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Thursday letters: State's pension fund changes are leading to disaster

Florida rolls dice on pension fund | June 20, story

Putting pensions on road to disaster

Thank goodness that I am not a Florida public employee or retiree!

Tripling hedge fund exposure and reducing allocations in more staid stocks and bonds is a short road to disaster.

I had a difficult time believing what I was reading as quotes from Ash Williams, executive director of the Florida State Board of Administration touting a probable higher level of return with a lower level of risk. Then following that ridiculous contention, I read that Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, Attorney General Bill McCollum and Gov. Charlie Crist voted to approve the "plan" with little or no comment or questions.

One can only hope that the Legislature can show a bit more common sense to protect the future of the pension system and quash this nonsensical "plan."

I was also amazed to read that the pension fund was relying on a return of 7.75 percent to "meet its pension commitments."

What world are these people living in, I wonder?

Just a couple words of advice here: One, fire Ash Williams before he and his board bankrupt the pension fund. Two, instead of reaching for an outrageously high return, require more money to be infused into the fund by employees' payroll deductions.

Thomas Fallon, Lecanto

Florida rolls dice on pension fund | June 20

If it sounds too good to be true …

I understand that we are about to invest a large portion of Florida's public pension money in privately held hedge funds based on a sales pitch by Ash Williams, executive director of the Florida State Board of Administration. According to the Times, Williams told Alex Sink, Bill McCollum and Charlie Crist, "We will probably have a slightly higher level of return with a slightly lower level of risk." Williams added, "Hedge funds are an area I have a pretty significant amount of experience in …"

Could this be the holy grail of investment: "low risk high reward"? Or is it the same "it's-too-good-to-be-true" lip-smacker that helped cause our country's current economic calamity? Alex and Bill and Charlie all bobbled their heads in agreement with Ash so it must be a good bet.

Good luck, public service retirees! However, should this gamble with your future get final approval and should your pension pot take a dive, please, call on Ash and Alex and Bill and Charlie to personally bail you out.

Dave Plyer, Clearwater

Florida rolls dice on pension fund | June 20

Playing a risky game

I am horrified that Bill McCollum, Alex Sink and Charlie Crist would approve increasing the state pension fund's investment in hedge funds. This proves to me that these folks just don't understand investment and risk. They also don't understand that retirees need a fixed, dependable benefit every month. They should not be in positions where they can make this kind of decision.

Many years ago, the State Board of Administration fund moved out of tobacco into financial services and insurance. It was thought to be a safer investment and was. But look at the financial service industry today. The SBA has lost a lot in the last couple of years and has lacked transparency and effective leadership. The SBA fund needs to be in publicly held investments that people can understand and that can be carefully monitored.

SBA executive director Ash Williams clearly needs to be replaced in his job. How much are the taxpayers paying him to place our pensions in greater risk?

All the years I worked, I lived cheaply and bought the cheapest of everything. I don't need these high fliers who don't know the value of a dollar playing with my pension.

Sue Martinson, Hudson

Bill McCollum

He's doing little

It is obvious that Bill McCollum is simply a career politician who is using the Attorney General's Office as a stepping stone to the governorship and possibly to the U.S. Senate later on. But he has done a poor job as attorney general and there is no reason to expect him to do any better as governor.

Several months ago the TV program 60 Minutes did an expose of Medicare fraud in the Miami area. One of the convicted felons stated, on camera, that 85 percent of the medical supply businesses in Miami were fraud and the program showed some of their phony offices/stores. Yet I've seen nothing in the media to indicate that the Attorney General's Office has done anything to investigate the matter. Granted, the crime is against Medicare, a federal program. But if fraud is being committed in Florida, that is our attorney general's job.

More recently, the St. Petersburg Times exposed the Navy Veterans organization as a complete fraud. And that "charitable" organization was originally set up in Florida. The Florida Department of Agriculture has taken steps to ban the group from operating in Florida, but where is the attorney general? Once again, he's out to lunch or running for governor.

I'm not sure yet who I will vote for in this governor's race, but it will not be Bill McCollum.

Alfred J. D'amario, Hudson

Rick Scott

Candidate overexposed

It is two months before the state's primary elections and I am already suffering from overexposure. Overexposure to a ubiquitous bald-headed man who has money to burn, and who spends unbelievable amounts of money on political TV ads and mailings.

It seems like there is a mailing that arrives every day from Rick Scott, who is running for governor in the Republican primary election. The mailings look a little different each time, but have the same old message attacking his opponent, Bill McCollum.

I hate to throw away all that expensive paper, so I give it to my friend to line her bird cage. And then there are all those TV ads. Thank heavens for mute buttons. It is getting to be a long, hot summer.

S.L. Hutton, Belleair

Rick Scott is ready to sell, but will voters buy him? | June 19, story

Setting unrealistic goals

Rick Scott attempts to distance himself from the Medicare fraud that occurred when he was CEO of Columbia/HCA. However, his behavior as CEO is analogous to that of Tony Hayward, BP's CEO. Both set unrealistic financial expectations that resulted in egregious violations of work standards, one resulting in fraud, the other in a gigantic oil spill. Both Scott and Hayward are responsible for the outcomes created by their workers because, as CEO, each established the financial targets their underlings were pressured to achieve.

Scott many not have known his executives were "cooking the books," but if he understood the hospital business, he would have known his financial goals could not be achieved while adhering to ethical work practices.

When Scott claims he would run the state like a business, is Columbia/HCA the business model he has in mind — all about money, absent any personal accountability for how it is achieved?

Barbara Langland Orban, Tampa

Thursday letters: State's pension fund changes are leading to disaster

06/23/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 23, 2010 7:30pm]
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