What Are We Doing?
Opposing the hostile takeover of Liberty Apple Valley
By Ron Fonger, JOURNAL STAFF WRITER
The city’s former finance director, under fire for a delay in transferring money to a Flint pension fund, responded sharply to critics Tuesday, threatening to take legal action over some of their accusations against him.
Marc Puckett, who resigned Friday, said the controversy amounts to nothing more than an
election-year attempt to try to get the mayor (Woodrow Stanley).
In a telephone interview with The Flint Journal, Puckett said no harm has been done to the city because of the delay in transferring millions of dollars between pension funds. He also denied any insinuations that the delay was intentional, and said he has hired an attorney to represent him in the matter.
People ran off with a shard of information and turned it into something different, Puckett said.
… I’ve been libeled, I’ve been slandered and I’m not going to put up with that.
Puckett’s comments came after some Flint Retirement Board members said Tuesday they don’t believe what they’ve heard from Puckett about the matter. The board also agreed to start its own investigation into the city’s failure to make timely transfers.
Fifth Ward City Councilman Barry Williams, who generally has supported Mayor Woodrow Stanley’s agenda, said Puckett was misleading in discussing the pension problems before leaving his job.
The person wasn’t telling us the truth, said Williams, an alternate City Council representative on the Retirement Board.
There’s no sense in uttering (again) what he’s said.
In response to the allegations, Puckett said some of the board members did not understand the financial issues involved.
Unfortunately, when you’re dealing with board members,… a lot of these people are without any financial backgrounds, he said.
City Administrator David H. Ready answered board questions about the pension problem with extreme caution, noting with each answer that information he’s relied upon came from Puckett and had not been verified independently.
A preliminary review by the Michigan Department of Treasury has concluded that while the city made employee and employer contributions to the pension system for two years, it failed to make transfers to the proper account within the retirement fund.
The state’s investigation is continuing, said Penny Griffin, a spokeswoman for the department. ‘
On Tuesday, Ready appointed Hugh Rose, vice chairman of the Retirement Board, to head a four-person committee and charged the group with reviewing transfer failures.
If you say something else needs to be done, that’s what we’ll do, Ready said.
Whatever it takes to resolve this, it will be done.
Flint’s Retirement Board oversees an $860-million pension system.
Puckett, finance director since 1992, originally told the Retirement Board that about $9 million had not been transferred to the proper pension account, Ready said. But Flint Treasurer Jim Goodwin said the total was up to $21 million at one point.
In a three-page letter to 6th Ward City Councilman Mark Horrigan, Puckett stressed that
all monies in question … have always been on deposit in the retirement fund.
On Tuesday, he said the money had simply not been transferred from one retirement fund to another.
Puckett had blamed an internal auditor in his department for failing to make the proper transfer and himself for failing to catch the error.
In a letter to Ready Friday, Guy F. Baumgart, grievance committee chairman for AFSCME Local 1600, said he was
appalled to hear where blame was being laid for this incident.
Baumgart’s letter said the employee blamed for failing to make the transfer
was never trained in this area because they are not authorized to do transfers to the pension fund.
Yes, our members are not perfect, and yes, we all make mistakes, the letter continued,
but when something like this occurs, and our members get the blame for things way beyond their control, it is time for someone to step up to the plate and say, ‘The buck stops here.’
But Puckett continued to say Tuesday that the problem arose because of a failure by a department employee.
This was not a problem I created. I brought it up, I explained what occurred, he said.
Ron Fonger covers Flint city government and Bishop Airport. He can be reached at (810) 766-6317.
Copyright Flint Journal / MLive Media Group (mlive.com). Used with permission.