LAST YEAR a scandal came to light regarding the handling of Maryland's state pension fund: A fund manager was benefiting from state investments he controlled, and even when he disclosed this information, the fund's overseers didn't do anything about it until federal authorities began investigating the matter. Along the way, the fund was left with a $5.3 million loss. Another fund manager was convicted of fraud for diverting trading profits from clients' accounts into his own.
The lack of even routine oversight this year prompted the General Assembly to overwhelmingly approve a bill to strengthen the Maryland State Retirement and Pension System's board of trustees. It would add financial experts and remove two state officials who have enough to do in their full-time jobs -- the superintendents of education and state police -- as well as one of two trustees elected by police. That would seem to be a slam-dunk for signature by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R), who made corruption in state government a campaign theme.
But Comptroller William Donald Schaefer (D), a strong Ehrlich ally who also is chairman of the pension board, doesn't see any need for action this year, noting that the board has already improved its oversight. Last week, at Mr. Schaefer's urging, the board voted to seek a veto of the legislation. Mr. Ehrlich has not said what he will do, though his two appointees on the board voted to pursue a veto. Why reject expertise just because Mr. Schaefer is offended by the legislature's sound move? If Mr. Ehrlich wishes to demonstrate a vigorous stand against corruption, this is one good way to do so.