July 25, 2016
There was an interesting editorial in the Commercial Appeal last Sunday concerning Germantown open records and the battle with Jon Thompson and Sarah Wilkerson-Freeman in order to get information on Germantown government salary, insurance and other perks. Congratulations to Thompson and Freeman. I have been fighting this open records battle since 2004.
Recently I asked the MLGW for current electronic copies of their annual pension and OPEB reports. I asked by email. I received an electronic copy of an open records request form which I filled out and signed electronically and sent it in. I then received the following message.
“Good afternoon, your documents are available for pickup. You can come to the Administration building and the documents will be at the security station.” I then objected to this bureaucratic requirement and sent my objections to Mr. Thompson (MLGW), Mayor Strickland and many others. I eventually got the electronic copies that I asked for and you can now look at the MLGW pension report and the MLGW OPEB report at www.memphisshelbyinform.com.
Now the Tennessee Open Records law does not require furnishing electronic copies but governments with a fully open records policy will furnish the information in electronic format because it is cheaper and easier and nearly all data is already in electronic format. If they want to discourage open records requests they will require you to travel down to their office and pick it up at the security desk.
I like the MLGW and their utility services. Very professional. President Jerry Collins is a great manager and runs a well trained and effective company. I call on the MLGW to put this information (pensions and OPEB) on their website and keep it updated. I also ask them to publish a return on investment report for their smart meter program to show the public how this program will be paid for and the return on the rate payers’ investment.
Now as to the pension and OPEB reports. Shelby County published their annual pension and OPEB reports online. The City of Memphis and MLGW do not.
The MLGW pension fund has a net value of $1.32 billion and $118 million of unfunded liability.
The City of Memphis pension fund has a net value of $2 billion and $533 million of unfunded liability. The City of Memphis does not publish their annual pension report online.
The Shelby County pension fund has a net value of $1.1 billion and $316 million of unfunded liability.
The MLGW OPEB fund has a net value of $333 million and $461 million of unfunded liability.
The City of Memphis OPEB fund has a net value of $17 million and $730 million of unfunded liability. The City of Memphis does not publish their annual OPEB report online.
The Shelby County OPEB fund has a net value of $197 million and $101 million of unfunded liability.
The trouble spots are shown underlined above. Again Shelby County leads in local government in open records policy and fiscal responsibility. I urge you to let local governments know what information you think should be put on their website. What are your thoughts on transparency in government?