Bronner prevails in RSA-AEA spat over retirement board control

Bronner prevails in RSA-AEA spat over retirement board control

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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -

Chalk this one up to the Retirement Systems of Alabama.

"To be honest with you, I'm delighted of course" said David Bronner, CEO of the RSA.

Teachers Retirement System members returned ballots for a run-off election for a pair of seats on the TRS Board of Control in favor of the status-quo, or in this case, in favor of RSA Chief David Bronner, and not the Alabama Education Association. The TRS Board also oversees the Public Education Employees Health Insurance Plan, PEEHIP.

The TRS is one of two boards that govern the funds and investments of the RSA. The other board is the Employees Retirement System Board of Control.

The AEA, the state's largest and most influential teachers union, backed a pair of challengers for spots on the board, Peggy Mobley and Bernard Sanderson.

The incumbents for each of the seats, Susan Lockridge and Sarah Swindle, defeated Sanderson and Mobley respectively by very wide margins.

Lockridge was reelected to her seat with more than 70 percent of the vote and Swindle won her election with more than 60 percent of the vote.

With a wide smile of accomplishment, Bronner said the vote of TRS members across the state shows that the members not only care about their pensions, but are satisfied with the fund's current direction.

"It's an affirmation of 40 years of work of the board" Bronner said in an interview after the meeting of the TRS election committee Friday morning at RSA headquarters.

A war of words started after a meeting of the TRS board in December, when the board voted 7-6 to turn down a proposal from Henry Mabry, who serves on the board by virtue of his position as Executive Secretary of the AEA, to freeze health insurance rates for 2013 on all PEEHIP members.

PEEHIP staff encouraged board members to deny Mabry's resolution saying that freezing rates at that time could lead to even sharper rate and premium hikes in the future.

In response Mabry used the Alabama Schools Journal, the official publication of the AEA, to call out board members by name, to let AEA members know that they did not vote the wishes of the organization.

Bronner called the move a "power play" in the RSA's official publication, The Advisor. He said it was the teachers union boss' way of attempting a hostile takeover of the TRS board.

"I want no such thing" Mabry said at the time. "I have other things to worry about than the TRS board."

Mabry said he was merely asking for accountability. He also sharply criticized the across the board investment performance of the RSA, decisions that were made with Bronner at the helm.

Mabry was not available to comment on the board election results.

Bronner said after Friday's meeting that voters decided that his message, not Mabry's, was the in the best interests of the entire system.

"I think people understood that what people have dedicated themselves to over these decades is to make Alabama better and to make the Teachers Retirement System better."

EDITOR'S NOTE: The Retirment Systems of Alabama is the primary lender to Raycom Media, the parent company of this television station.

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