Public pension disclosure

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Public pension disclosure can refer to the names of pension benefit recipients, the amount of benefits these individuals receive, or performance data for public pension funds, such as rate of return. The Ohio News Organization reported that at least 21 states consider financial benefits for retirees to be public records, including New York, Florida and Illinois, but at least 26 states prohibit the release of such information.[1]

Performance data

Forbes reported in 2008 that 13 states had secrecy laws closing off pension fund performance to disclosure.[2] These were:[3]

  • California
  • Colorado
  • Florida
  • Illinois
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Virginia

Performance data were largely under wraps until 2001, when the California Public Employees' Retirement System voluntarily published returns on its website --sparking a firestorm among its outside money managers.[3]

Massachusetts keeps hidden all commercial or financial data whose revelation could cause competitive harm.[3] South Carolina's freedom of information law now excludes "proprietary" information from the state's venture capital program but, strangely, includes rates of return.[3] In Alaska, despite broad open-records laws, the $39 billion Permanent Fund has no obligation to disclose performance data for any of its investments in private equity funds.[3]

Disclosure law and precedent comparison

State sunshine laws sometimes explicitly state that pension information is public records. Other times, court cases determine whether pension information is public. There are two categories (excluding pension performance) of pension data that are disclosable: the names of recipients and the amount that recipients receive. Each state can have multiple pension funds, and disclosure rulings are typically specific to one fund. The chart below notes when a ruling or law states that public pension information is public record, but may be specific to one fund in the state.

The information below is based primarily on state pension policy handbooks and specific state sunshine laws. A number of states below received a "yes" absent an affirmative statement that certain information is exempt in either the policies or in the information laws. In some cases, it is likely that a clear policy does not exist because no individual/organization has requested those specific pension records from the state.

State Names Pension data
Alabama Yes[4] Yes[5]
Alaska Yes, provided no violation of right to privacy[6] Yes, provided no violation of right to privacy[7]
Arizona Yes[8] Yes[9]
Arkansas Yes, provided no violation of right to privacy[10] Yes, provided no violation of right to privacy[11]
California Yes[12][13] Yes[14]
Colorado No[15] No[16]
Connecticut Yes[17] Yes[18]
Delaware Yes, provided no violation of right to privacy[19] Yes, provided no violation of right to privacy[20]
Florida Yes[21] Yes[1]
Georgia Yes (TRS),[22] No (ERS)[23] No[24]
Hawaii Yes, provided no violation of right to privacy[25] Yes, provided no violation of right to privacy[26]
Idaho No[27] No[28]
Illinois Yes[1] Yes[1]
Indiana No[29] No[30]
Iowa Yes[31] Yes[32]
Kansas No[33] No[34]
Kentucky No[35] No[36]
Louisiana No[37] No[38]
Maine Yes[39] Yes[40]
Maryland Yes[41] Yes[42]
Massachusetts Yes[43] Yes[44]
Michigan Yes[45] Yes[45]
Minnesota Yes[46][47] Yes[48][47]
Mississippi No, without written consent[49] No, without written consent[50]
Missouri Yes[51] Yes[52]
Montana Yes[53] Yes[53]
Nebraska No[54] No[54]
New Hampshire Yes[56] Yes[56]
New Jersey Yes[57] Yes[57]
New Mexico No[58] No[58]
New York No[59] Yes[1]
North Carolina Yes[60] Yes[60]
North Dakota Yes[61] Yes[61]
Ohio Yes[62] No[62]
Oklahoma Yes[62] Yes[62]
Oregon Yes[63] Yes[63]
Pennsylvania Yes[64] Yes[64]
Rhode Island Yes[65] Yes[65]
South Carolina No[66] No[66]
South Dakota No[67] No[67]
Tennessee Yes[62] Yes[62]
Texas No[62] No[62]
Utah No[62] No[62]
Vermont Yes[68] Yes[68]
Virginia No[62] No[62]
Washington Yes[69] Yes[69]
West Virginia
Wisconsin No[62] No[62]
Wyoming Yes[70] Yes[70]

