Originally created 02/19/03

Adviser retains pension contract



More than 100 city pensioners said Tuesday that they wanted to keep the financial adviser to their retirement plans local, and the Augusta Commission obliged, voting 8-2 to retain Salomon Smith Barney as an investment manager.

Salomon Smith, which has offices near Riverwalk Augusta, competed with two out-of-town firms for the contract. The other firms were Gray & Co., of Atlanta, and Scott & Stringfellow, of Richmond, Va.

Since Salomon Smith began managing the pension funds in 1987, "they have done a good job," said James Beck Jr., the president of the 1949 pensioners group.

In 1999, a special grand jury report recommended inserting competition into the city's pension plans, and last year, the commission put out a request for proposals for a new investment adviser.

The commission's pension committee reviewed those proposals and narrowed the field to three finalists before interviewing and scoring them on their proposed management plans.

Some commissioners said they supported awarding the contract to Scott & Stringfellow, which earned the highest average grade from commission scoring.

Others said the contract should have been awarded to Gray & Co., which had the second-highest average but the most points, largely because more commissioners voted on that proposal. Some commissioners did not grade the other firms.

Salomon Smith had the second-highest score but the lowest average.

Retirees said they wanted to stick with the existing adviser, noting that the firm was not given any points for having local offices.

Even though the city will stay with the same firm, the process of looking at other companies was "a very good exercise," Commissioner Andy Cheek said.

"Competition is healthy," he said.

A petition submitted to commissioners and signed by about 150 pensioners expressed support for retaining Salomon Smith. More than 100 people showed up at a pension committee meeting last week to voice similar support for the local office, and many also attended Tuesday's meeting.

Reach Heidi Coryell Williams at (706) 823-3215 or heidi.williams@augustachronicle.com.