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MBTA union to make pension benefits public

Boston Carmen’s Union still refuses to release fund records

The MBTA workers union agreed to make some pension information available to the public as part of its recent contract negotiations, but did not require its retirement fund board to hold open meetings or disclose records.

Under the contract, the Boston Carmen's Union adopted language to require the $1.6 billion T retirement fund to disclose members' pension benefits to the MBTA at least monthly. The MBTA in turn will post them on the state website that discloses all public employee pensions, Open Checkbook.

In addition, the union agreed that fund trustees will improve the annual report to meet the standards of the Government Finance Officers Association.

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The fund's annual report for years has left out essential elements, prompting warnings from auditors. The fund also failed to disclose a $25 million loss on a hedge fund investment in 2012, until the matter was reported by the Globe last year. Currently, the loss is posted on the pension fund's website.

The union, which also won a 10 percent pay increase over the next four years, approved the pension and work agreements last weekend. The Massachusetts Department of Transportation affirmed the $94 million accord Wednesday.

The T pension fund, partially supported by taxpayers, is organized as a trust and not required to follow public records laws. That position was upheld by the state Supreme Judicial Court in 1993.

Last year, state lawmakers led by Senator William Brownsberger, a Democrat from Belmont, passed a measure intended to require greater transparency by the pension fund. But the final version of the bill did not include a specific reference to the MBTA. The state's public records chief later ruled the law was too vague and did not compel the fund to disclose records requested by the Globe and others.

"We want to protect the private status of the trust,'' said James O'Brien, the Carmen's Union president. "All of this was done through collective bargaining and that's where it should be.''

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The Globe has requested documents concerning the hedge fund loss. The investment in Fletcher Asset Management was sold to the pension fund by its former executive director, who had left to work for Fletcher. The Fletcher fund went bankrupt in 2012.

Over the summer, Brownsberger led an effort to overturn last year's disclosure bill. Governor Deval Patrick vetoed the measure.

The Globe is suing to obtain the records.


Beth Healy can be reached at beth.healy@globe.com.