Idiots on the PERA board
“In the first place, God made idiots. That was for practice. Then he made school boards.”
If the author of that great line, Mark Twain, were alive today and living in New Mexico he'd undoubtedly change it to say, “In the first place, God made idiots. That was for practice. Then he made the PERA board and members Jackie Kohlasch and Maggie Toulouse Oliver.” And he would have been understating the case against Kohlasch and Toulouse Oliver and some other PERA board members who are hopelessly lost in their own incompetence, buffoonery, ignorance, dysfunction and total uselessness.
How can you not call Kohlasch and Toulouse Oliver idiots after their recent statements regarding allegations that PERA's Executive Director Wayne Propst improperly gave himself and PERA staffers raises over the past five years, and that he gave those raises without getting approval from the 12-member PERA board of directors as many members believe he's supposed to do?
(Photo: Member Jackie)
On Jan 8, Kohlasch and Toulouse Oliver voted with PERA's other board members to launch an independent investigation into Propst and the allegations of impropriety against him. The vote was unanimous. I'll say it again. The vote was unanimous with both Kohlasch and Toulouse Oliver voting to investigate Propst.
Just a week ago during a Feb. 12 PERA board meeting, Toulouse Oliver made a motion—and voted for it—to send the allegations against Propst to New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas for investigation. And then, after saying that the AG's office should investigate Propst, Toulouse Oliver did something that is worthy of title, “Idiot.” She said she didn't think that Propst had done anything wrong. Here's what she actually said:
(Photo: Member Maggie)
“I just want to state this for the record. I have no doubt that our executive director acted in complete good faith in terms of the decisions he was making.”
Huh? Maggie, dear, if you don't think Propst did anything wrong, why did you vote to investigate him and why did you vote to send the investigation to the state's top law enforcement official? Are you stupid, or just plain dumb? Do you think that the 40,000 public-sector retirees who get pensions from PERA are stupid? Are you playing games? Do you think it's funny to call for an investigation and then say before the probe has even started that you've made up your mind as to what the outcome should be?
And then there's the idiocy of Kohlasch, who is now the chair of the 12-member PERA board. She either can't remember people's last names, or thinks it cute to call them by their first names during meetings, as in, “Member Maggie,” and “Member Patty.”
This is a woman who apparently knows nothing about how to properly run a board meeting. She is so uninformed in that area that PERA has had to hire a parliamentarian to sit by her side at board meetings and tell how to do things. The cost for this parliamentarian will be at least $5,000. That's $5,000 out of PERA's investments funds, funds that pay all those pensions.
So here are some questions that even a person with half a working brain cell would be smart enough to ask: Jackie, if you don't know how to run meetings, why did you run for board chair? Are you insane? Or are you just stupid? Are you that arrogant and self-centered and selfish that you will spend retirees' money to pay someone to help you run meetings? Or is it that you're mentally handicapped because you have a PhD?
Member Jackie is also arrogant, or dictatorial, in that she thinks she speaks for all 12 board members. On Feb. 18, KRQE-TV asked Member Jackie about a letter that PERA board member Tim Eichenberg, who happens to be the state treasurer, sent to the AG's office in late January asking it to investigate Propst and the massive pay raises he's given out without board approval. Here's how the TV station said Kohlasch answered that question:
"On behalf of the board, she (Kohlasch) believes Wayne Propst did not break any laws.” The station also reported that Member Jackie said Eichenberg wasn't authorized by the board to send his letter to Balderas.
Member JACKIE, ARE YOU INSANE? OR ARE YOU JUST AN IDIOT? You voted to investigate Propst in January, and you voted just a few days ago to send the matter to the AG's office. Have you forgotten that? If your mind is already made up that Propst is innocent, why waste Hector Balderas' time? Do you think it's funny and cute to waste people's time?
And Member Jackie, the board voted unanimously on on Jan. 8 to investigate Propst. Why did they do that if they all think he's broken no laws and violated no policies? Are they all as nutty as you and Member Maggie?
And Member Jackie, Member Tim is an elected official and an American citizen and he doesn't need your approval, or the board's approval, to ask the AG to investigate potential wrongdoing at the PERA. Do you understand the basics of open government and a free country, or are you just dumb?
I have spoken to several PERA Board members regarding your comment and they say that your comments do NOT reflect the opinion of the entire board. They stated that they do NOT know what the outcome of the NMAG investigation will be, and they will reserve comment until the investigation is complete. Isn’t this the appropriate way to conduct an investigation? Wait for it to be finished?
Member Jackie and Member Maggie, you are either stupid or you're hypocrites and frauds. You're trying to have it both ways; calling publicly for an investigation into Propst's actions and then backing off. You're trying to fool your 40,000 members by saying you're protecting the fund with this investigation while at the same time you're protecting your good friend Wayne Propst. You can't have it both ways. Make a choice; it's either unbiased justice or the good ol' boy and good ol' girl system.
Members Jackie and Maggie aren't the only losers, and apparent Wayne Propst apologists on the PERA board. One member from Albuquerque basically wanted to cover up the fact that Propst might have acted improperly in handing out massive raises and promotions without board approval. During the board's Jan. 8 executive session meeting to talk about the allegations against Propst, the board member said, “Can't we just fix this?” Apparently he wanted the board to go back out into public session and vote to retroactively give Propst the authority to give himself and others raises.
So much for protecting the integrity of an agency that is responsible for a $14.5 billion investment fund and getting promised pensions to 40,000 people.
There are other clowns on the board. At least three other members appear to be afraid of their own shadows, or of PERA management. They're afraid to talk to reporters even about things they've said in public meetings. They have let themselves be censored by the rest of the board without raising a public stink or screaming in public about the unfairness of it all.
And the two don't seem to understand that they are elected public officials and can't be told not to talk about public business. I recently asked one board member about stuff that was said during a recent public meeting and she seemed scared out of her wits. She said something like, “We're under this Roberts Rules of Order thing and I can't say anything.”
You're a public official and you can say anything you want. You're a member of a board that oversees $14.5 billion in PUBLIC pension funds. You have an obligation to speak your mind, especially if you see wrongdoing and impropriety.
So here are some questions to the scaredy-cat board members who have been cowed into silence:
What are they going to do if you talk to reporters, throw you in prison? Will they cut your tongues out? Will they glare at you? When will start acting courageously and like free people? Do I need to call you idiots, too? Or should I just call you cowards?
Look, I'm not a public retiree and I won't get a public pension. But if the PERA funds lose money—and they lost 2.5 percent in 2018, and they're facing a $6 billion long-term shortfall—those 40,000 retirees and the state legislators who suck up to them will take more of my money in the form of higher taxes to shore up the funds. I don't want that.
Let's clean this mess up, and we can start by demanding that the idiots resign.
Member Jackie? Member Maggie?