External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 The Cleveland Plain Dealer "Ohio public retirement systems refuse to release records to newspapers analyzing benefits and possible abuses" Aug. 8, 2010
  2. " Pension Investment Records Become Increasingly Difficult to Access," Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, July 7, 2008
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 "A Code of Silence," Forbes Magazine, July 21, 2008
  4. and forms/ERS Pubs/ERS Member Handbook.pdf, RSA Handbook (dead link)
  5. and forms/ERS Pubs/ERS Member Handbook.pdf, RSA Handbook (dead link)
  6. Alaska Code
  7. Alaska Code
  8. AZ 39.121 Public Records
  9. AZ 39.121 Public Records
  10. AR FOIA (dead link)
  11. AR FOIA (dead link)
  12. "County pensions are public record, court rules," San Francisco Chronicle, May 12, 2011
  13. "Pension Information Ordered To Be Made Public," May 17, 2011
  14. Calif. court rules pension info must be disclosed, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, June 29, 2011
  15. CRS Policy
  16. CRS Policy
  17. 1-210.htm Conn. FOIA, Sec.1-210 (dead link)
  18. 1-210.htm Conn. FOIA, Sec.1-210 (dead link)
  19. Title 27, Chpt 100
  20. Title 27, Chpt 100
  21. "Ohio public retirement systems refuse to release records to newspapers analyzing benefits and possible abuses,", August 8, 2010
  22. TRS Policy
  23. ERS Policy
  24. O.C.G.A. 45-1-4
  25. HI 92F-12
  26. HI 92F-12
  27. ID PERSI Policy
  28. ID PERSI Policy
  29. H.B.1285
  30. H.B.1285
  31. Iowa Code 22.7
  32. Iowa Code 22.7
  33. KSA 74, Art.49
  34. KSA 74, Art.49
  35. Kentucky FOIA 61.872
  36. Kentucky FOIA 61.872
  37. La.R.S.44:15
  38. La.R.S.44:15
  39. Ch.421, Sec. 17057
  40. Ch.421, Sec. 17057
  41. 10-611(g)
  42. 10-611(g)
  43. Public Records G.L.c 4, 7(26)
  44. Public Records G.L.c 4, 7(26)
  45. 45.0 45.1 Pension payouts are public records, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, December 22, 2005
  46. 2011 Minn.St. 353.27
  47. 47.0 47.1 Minnesota Data Practices Act
  48. 2011 Minn.St. 353.27
  49. Miss.Code 25-11-119 (3)
  50. Miss.Code 25-11-119 (3)
  51. Miss. Code 70.605
  52. Miss. Code 70.605
  53. 53.0 53.1 Attorney general upholds opinion on making pension information public, Montana Watchdog, September 21, 2011
  54. 54.0 54.1 Nebraska Statutes 84-712.05(7)
  55. Public Employees Retirement System v. Reno Newspapers, Inc., Nevada Supreme Court, filed April 25, 2012
  56. 56.0 56.1 N.H. high court upholds release of pension information, RCFP, November 4, 2011
  57. 57.0 57.1 "Personnel Records," New Jersey Open Government Guide, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
  58. 58.0 58.1 "Why isn't there a Sunshine Portal for Public Pensioners?" New Mexico Watchdog, May 6, 2012
  59. "Releasing Public Pension Data Stalls In Senate,", June 19, 2012
  60. 60.0 60.1 "Large payouts strain state pension system,", June 13, 2010
  61. 61.0 61.1 "A Summary of North Dakota's Open Meetings and Open Records Law," Office of the Attorney General, August, 2011
  62. 62.00 62.01 62.02 62.03 62.04 62.05 62.06 62.07 62.08 62.09 62.10 62.11 62.12 62.13 Confidentiality of Member Data,, Updated May, 2012
  63. 63.0 63.1 "Oregon's public employee retirement system changes rules to allow public disclosure," The Oregonian, November 18, 2011
  64. 64.0 64.1 Open Records Pennsylvania
  65. 65.0 65.1 Title 38, Public Records, State of Rhode Island General Assembly
  66. 66.0 66.1 S.C. law hides pension records, The Post and Courier, March 4, 2012
  67. 67.0 67.1 South Dakota Sunshine Law, Sunshine Review
  68. 68.0 68.1 "Judges, state troopers earn highest Vermont pensions," Burlington Free Press, April 3, 2011
  69. 69.0 69.1 Public Records Act- Exemptions from Disclosure, Open Government Internet Manual, Washington State Office of the Attorney General
  70. 70.0 70.1 Laramie County School District v. Cheyenne Newspapers, Inc., State of Wyoming Supreme Court, Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press, March 29, 2011