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Treasurer announces targeted investment program

MONTPELIER — A new pension fund program is in the works designed to support economic and community development in Vermont.

Vermont State Treasurer Jeb Spaulding announced today that his office will soon solicit investment proposals for this new pension fund program.

The initiative stems from a policy on economically-targeted investments adopted by the Vermont Pension Investment Committee, which oversees more than $3 billion in retirement funds for Vermont teachers, state employees, and municipal employees.

“Our pension fund trustees work hard to protect the workers and retirees who depend on our retirement funds and this initiative will not reduce our obligation in that regard. However, to the extent that we can support economic and community development in Vermont without sacrificing performance, it makes sense to do so,” Spaulding said.

The kinds of investment opportunities that may be appropriate for the pension funds include affordable housing, energy efficiency, venture capital, or timber.

“Actually, we don’t want to limit the field of investment possibilities. We are hoping that creative minds will look over our policy and come up with some innovative proposals that meet our criteria for investment,” Spaulding explained.

Economically targeted investments are intended to generate market rate returns while enhancing quality of life and promote economic activity. Spaulding noted that economic or social benefits do not justify lower returns or inappropriate levels of risk.

The program was developed to clearly articulate the criteria by which proposals will be judged and to solicit investment proposals from qualified managers once a year.

The first request for proposals window will be May 1 – June 15, 2007. In order to be considered, proposals must, at a minimum:

• Target risk-adjusted, market-rate returns equivalent to or higher than other available investments in a similar asset class, and,
• Provide a substantial, direct, and measurable benefit to economic or community development within the State of Vermont.

Any investments will be placed with an experienced and capable manager in an applicable asset class; no direct investments will be considered.

For more information, got to the state treasurer’s website at www.vermonttreasurer.gov, or call 828-1452.

Burlington City Attorney resigns

BURLINGTON — City Attorney Joe McNeil resigned from his post, citing an inappropriate relationship with a contractor assigned to help with the city’s rewriting of zoning regulations.

Burlington Mayor Bob Kiss, a Progressive, announced McNeil’s resignation. McNeil was the city’s attorney for more than 37 years, serving a variety of administrations.

“I have always believed it is an attorney’s duty to help solve issues, and not be a part of the problem. My relationship with a contractor on the zoning rewrite project created concerns over the appearance of a conflict and caused the necessity for an independent audit,” wrote McNeil in his letter.

An audit found that the work matched the bills, and the city council’s Ordinance Committee has attested to the quality of the work, noted McNeil.

Questions arose when McNeil admitted to allowing a relationship with a contractor to become “too close.” McNeil signed off on her work vouchers.

“Still, I very much regret that my lapse in judgment caused problems for the city. I recognize that I am solely responsible for this and I do apologize. I hope my resignation will allow you, your administration and the city Council to focus once again on the other important issues the city faces,” McNeil continued.

Kiss said he accepted McNeil’s resignation with regret.

“As city attorney, Joe McNeil has served the city of Burlington with honor and distinction. The importance of his work to the city and people of Burlington cannot be overstated. I accept his resignation with regret, but I believe this decision is in the best interests of the city,” said Kiss.

McNeil will work with Kiss to ensure that a smooth and proper transition is made to a new city attorney, Kiss said.

Due to his resignation, the responsibilities of city attorney will be assumed Ken Schatz, who is the senior assistant city attorney.

The appointment of city attorney is made annually in June, by recommendation of the mayor for approval by the city council.

Posted April 9, 2007

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