The Whole Truth

Open Letter to RI Municipalities: Tell us the Truth!


Quick Links: See the OPEN LETTER below, Automated Online Contact Form , Locally-Administered Municipal Pension Plans Evaluations, About the National Pension Task Force

April 19, 2012. Providence, RI – An “open letter” to Rhode Island municipal officials was released today by the national Task Force organized by the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity to provide research and analysis on Rhode Island’s underfunded municipal retirement systems. The open letter is in response to the evaluations of locally administered pension plans recently submitted by each city and town.

The letter requests that City officials utilize the same realistic assumptions used in the private sector, when evaluating the true scope of their pension and OPEB liabilities and assets.

“It is obvious that our city’s are using un-realistic methods to determine the true scope of the problem”, said Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity. “We urge every Rhode Islander to contact their city officials and demand that accurate accounting figures be put forward. How can a problem be solved if we don’t accurately quantify the problem?”

“We all remember the public outrage when Enron and other corporations were exposed for conducting fraudulent accounting practices … and rightly so. But why should we be any less concerned about accounting malpractice when it comes to our public pensions”, asked Rich Danker, member of the task force and project director for economics at American Principles Project, which is hosting the online form to contact municipal officials.

Citizens are asked to contact in their city and town officials in one of two ways:

1) Copy and paste the open letter below into a personalized email or letter to your own selected officials

2) Contact multiiple officials in multiple municipalities with a version of the same letter by utilizing an automated online contact form


Dear Mayor / City Official,

“Truth in Numbers” was a key theme for the historic pension reforms that were implemented last fall in Rhode Island, and, as a concerned citizen, I am requesting that the same level of transparency be implemented when it comes to dealing with the pension and other post employment benefit (OPEB) problems facing our city. All public officials and citizens need to be made aware of the full extent of the liability as well as the true condition of our public finances in order to be able to make informed decisions about proposed solutions.

We all remember the public outrage when Enron and other corporations were exposed for conducting fraudulent accounting practices … and rightly so. But why should we be any less concerned about accounting malpractice when it comes to our public pensions?

We are all in this together. How our city handles this significant problem will impact each and every resident: from retirees, to municipal employees, to property and vehicle owners, to business owners, to students and to all those who receive city services.

In order to instill honesty in public finances the city should publish the data associated with its retirement system that is comparable to what is demanded of the private sector. This means:

1) The city’s pension liabilities must be valued according to a discount rate that matches the true market value of the debt. Even if this means conducting a second valuation of the liability based on this more realistic rate assumption.

2) An open accounting of the city’s OPEB liabilities

3) The city’s pension assets must be valued on a true market basis

4) The projected total benefit contributions expected to be borne by taxpayers for the next ten years must be based on these more realistic figures

We know the horror stories of how public pension debt may have been dramatically undervalued by state and municipal governments, by as much as a factor of three-to-one. The assets that are meant to support this debt are also not always reported according to market values. Therefore, taxpayers are in the dark about what they owe in terms of pension payouts to government workers and retirees. This impedes an honest discussion about spending and taxes that needs to take place for cities like ours to achieve good fiscal health.

We are asking you to enhance your relationship with your constituents and fulfill your fiduciary responsibility to us, the taxpayers, by promptly disclosing the true scope of the pension data requested above. We deserve nothing short of full “truth in numbers” when dealing with this critical matter of public finance.

Thank you for your service to our community,

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