The Consequential Position of the LACERS Board President


Retirees Update

By Tom Moutes, RLACEI Legislative Director

Tom Moutes

Who cares who is elected LACERS Board President? You should care, but unfortunately these elections frequently fly under most people’s radar.

The LACERS Board President is an important position for several reasons. The president usually helps shape the agenda for Board meetings and oversees the conduct of the meetings. This influence can have real consequences for LACERS members. The voting for Board President is scheduled to take place every July and when there is a vacancy in the office due to a Board member resignation.

Because the Mayor gets to appoint four of the seven Board members, the Board President (not coincidentally) tends to be a mayoral appointee. This tends to happen despite the facts that: (1) one of the appointees has to be a LACERS Retiree, who should be a balancing point between the appointees and elected members; and (2) that the elected members of the Board frequently have more experience, as the appointees sometimes get moved to other City boards or get pushed aside with each new mayoral administration. Currently, the top three Board members in terms of longevity are: (1) Mike Wilkinson (elected); Sung Won Sohn (appointee); and Annie Chao (elected).

When who the Board President is matters most is when a controversial item appears on the Board agenda. Past examples of controversial items include the Early Retirement Incentive Plan (ERIP) in 2009 and the occasional conversation regarding lowering LACERS assumed rate of investment return. Each of these items has short-term impacts on the City budget, so the Mayor tends to have great interest in them. It is fascinating to see how the Board President deals with these controversial items, from dealing with them just like any other matter, to being so conflicted that they don’t know what to do, to caving in to what they believe the Mayor would want. Each of these reactions has been on full display over the years, and two of those three reactions don’t serve the LACERS membership well.

Frequently, the most prominent mayoral appointee just happens to be elected President. I assume this is part of the negotiation when getting the appointee to agree to serve – not that anyone should be coordinating a Board vote outside of a meeting.

Whoever the new Board President is, let’s hope he or she takes their responsibility to the LACERS membership seriously and does what is in the best interests of those members, as they are required to do by the State Constitution and City Charter