Growing public pension costs strain agency budgets and jeopardize services to the public.  So it’s no surprise that, as pension liabilities multiply, government retirement systems frequently are in the news.  However, the Contra Costa County Employees’ Retirement Association (CCCERA, “suhs-air-uh”) apparently prefers to fly under the radar.

CCCERA is an independent governmental entity, separate and distinct from Contra Costa County.  It administers retirement benefits for the County, 16 participating agencies and retirees from 8 formerly-participating agencies.  The system has about 18,000 active and retired members and manages over $5 billion in assets.  CCCERA’s unfunded actuarial accrued liability – for which taxpayers are liable — is $1.48 billion.

Because Contra Costa residents are served by several of these agencies, they’re obligated to fund CCCERA pensions for multiple employers.  Due to this cumulative effect, taxpayers have major skin in the CCCERA game.

One would expect a government agency of this size, reach and importance to be fully accessible to the public, in a manner similar to City Councils.  Instead, the CCCERA Board of Trustees meets on weekdays, with limited public participation, and makes no audio or video recordings of its meetings publicly available.  Board minutes record actions, but exclude discussion.  As a result, crucial Board developments are unknown to all except those in attendance.

At the September 12, 2012 CCCERA Board meeting Kris Hunt, Executive Director of the Contra Costa Taxpayers Association, asked the Board to make audio or video recordings of its meetings available on its website.  In her letter to the Board, Hunt states:

CCCERA is a $5 billion public pension system providing . . . benefits to 17 public agencies.   All of these public agencies currently are experiencing budget strains to varying degrees . . . Given the financial impact of CCCERA’s decisions on the services offered by these agencies, it is only fitting that the public receive access to full and complete information regarding Board meetings . . . Today’s technology allows recording and uploading of digital audio and video files easily and inexpensively.  Accordingly, it is appropriate that CCCERA change its current policy and begin providing a complete meeting record to promote public participation and understanding of Board activities.

Later in the meeting County Supervisor John Gioia acknowledged that meeting recordings would come in handy to resolve Board disputes regarding meeting minutes – such as the one that occurred, ironically, at this same meeting.  It is expected the Board will consider Hunt’s request on a future agenda.

For any government agency that controls $5 billion in taxpayer dollars, making recordings of Board meetings seems like the least it can do.