Treasurer denied retirees’ records

Colorado Treasurer Walker Stapleton is not entitled to access all records controlled by the state’s largest public retirement system, the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled Thursday.

Even though Stapleton’s office makes him an automatic member of the Colorado Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA) board of trustees, he’s not entitled to “unfettered access” of association records, as he had requested, a three-judge panel of the court unanimously ruled.

Stapleton requested access to the records soon after taking office in 2011, saying he needed them to perform his fiduciary duties as a trustee.

But the association’s attorneys said, and the 14 other trustees agreed, that allowing that access would breach the association’s fiduciary duty as defined under the retirement association’s laws.

The court agreed, saying a trustee’s access to records is limited.

“Stapleton ... relies on the common-law rule that corporate fiduciaries have an absolute, unqualified right to inspect corporate records, and therefore, that trustees have a similar right to unqualified access to trust records,” Appellate Judge Sandra Rothenberg wrote in the ruling, which was joined by Judges John Webb and David Richman. “However, such a rule is inconsistent with the express statutes and the duty of loyalty governing PERA trustees.”

In his initial request, Stapleton had asked for individual records, “not to include names or data relating to the specific identity of individual recipients,” of the top 20 percent of recipients’ annual pension benefits.

He also wanted to know when they retired, what their salaries were at retirement, the ZIP code of their residences and for which state or local agency they worked.

The association, however, denied that request, saying Stapleton had not shown a real need for the information in order to serve as a trustee.

“A PERA trustee is only entitled to access PERA member and benefit recipient information when ... the trustee seeks the information to perform a valid, identified fiduciary function,” the association said in a counterclaim against Stapleton.

The association also said Stapleton had not shown “a reasonable nexus” for needing the information.

Stapleton, like several previous Republican treasurers before him, have long criticized the association on several fronts, most commonly over its expected rate of return of about 8 percent.

Though Stapleton has argued that rate is unsustainable, the association reported last month that its rate of return for 2012 was 12.9 percent, which added about $4.6 billion in asset values to its trusts.


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