This week, the Colorado Supreme Court rejected Treasurer Walker Stapleton’s appeal to get more information from the state’s pension fund about the top 20 percent of benefit recipients. The move has Stapleton – and us – questioning whether the ruling was colored by a very obvious conflict of interest: the fact that the judges themselves are members of the state’s public employee pension fund.
Here’s what Stapleton had to say in the Grand Junction Sentinel:
“The fact that the court doesn’t take up a case where three statewide elected officials from different political parties are all asking to please review the case I think is deeply disappointing,” Stapleton said. “Call me a cynic, but it’s also worth pointing out that every single member of the judicial branch are also members of [the Public Employees’ Retirement Association] PERA.”
The three elected officials Stapleton is referring to include himself, Republican Attorney General John Suthers and Democrat Gov. John Hickenlooper. The issue of transparency and pension solvency clearly crosses party lines, so why is the Court so reluctant to pull back the curtain?
PERA has been fiscally unsound for years, and Stapleton has simply been trying to figure out just how bad the state’s pension solvency really is by requesting some basic information. Since any PERA shortfall would be backfilled by Colorado taxpayers, the public has a right to see these records. By refusing to let Stapleton shine a light on PERA’s books, the justices are just fueling the suspicion that there is something to hide.