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Most expect that there will be governance changes to the pension system. But although the city is reluctant to pay any more money into the system until such reforms have been agreed upon, Dallas, in a very real sense, is not in charge of its own pension destiny. Any changes must come from the Texas Legislature, which meets every other year and is currently in session. In late February the DPFP board voted to put a proposal to the legislature: Drafted by Texas House Pensions Committee chairman Dan Flynn and passed with a 9–0 vote, the plan would raise the retirement age to 58 from 55, eliminate cost-of-living adjustments, and roll back the DROP program. In a statement e-mailed to Institutional Investor by a spokesman, DPFP chairman Friar said, “DPFP remains totally focused on a plan that will address and put in place a long-term fix for the DPFP funding issues.”

Not everyone is convinced the proffered solutions are going to be enough. “We have to be ready if the system fails,” warns council member Gates. “Nobody is telling us if it goes insolvent what it is going to look like.”

The city council board members recently voted against making a major payment on a loan from Bank of America Corp.

“No more large-sum payments should leave the system, so we can stabilize the fund,” says Griggs, who led the objection to the loan payment. The fund is currently liquidating assets, including a number of its poor real estate investments, to make payments — something Griggs also objects to, saying, “I want to call a time-out.”

As for Museum Tower, exactly how much DPFP has invested to date in the project is not known. The building is currently at 70 percent occupancy.

In March 2016, Kingston told local TV channel WFAA that the pension fund should sell its remaining stake in the tower for $100 million. The ensuing firestorm was epic even by DPFP’s standards. The board sought to chastise Kingston and attempted to oust him. Friar called a special meeting. In an e-mail obtained by Kingston, Friar told Gottschalk that he had great “ammunition” that he threatened to “fire” at Kingston “at the right time during the meeting.”

Kingston filed an objection in court, saying he had been repeatedly blocked from receiving information that would help him make important investment decisions in his capacity as a trustee and fiduciary. In particular, he alleged that information pertinent to the sales of properties in Museum Tower was withheld despite repeated requests. Kleinman did not agree with Kingston’s approach, but feeling that he lacked the board’s support when it came to publicly confronting Kingston, Kleinman resigned. Kingston later dropped his legal proceedings.

Today everyone involved with DPFP — staff members, city council members, and union representative trustees — is fighting for the pension plan to get out of its dangerous downward spiral. But the Kingston spat suggests that old ways die hard. The pension plan would prefer that some information remain hidden from public scrutiny.

Meanwhile, Kingston, Griggs, Gates, and Wilson continue to serve on the DPFP board. They know that digging out of the current mess will not be easy. It may not even be possible.

“We are at the point where we have kicked the can down the road long enough to where we can’t kick it any more,” says Wilson. “Even if we come up with a plan, what are the investments? We can’t invest our way out of this.”

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