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Editorial: Another problem with PERA

It’s almost as if toxic infighting among board members and an unfunded liability the size of Texas weren’t quite enough for New Mexicans to worry about when it comes to the state’s public employee pension program.

A member of the Public Employees Retirement Association board has now accused the organization’s executive director of feathering his own nest with improper raises. State Treasurer Tim Eichenberg’s gripe – detailed in a May 8 Journal op-ed – is that in the past five years, executive director Wayne Propst has taken three raises in varying amounts never approved by PERA’s full board. Eichenberg believes the raises were illegal and has asked the Attorney General’s Office to look into the matter.

It’s the right venue to raise the concern. PERA has enough problems as it is – its liabilities led to a downgrade in the state’s bond rating last year, and considering it manages the retirements of firefighters, police officers and other civil servants, its leaders must be beyond reproach. Here’s to the AG conducting a thorough investigation and putting the matter to rest.

It’s worth noting that in the midst of all the finger-pointing, the board failed to take action on its annual budget before an all-important May 1 deadline, a baffling failure that earned a well-deserved dressing down from state Auditor Brian Colón. Colón was right when he said missing the date could harm membership, and it’s simply not acceptable. This board needs to do its job and put PERA pensioners above PERA squabbling.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.