Loftis signs agreement over access to SC documents

SC treasurer signs agreement with retirement commission over access to investment documents

Associated Press

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- Officials hope an agreement between state Treasurer Curtis Loftis and the board that invests South Carolina's pension money brings an end to the public rancor between them.

The agreement allows Loftis' staff to review confidential information on investment deals — access he's demanded for more than a year.

As treasurer, Loftis sits on the Retirement System Investment Commission. He's had full access to documents, as have other commissioners and the commission's staff. But he wanted his office's legal and financial professionals to review the documents, saying he can't possibly be expected to review and understand all those documents on his own.

Previous attempts to resolve the issue failed.

The increasing animosity led to an unprecedented lawsuit at the state Supreme Court earlier this year, as well as an investigation by state Inspector General Patrick Maley, at Loftis' request.

Loftis said the agreements he signed last week, giving access to four designated members of his staff, resolve most of the dispute. Commissioners are expected to formally approve the arrangement at their meeting next week.

"It's going to make life better for everyone," Loftis said. "Now that that's done, many of the problems we've had will go away."

Loftis has repeatedly attacked the commission as secretive, but its chief operating officer, Darry Oliver, said Monday that the agency has only tried to protect confidential information. The eventual solution, he said, creates a responsible process for sharing it.

"We've finally crossed the finish line, which is good for everybody. It allows everybody to focus on doing their jobs," said Oliver, who has worked to resolve the matter since starting his job in February.

Both Loftis and Oliver said the real beneficiaries are state retirees.

"We certainly hope that the contention between the two groups can be resolved, and the treasurer's dispute with investment commission can end," Don Tudor, president of the State Retirees Association, said Monday. "We certainly think having them work together in partnership is preferable."

The commission sued Loftis in April, asking the state's high court to force him to fund an investment he and his fellow board members had approved months earlier. After Loftis wire-transferred the money a day before the hearing — saying affidavits in the lawsuit supplied the guarantees he needed — the commission asked the court to settle questions about Loftis' roles and responsibilities with the $27 billion pension fund to prevent a future crisis.

Instead, justices chastised both sides and decided Loftis' payment left no reason to rule.

Then in July, Maley's report found no criminal conduct or deceptive practices by the commission. But he wrote that he'd never seen such a toxic, distrustful relationship between two organizations. The dysfunction must stop, he said, because the escalated tensions are harming the pension fund.

But he did find that Loftis had valid complaints about the agency restricting information from him, saying the treasurer's office should have nothing short of "full unfettered access."

Loftis said he's had that over the last month.

"The flow has been forthright and timely. We were able to quickly resolve problems that would've taken months and months before," he said.

For example, he said, he was able to disperse to his staff attorneys and accountants the final details on an investment the commission approved last spring.

"What would have taken me personally 35 to 40 hours over the span of three to four weeks, my staff did in a couple of days" during business hours, he said. "I'm ready to move on to other issues around state government."

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