By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Instead, longtime city workers had rested easy, assured that their $1.2 billion pension fund was fat and healthy, even showing a $100 million surplus in 1993.
But on July 27, the board of trustees that oversees the fund delivered stunning news to about 7,000 current and past city workers. In a letter mailed to all fund members, the trustees revealed that the fund was in trouble. Not only was there no surplus, the letter from the pension trustees said, but the fund was losing money. It would eventually go broke unless someone--taxpayers, city employees, or both--began kicking more money into the pot.
According to the letter, previous financial advisors had been wrong in their glowing projections of the fund's fiscal soundness. City workers were living longer, retiring earlier, and quitting their jobs less often than the advisors had assumed. As a result, more money was being paid out in pensions than was coming in from contributions and returns on investments.
"These are powerful factors that have increased the long-term liabilities for the Fund," the letter said. "The Fund cannot continue long term with its present level of contributions and benefits."
Reaction to the trustees' message has been furious. City Manager John Ware stepped forth to proclaim the fund healthy. Ware publicly castigated the fund's trustees, accusing them of unnecessarily fomenting fear among city workers. The trustees shot back, claiming that the fund was losing $21 million a year, and wouldn't survive unless the city agreed to contribute more money.
Who was right? Eight months later, city employees--and taxpayers who might have to foot the bill if there is a shortfall--still don't know. Disagreement over the fund's fiscal health has sparked one of the most vicious political battles in recent City Hall history. But any comfort city workers might have hoped to gain regarding their pensions has drowned in the rhetorical bloodletting.
Leading the charge for the city is Ware, who insists that the fund is fine. Ware would not discuss the pension fund situation, deferring questions to Assistant City Manager Mary Suhm. Even though he has no legal authority or control over the fund, the combative city manager has committed more than $285,000 in taxpayer money to pay hand-picked consultants to generate reports agreeing with his point of view. Ware has had his staff comb through the travel expenses of pension fund trustees and, in a December letter to employees, demanded that all of the trustees resign because he has "no confidence in their judgment, ability, or leadership."
Pitted against Ware has been Randy Stalnaker, a veteran employee of the city's sewer department who was elected to the pension board by his fellow city workers in 1989. Stalnaker and other trustees contend that Ware is blasting them rather than dealing with the fund's problems because the city manager does not want bad financial news to affect the city's bond rating.
A potential pension fund shortfall must be disclosed when the city sells bonds, and such news can affect the ratings and prices on notes. Stalnaker and his allies argue that Ware is trying to keep the ratings high in case Dallas decides to issue bonds for a new downtown sports arena, a project Ware seems determined to push through no matter how little economic sense it makes for the city.
Stalnaker says he won't let Ware sacrifice the safety of city pensions on the altar of bond ratings, and has fought back with some accomplished political maneuvers of his own.
Early on, Stalnaker went to the press behind Ware's back, persuading The Dallas Morning News to publish an editorial highlighting problems with the pension fund. Stalnaker has also pulled political strings to entice the state board that oversees municipal pension funds to jump into the fray.
For all the sound and fury, what apparently has not been undertaken is an impartial, systematic review of the financial soundness of the pension fund. Instead, the two sides are preoccupied with outmaneuvering each other on a political battlefield that is fast becoming littered with the reports of actuarial advisors.
Actuarial advisors have a nearly impossible job, trying to project up to 80 years into the future on questions such as when people will retire, and how long they will live thereafter. The projections are crucial in trying to discern whether a pension fund is flush, or in trouble.
Not surprisingly, there is plenty of room for argument and error. One of the most significant assumptions in running a pension fund is the estimate of how much income the fund will earn on the investments it makes with its money.
Wildly different expectations about a reasonable rate of return beat at the heart of the battle between Ware and Stalnaker. Ware and his advisors contend the fund can expect a 9.2 percent rate of return on its assets--a rate higher than that assumed by any other public pension fund in the state. Perhaps not surprisingly, when the 9.2 percent rate of return is plugged into the Dallas pension fund numbers, the future looks very bright.
But pension trustees and their advisors argue that a more conservative 8.25 percent rate of return is more likely, and that assumption leads to their dire forecasts of the fund's future.
