State senate supports making T pension records public

The state Senate passed a measure Thursday, as part of a bill to expand public records access in Massachusetts, that would make the records of the MBTA pension fund open to the public.

The amendment, proposed by Senate minority leader Bruce Tarr, a Republican from Gloucester, would specifically require “any document made or received’’ by the $1.6 billion retirement fund for transit workers to be considered a public record.

The measure appeared to go further than past, failed, efforts by the Legislature to require the T pension fund to follow the rules of other pensions for public workers.

It states that the rule would apply to the T retirement board, “or any other legal entity, public or private,’’ that receives funds from the MBTA for payment or administration of pensions.

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The pension fund is organized as a private trust and has long refused to make its records public, beyond its yearly investment return and an annual report that generally is published 12 months after the end of each year.

Steve Crawford, a spokesman for the T pension board, declined to comment on the legislation.

The Senate version of the bill must still be matched with a House version that passed last year.

Steve Grossman, the former state treasurer who is one of three recent appointees by Governor Charlie Baker to the MBTA retirement board, said, “Having fully supported the application of open records at the T pension fund since I was appointed, I could not be more delighted by the passage of today’s amendment.’’

He also said, “The taxpayers of Massachusetts deserve complete transparency when their hard-earned dollars are being spent or invested.’’

Grossman, as treasurer, was chair of the larger state pension fund, which has $60 billion in assets and makes most of its records public.

Wall Street whistleblower Harry Markopolos and Boston University finance professor Mark Williams last summer delivered a critical report on the T pension’s finances to federal authorities. According to their findings, the pension fund may be overstating its assets by as much as $470 million.

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The pension board has said it stands by its financial reports and hired an outside consultant to conduct an audit that is currently underway.

State senator William Brownsberger, a Democrat from Belmont, opposed elements of the public records bill Thursday, including the amendment to make T pension records public.

In an interview after the session, Brownsberger said, “I opposed it because I think we’ve already been down this path and lost legally.’’ He said he does favor transparency.

Brownsberger in 2013 had himself proposed a measure to open the T pension’s records, but reversed his view on the matter a year later.

The state’s Supervisor of Public Records had ruled, in response to requests from the Globe and other news outlets, that the Brownsberger measure, passed as part of the state budget, was not specific enough.

Brownsberger helped craft a separate agreement with the Boston Carmen’s Union to release the amounts of pension payouts to members and to improve the fund’s annual report to meet a higher standard.

The Boston Globe is suing the T pension fund board to release records related to a $25 million hedge fund loss that it failed to disclose to the public or its retirees for more than two years.

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