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Texas First Responders Oppose Governor’s State Pension Review Board Appointee

Texas first responder groups have come out in strong opposition to the gubernatorial appointment of Josh McGee to the Texas Pension Review Board.

These first responder groups urge he is an impartial, paid advocate, whose job is to abolish pension benefits for police officers and fire fighters.

These first responders say there is an ethical conflict of interest because of McGee’s executive position at a foundation. They ask that short of Governor Greg Abbott withdrawing the appointment, McGee should at the very least resign from his paid position advocating to end or curtail their pension benefits.

The Texas Municipal Police Association, Fraternal Order of Police Texas State Lodge, Harris County Deputies Association, Dallas Police Association, Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association Local 341, Dallas Fire Fighters Association, Texas State Association of Fire Fighters, Houston Police Retired Officers’ Association, and the Houston Police Officers’ Union released a statement saying they “stand unanimously in opposition to the appointment of Mr. Josh McGee to serve on the State Pension Review Board of Texas.”

These first responders say that McGee is a paid advocate for the Houston-based Laura and John Arnold Foundation, and charge that in his executive position at the foundation, “McGee has been the chief architect in attacking & attempting to abolish law enforcement officers’ and fire fighters’ earned pension benefits in Texas and other states.”

According to the Texas Pension Review Board website, the board  “is mandated to oversee all Texas public retirement systems, both state and local, in regard to their actuarial soundness and compliance with state law.”  It also provides, “Our mission is to provide the State of Texas with the necessary information and recommendations to ensure that our public retirement systems, whose combined assets total in the multi-billions, are financially sound, benefits are equitable, the systems are properly managed, tax expenditures for employee benefits are kept to a minimum while still providing for those employees, and to expand the knowledge and education of administrators, trustees, and members of Texas public pension funds.”

Breitbart Texas contacted Mr. McGee and the Laura and John Arnold Foundation. Mr. McGee declined comment.

A spokesperson for the Foundation pointed to a video of McGee’s testimony during the most recent Texas legislative session and to articles that McGee has written. A link to video that includes his testimony reveals that McGee identified that he worked at the Foundation but said he was testifying on behalf of himself.

During his testimony at the legislative committee he stated, “I think compensation packages need to be fair. I think compensation that has been earned should be paid. I don’t think that you can renege on compensation.” He also added that municipal governments should not be able to underfund their plans.

In an Op-Ed written by McGee in early October he wrote, “The city should have true local control of all of its pension systems with the authority to negotiate all aspects of workers’ compensation, including retirement benefits, within the same bargaining process. It should be able to implement changes locally, and policy decisions should be subject to voter referendum to give citizens a voice in the process.”

As it relates to the appropriate roles for the state, city, and pension boards, McGee added, “Finally, the role of the pension board should be limited to administering the plan and managing plan assets for the sole benefit of plan members. The pension board should not be able to negotiate benefit levels or reduced city contributions, and it certainly should not lobby the Legislature.”

With regard to local control he wrote, “The people of Houston must demand that the city fully pay for the benefits public workers have earned. We must obtain local control of the pension systems in order to uphold our promises to our dedicated public servants and to protect the fiscal health of our community.” He also wrote, “The citizens of Houston know the needs of our city far better than legislators from far-flung areas of the state. Houstonians should decide what’s best for Houston.”

The statement received from the Houston Police Retired Officer’s Association by Breitbart Texas charges, “Our collective organizations are at a loss as to how Mr. McGee, a highly compensated anti-law enforcement and fire fighter pension benefit lobbyist and strategist would be legitimately considered, much less appointed to such an important state advisory agency by Governor Abbott.”

The groups charge that “McGee is in no way impartial and in our view will utilize his appointed position to steer the State Pension Review Board toward achieving his employer’s agenda of taking law enforcement officers’ and fire fighters’ earned pension benefits.”

These men and women who serve the public say they are “also concerned that part of the Arnold Foundation agenda would eliminate the line-of-duty death benefit pensions for the widows and children of slain first responders.”

The statement from the first responders says, “[W]e are collectively disappointed and shocked that as supporters of Governor Abbott as well as pension stakeholders, we were not included at any level regarding this particular appointment. We believed that our standing with Governor Abbott would have at least provided us a forum to express our very valid concerns related to the negatives Mr. McGee’s appointment raises. Unfortunately, that did not happen and now we are placed in a difficult public position of exposing what an ill-advised and divisive appointment Governor Abbott has made.”

The Governor appointed McGee, and lawyers Stephanie Leibe and Ernest Richards to the Board on November 30th. There terms are set to expire on January 31, 2021.

Leibe is a senior counsel at Norton Rose Fulbright in Austin, Texas, where she focuses on public finance matters, including serving as bond and underwriter’s counsel for state agencies and local political governments, investment banking firms and banks. Richards is the managing member at Richards Law Firm PLLC in Irving, Texas, where he concentrates on public and corporate finance law.

Lana Shadwick is a contributing writer and legal analyst for Breitbart Texas. She has served as an associate judge and prosecutor. Follow her on Twitter @LanaShadwick2

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