If Ware is right, the fund is fine. If the trustees are right, somebody has to start putting more money into the fund, or benefits must be cut. The estimates of each side also dovetail nicely with their political agendas, notes one city council member.
"It is not a coincidence that the board came up with something that calls for the city to contribute [more money]," says councilman Larry Duncan. "And it is not a coincidence that the city came up with something that calls for it to contribute zero."
Though they are dueling over numbers and percentage points, the fight between Ware and Stalnaker has also developed into a personal feud.
Ware, who won a Purple Heart during his stint in Vietnam, has exhibited little grace in his contests with Stalnaker, who has shown that he holds a few cards in this game. Ware, on the other hand, may be short a few cards himself.
For starters, the city manager has no direct responsibility over the pension fund, which was designed to be independent specifically so that the pensions of city workers are not subject to the city's budget needs. The city manager can recommend how much the city should contribute to the fund on behalf of its employees.
But the legal limits on Ware's control over the fund have not stopped him from hiring three different consultants to produce reports blessing the fund's health.
Even some council members who agree with Ware question the bulldozer tactics he is using in making his case. "I wouldn't have handled it the way he did," says one council member, who asked not to be identified. "No one would have, except him."
Stalnaker, an Odessa native who the same council member describes as "very intelligent but with an ego the size of West Texas," has also expended tremendous effort lining up cheerleaders for his side.
Early on in the fight, Stalnaker asked a state panel that oversees municipal pension funds to take a look at the fund's financial condition. Like Ware, the state panel has no real authority to dictate the fund's policies. But dragging the issue down to Austin helped Stalnaker generate publicity and momentum for his fight.
And by blaming the fund's problems on bad actuarial projections, Stalnaker is sidestepping his own responsibility for the fund's condition. Stalnaker served as chairman of the trustees board for four years, resigning in February when his fight with Ware was at fever pitch.
"Randy takes no responsibility," complains councilman Duncan. But Duncan and others say Ware and Stalnaker equally share the blame for the fractious dispute. Both of the men, Duncan says, are failing to grasp what really matters--that 7,000 city workers don't know if their pensions are safe, and taxpayers don't know if the city will be asked to pony up more money for the fund.
"It ain't about egos. It ain't about compromise," Duncan says. "It is about making cold, hard business decisions that affect the future of the city work force."
The career path of 46-year-old Randy Stalnaker does not appear to be one of a man looking for a fight. What he does, after all, is look after sewers.
A 19-year city veteran, Stalnaker supervises 215 employees in what is politely called wastewater collection administration. He came to government work after earning a degree in psychology, starting in human resources and moving to the sewer department after taking some graduate business courses. Since joining the department, Stalnaker has risen to one of the top three sewer system jobs.
In 1989, Stalnaker first ran for election to the board that oversees the city's pension fund. He was inspired, he says, by one of his supervisors who had served on the board.
The Dallas Employees Retirement Fund board has five members. Two are elected by city employees, two are appointed by the city council, and the fifth spot automatically goes to the city's auditor. (Largely as a result of the current fracas, the city council has placed a proposition on the ballot in this May's city election that would change the board's structure and give the council more influence. The council would have three appointees instead of two, and one of the three would be a council member. The city auditor would lose his seat.)
Stalnaker won his first race for the board, and has served on it ever since. He was elected chairman by his fellow members four years ago. In the midst of his battle with Ware, Stalnaker stepped down from the chairmanship. "It became really apparent to me that personalities had become the issue and not the facts," Stalnaker said in his February letter of resignation. "I hope that by relinquishing the Chair, the improvements in communication between the Board and the Dallas City Council and City Manager's office necessary to resolve this matter will occur."
But Stalnaker stayed on the board, and he has stayed in the middle of the fight. Ware, Stalnaker says, is a formidable foe.
"It doesn't pay to argue with him, because you are not going to win," Stalnaker says. "It's better to state your piece and then leave."
Although most city employees--and taxpayers--would not learn of it for several months, the battle between Randy Stalnaker and John Ware began percolating behind the doors of City Hall last June.
Towers Perrin, an actuary company hired by the pension board trustees, delivered a startling report to the board early last summer. The board had hired Towers Perrin to review the fund's books for the previous five years. As late as 1993, the trustees had been told the fund was carrying a $100 million surplus. But Towers Perrin concluded that previous prognosticators had been wrong about the retirement habits and life spans of city workers, and too optimistic about the fund's investments.
