All aboard the transparency train
Who you gonna believe, us or your lying eyes? That seems to be the stance the overseers of the secretive MBTA Pension Fund had been taking as more and more critics have called on the board to open its books to see how much of a drain it is on the struggling transit authority’s budget.
A ruling Wednesday by Suffolk Superior Court Judge Kenneth W. Salinger in a suit brought by the Globe could be the key to unlocking the door the pension board has kept shut tight, arguing it is a trust and therefore immune from public records law. Not so fast, said Salinger, who ruled a 2013 state budget amendment required the board to open its books because it received public money.
The ruling came in a dizzying day for the embattled pension board. The board had been under fire since last June when Harry Markopolos – the whistleblower who recognized Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme long before anyone else had an inkling – co-authored a report that said the $1.6 billion T pension fund was misstating its assets by as much as $470 million.
The board hired its own forensic accounting firm and within hours of the court ruling, released the firm’s findings that the charges “lack merit” and were “unfounded.” But, despite the pension board’s declaration that the analysis by FTI Consulting was “independent,” it must be kept in mind that the board hired and paid for the study. And, looking deeper, the report made no mention of why the board failed to publicly report a $25 million hedge fund loss, bringing further into question how “independent” the analysis is and what is not included in the 28-page report.
The FTI report made note that Markopolos did not respond to request for copies of his study but, unlike the pension board, he is not under court order to do so.
The Herald adds another wrinkle with a story that says the T and the pension board are failing to account for unused sick and vacation days in calculating retirement liabilities, a failure that could cost taxpayers millions more.
The calls have grown louder for the pension board to show its hand, especially with the T trying to scrape loose change from under subway car seats to balance its budget. In addition to Salinger’s decision, which the board has yet to indicate whether it will appeal, the public records bill passed by the Senate and now in conference committee calls for the pension board records to be open and available. The House has shown a little more favorability to the T unions but the issue may now be a third rail for them and force them to climb aboard the transparency train.
The Massachusetts House passes ride-sharing legislation that neither taxi drivers nor Uber and Lyft particularly like. (State House News)
Three new state representatives were sworn in Wednesday, including Rep. Thomas Walsh of Peabody who is back in the House more than a decade after leaving. (State House News)
A federal report points to multiple failures by the Boston Fire Department that it says contributed to the death of two firefighters in a 2014 fire in the Back Bay. (Boston Globe)
The Globe looks at the connection of teachers unions to groups that helped encourage Monday’s walkout by Boston public school students protesting budget cuts.
A proposal in Lexington to ban assault weapons in the town runs into strong headwinds. (Boston Globe)
The town of Falmouth in partnership with a local nonprofit group is on the verge of an agreement with the Coast Guard to take over operations and maintenance of the historic Nobska Light and keeper’s residence in Woods Hole. (Cape Cod Times)
Investor Glenn Edwards looks to partner with MGM to build apartments in Springfield. (Masslive)
Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone says he’s being bullied by Wynn Resorts and Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria to give up his fight against an Everett casino. (Boston Herald)
Virginia becomes the first state to regulate fantasy sports. (Governing)
The New York Times breaks down the list of guests invited to state dinners at the White House, ranging from campaign cash bundlers and Wall Street tycoons to sports and Hollywood figures.
Hillary Clinton is put on the defense in last night’s Democratic debate with Bernie Sanders in Miami. (Boston Globe)
Eric Fehrnstrom says it’s time for Marco Rubio to pack it in. (Boston Globe)
Tuesday’s Florida Republican primary is turning into “a mudslinging battle of the billionaires,” as Donald Trump takes to the airwaves against the Koch brothers and other wealthy conservatives who are trying to derail him. (Boston Globe)
Joe Battenfeld thinks Charlie Baker’s Republican State Committee skirmish and the rise of Trump, whom he has denounced, could spell trouble for the Republican governor down the road. (Boston Herald) Howie Carr piles on with more on what he calls Baker’s “hackapalooza” plan to remake the state party and wrest control of a national Republican committee seat. (Boston Herald)
A city-sponsored report finds that minority- and women-owned businesses in Boston face particular hurdles in expanding because of city bureaucracy and inability to access capital. (Boston Globe)
The Most Interesting Man in the World blasts off to Mars with no plans by Dos Equis to bring him back. (Associated Press)
A Cape Cod high school sees benefits from a later start-time. (Boston Globe)
A Superior Court judge has rejected a bid by Bristol Community College to dismiss a suit by a longtime campus police officer who charges she was the victim of sexual harassment and discrimination when she was fired. (Standard-Times)
A federal labor board ruled Southcoast Hospitals Group violated labor laws when it bargained in bad faith with the nurses’ union at Tobey Hospital in Wareham. (Standard-Times)
A Salem News editorial supports the construction of a new MBTA stop in south Salem.
A Framingham official wants the MBTA and Keolis to clean up the litter and debris around the commuter rail tracks running through downtown, saying the trash gives riders a bad image of Framingham. (MetroWest Daily News)
ExxonMobil and the town of Charlton can’t agree on how to deal with groundwater contamination from a gasoline spill in the 1980s. ExxonMobil has agreed to spend $15 million on a new water line to homes and schools affected by the spill, but Charlton wants $25 million on top of that. (Telegram & Gazette)
Weymouth Mayor Robert Hedlund says everything including litigation is on the table to try to stop a proposed gas compressor station on the Weymouth side of Fore River. (Patriot Ledger)
The Supreme Judicial Court orders a new trial for a Salem mother convicted of attempting to kill her son by withholding chemotherapy. (Salem News)
Bristol District Attorney Thomas Quinn wants a change in the 2014 law that prohibits police from disclosing the names of people charged in domestic violence incidents. (Herald News)
Telegram & Gazette columnist Dianne Williamson offers up an interesting story about a West Boylston couple who grow their own pot for medicinal purposes and keep getting harassed by police.MEDIA
Channel 7’s owner is suing NBC’s parent company, Comcast Corp., to stop the company from cancelling the station’s NBC network affiliation. (Boston Globe