Early in 2013, Providence filed a lawsuit against the actuarial firm, Buck Consultants, that had served as the city’s actuary for the previous 90 years.
It takes a pretty serious falling out to break off such a long-standing relationship, but Providence is alleging that Buck made a serious mistake when crunching the numbers behind the city’s recent set of pension reforms.
When the city was designing its pension reforms, it asked Buck to calculate how much the city would save from various policies, namely the suspension of cost-of-living increases. So that’s what Buck did.
But the city alleges that Buck made serious mathematical errors in its estimations, overstating the city’s savings by $700,000 a year and in turn boosting its pension liabilities by $10.8 million over the next 28 years.
The court case is now underway, and the time has come for Mayor Taveras to be deposed. But Taveras says he needs to wait until after the Sep. 9th gubernatorial primary to answer questions under oath. Buck says “no way.” From the Providence Journal:
The city last week filed an emergency motion for a protective order seeking to postpone until after the primary election Taveras’ questioning under oath about his decisions regarding changes to the city’s retirement system. It asked, too, that U.S. District Chief Judge William E. Smith limit his deposition to three hours, given the “press of city business.”
Buck Consultants LLC — which performed financial analyses for the city since 1920 — argues that Taveras’ deposition is imperative to its defense against the city’s lawsuit.
Buck looks to question Taveras, who it identifies as the central witness in the case, not only about his decision-making in pushing for an ordinance suspending cost-of-living increases for retirees but also statements he has made in the course of his campaign for governor. Buck asserts that its lawyers should be allowed to depose Taveras “while the campaign is ongoing” based on his comments.
“Mayor Taveras is not a mere bystander to this dispute,” Buck writes. “As the City’s highest elected official, he is a critically important witness.”
What could Taveras be worried about? For one, Taveras is saying the he wouldn’t have passed the reforms if he’d known about the math errors.
But Buck accuses Taveras of signing off on the series of reforms after he was aware of the errors.
According to Buck, Taveras is using the actuarial mistakes as a campaign ploy to save face on a policy that took money out of the pockets of many voters.
Taveras and his challenger, Gina Raimondo, have been see-sawing back on forth in the polls since last year.
Photo: “Angel Taveras headshot” by City of Providence, Office of the Mayor – City of Providence, Office of the Mayor. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons