While the Big Apple braced for an Arctic chill, 17 trustees and staffers of NYC pension systems basked in the sun of balmy Key West at a weeklong, all-expense-paid seaside seminar.
The cost of the jaunt — thousands of dollars for airfare, hotels and food — will come out of money for city-employee pensions, which are mostly funded by taxpayers.
The lucky bunch attended the “Plan Sponsor Educational Institute” at the Key West Marriott Beachside Hotel, which features an outdoor pool surrounded by palm trees. Rooms start at $275, the group rate.
“It’s a nice little vacation that goes along with the education,” said John Murphy, former executive director of NYCERS, the city’s largest pension system.
While listed as four-day conference, Tuesday through Friday, the only activity the first day was registration. The last day ended at 10:30 a.m. On Wednesday and Thursday, the conference ended at 1:30 pm — after lunch on the beach — leaving plenty of time for fun in the sun.
Evenings feature cocktail receptions on the beach or terrace.
The attendees include trustees, who are unpaid, and staff executives of pension funds for Department of Education workers, teachers, police, and other city employees in sanitation, transportation and housing. Some brought spouses, but have to pay for their airfare and food.
Isaac Carmignani, a Board of Education Retirement System trustee, insisted he wasn’t sipping drinks on a lounge chair.
“I have not packed shorts, and it’s too cold to hang by the pool. It’s pleasant — a breezy 65, 70” degrees, he said. He and his wife did go to Duval Street for dinner and visited President Truman’s “Little White House.”
Representatives of pension systems from other places in a deep freeze — including New Jersey, Philadelphia and St. Louis — attended as well.
Investment firms, money managers and consultants which seek lucrative contracts from pension funds also showed up in droves.
The trip, while common nationwide, nonetheless seems dubious, top pension experts told The Post.
“Holding a conference in Key West in the middle of winter? Could this conference have been held in New York City? I submit it certainly could have,” said Edward Siedle, a former Federal Trade Commision lawyer who conducts forensic investigations of pension funds.
“If not, the most prudent approach is to send one member, who would come back to report to the others what they have learned.”
William Lerach, a former class-action lawyer who represents pension funds, agreed.
“The people who get to go to this are getting a free vacation,” he said. “Pension dollars are so precious, they can be better spent.”
Ilana Maier, a spokeswoman for City Comptroller Scott Stringer, whose Bureau of Asset Management oversee pension investments, could not give a total cost of the trip.
“The comptroller’s office doesn’t administer the funds, so we would have no way of knowing,” she said.
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