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GERS Annuitants Still Have No Representation

In 2005 retirees and active VI government employees called for legislative revisions that would allow for them to elect two representatives to sit on the Board of Trustees for the Government Employees’ Retirement System (GERS). Prior to that time the law only provided criteria for the Governor to use to appoint members to the Board.

As a result of the lobbying of several groups Act 6794, the Government Employees’ Retirement System Reform Act of 2005, contained provisions for retirees in each district to elect a representative to sit on the Board. While it may sound as if the desires of retirees and the lobbying groups were satisfied by the inclusion of language to elect a retiree representative, unfortunately, as the old saying goes, “the devil is in the details.”

The Act included language that specifically detailed qualifications for elected Board members.

Those standards included that the person must have a bachelor’s degree and at least five (5) years experience in investment banking, economics, finance, insurance, law, medicine, accounting, actuarial science, taxation, real estate appraisal, brokerage or securities trading.

These targeted qualifications coupled with the fact that the person had to be a GERS retiree, clearly narrowed the scope of possible candidates. In fact, many of the required areas of expertise meant that only one or two individuals would even be qualified to be nominated.

While it is understandable that the Board members and Senator who developed Act 6794 wanted to allow for a short learning curve each time new Board members arrived, their actions could also be interpreted as willfully orchestrating measures that would legally deny Board membership to the average retiree or retirees who possessed considerable financial expertise.

When the GERS application review team reviewed the applications for the retiree election, they maintained a hard and fast interpretation of the law and did not accept retiree applicants who did not possess degrees in the specified areas regardless of their degree of experience in the financial field.

So, after waiting patiently for five (5) years for GERS officials to implement the provisions of Act 6794, retirees appear to be no better off than they were before the law was passed. The very sections intended to provide retirees with knowledge and a voice on the GERS Board apparently failed to specify that these Board members were obligated to actually represent the interest of the people who elected them.

AARP looks forward to any comments, recommendations or suggestions you may have on this issue. Please contact us via email at viaarp@aarp.org.
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