law. Previously, Mutchler was appointed by former Gov. Ed Rendell to create the state agency tasked with enforcing the state’s right to know law. She was appointed Illinois’ first Public Access Counselor, served as Illinois Assistant Attorney General and now serves as a Board Member of the National Freedom of Information Coalition. She previously clerked for the Chief Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court, a Republican, and also clerked for the Executive Office of the President of the United States during the Clinton Administration.

“While the decision to hire counsel did not come lightly, the decision to bring the experience and expertise of Terry Mutchler to my fight for transparency was an incredibly easy one,” said Muth. “The fact that I, as a member of the PSERS board, am expected to vote on multiple millions of dollars in new and continuing investments during the June board meeting without first being granted access to basic information is extremely suspect and questionable. The people of Pennsylvania deserve better and, one way or another, I will continue to ask questions until we have these questions answered, once and for all.”

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