Detroit Pension Board members under fire for Hawaii trip

4 members' trip to Hawaii for pension program will cost Detroit's pension fund $22,000

Author: Rod Meloni, Local 4 Business Editor, @RodMeloni
Published On: May 17 2013 05:13:09 PM EDT   Updated On: May 17 2013 06:03:06 PM EDT
Detroit Pension Board Hawaii Trip
DETROIT -

John Reihl Four members of the Detroit Pension Board -- two from the general fund and two from the police and fire fund -- were jetting off to Hawaii on Friday.

The members will spend a week in the Aloha State learning about the pension business. The trip will cost the fund $22,000.

Among the members on the trip is AFSCME Union Local 207 President John Reihl. He and his wife left Detroit Metro Airport shortly before noon Friday on their way to the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Waikiki. They'll see a lot of sand, surf and, Reihl says, classwork.

"I talked to coworkers, I hear no problems from the people we represent on this, no," he said. "We learn from all ways. We go to classes, we bring people in, we go to conferences, we read like crazy, and that's how we do it. This is part of doing business."

The trip is decidedly not a hit with Detroit's new Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr. Orr didn't know about it until Local 4 asked for his reaction.

"This is a monumental lack of judgment in the middle of the city's financial crisis and it raises troubling questions about how the city's pension boards are managed," said Orr.

The Hawaiian pension program is well-known. However, Macomb County never considered going and neither leaders in Wayne County. In Oakland County, leaders unanimously voted down sending anyone.

"It's bad perception. It doesn't pass the smell test," said Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson.

Patterson says an online class would save big money.

"A lot of us would like to go to Hawaii for a week but we don't for a lot of reasons, and the least of which is we can't afford it," said Patterson.

Reihl reaffirmed this is all about business.

"They won't find me in the bar, they might find me in the gym, that's about it," said Reihl.

One of the Detroit Pension Board members told Local 4 one of his representatives is going to present at the conference, which is why he is going. Emergency Manager Orr will be giving this trip a very close look.