Mayor Maureen O'Connor and Councilmen Mike Gotch and William Jones will meet with representatives of the city's Retirement Board to resolve differences over $72 million invested by the board in companies doing business in South Africa.
Last year, the council passed a resolution supporting full divestiture of the retirement funds because of the segregationist policies of the white-minority government in South Africa. The board, however, has resisted divestiture, saying its fiduciary responsibility requires it to invest in the companies because of high returns.
Council members Monday again debated the issue but stopped short of reiterating their policy. Instead, at O'Connor's urging, they voted unanimously to appoint the three-member committee to confer with board members to seek some common ground in the dispute before Sept. 15, the next time the full council is scheduled to discuss the issue.
During Monday's hearing, City Auditor-Controller Ed Ryan was questioned by O'Connor for permitting the Retirement Board to include letters about divestiture in each city employee's paycheck last Friday.
The letter, called an "informational bulletin," said the council's position "may be detrimental" to the retirement system and would prevent it from investing in 38% of the "largest and most successful companies in the United States."
Debbie Logan, assistant development officer for the city's Library Department who favors divestiture, criticized the letter as a "scare tactic." She said the city paid at least $1,051 to print and disseminate it, including 3,300 sent by first-class mail to retired city workers.
O'Connor also criticized the letter, saying it went beyond the mere notice of the Monday council meeting to discuss the issue. Under her questioning, Ryan said he followed an informal, unwritten policy when he gave permission for the board's letter to be included in the paychecks.
Board members said they have $72 million of the retirement system's $600 million invested in 13 companies doing some business in South Africa.
Council members Monday also said they wanted to study a possible policy that would prevent the city's Purchasing Department from buying supplies and items from companies with business ties to South Africa.