To remain sound, the fund would have to stop assuming it would receive an 8.5 percent rate of return on its investments, instead planning on an 8.25 percent return. At that rate, the consultants said, the fund would still lose $21 million a year. That meant the trustees might have to ask the city to put more money into the fund.
When Ware learned of Towers Perrin's conclusions, he was not a happy camper. Stalnaker told Ware about the findings weeks before the doomsday letter was mailed to fund members. Several hastily arranged meetings, including weekend gatherings, ensued.
At them, Stalnaker explicitly told Ware that the fund was in trouble. To cover the entire $21 million shortfall, the city would have to double its yearly contribution to the fund. Stalnaker instead suggested that the city chip in something less than an additional $21 million, and said the trustees could also cut some benefits. Stalnaker says he was looking for a compromise.
Ware balked. The city manager was 30 days away from submitting his annual budget to the city council, and was not prepared to recommend that the city up its pension ante. Ware wanted to know what happened to the $100 million surplus projected earlier. He wanted explanations, and he didn't like what he heard.
"We asked questions, and we couldn't get many answers," recalls Assistant City Manager Mary Suhm, who sat in on meetings between Ware and Stalnaker.
According to Stalnaker, Ware set a belligerent tone from the outset. Ware called the issue "a board performance problem," Stalnaker recalls. He told Stalnaker there was a good chance workers' benefits would be cut. The city manager argued that employees had been spared during the past few years of budget cutting, but maybe it was time for that to change, Stalnaker says.
Stalnaker says Ware also attacked him personally. Ware charged that Stalnaker had promised workers more benefits during his last campaign for the board. Stalnaker says he told Ware that the campaign pledge was to increase benefits only if the fund could afford it. (Suhm says she doesn't recall Ware bringing up the campaign pledge at their meetings.)
Ware turned his sights on the trustees, questioning their handling of the fund, and he found political allies in that camp. One city council member, who has been influential in the debate, says he believes the trustees have mismanaged the fund.
For the past few years, the council member notes, the investments trustees have made with pension fund money have done worse than the major stock market indexes. In the trustees' defense, that is not uncommon among pension funds, which tend to follow a more conservative, lower-yielding investment strategy.
But the council member believes the trustees over-invested in Latin America, for instance, and could not get out when the peso began dropping. The board was also paying high costs on many of its market transactions, the council member says.
Stalnaker doesn't deny that the fund's administration needed a shakeup, and says that as board chairman, he had begun to make changes. In August 1994, Stalnaker spearheaded the effort to hire John Kloehr as the fund administrator. Kloehr, who has a background in both public and private pension funds, reduced the number of investment firms for the fund and hired Bankers Trust as master custodian, replacing a smaller regional firm that had done the work in the past.
Despite the friction between them, Ware and Stalnaker agreed in June that they would work together in pursuing a possible lawsuit against the fund's previous actuarial advisors, Illinois-based Sedgwick James. Ware and the fund trustees blamed the previous actuaries for providing erroneous, overly optimistic projections about the fund's health.
In a written statement, a spokesman for Sedgwick James said the company continues to believe that the pension fund is sound. "We dispute the allegations made by the plan trustees," the statement said.
The trustees hired the Dallas law firm of Jenkins & Gilchrist to look into suing Sedgwick James, and also signed a joint prosecution agreement with the city manager's office in which both sides pledged to help each other provide information necessary for a possible lawsuit. In December, however, Ware had the city drop out of the agreement as he launched a public crusade against the fund managers.
Ware's staff says the trustees asked that everyone, including city council members, refrain from talking publicly about the potential shortfall in order to prevent such statements from interfering with the proposed litigation. The self-imposed gag order would become a sore point when Stalnaker leaked word of the fund's problems to the Morning News. The trustees have not yet filed a suit, and are negotiating with Sedgwick James to see if the matter can be resolved without litigation.
But if he didn't go public right then with the projection of a shortfall, Stalnaker did decide to bring some allies into the controversy.
Stalnaker's first move, apparently, was to get his case before the Texas State Pension Review Board, established 14 years ago to ride herd on the 156 public employee pension funds in Texas that control some $90 billion in assets.
On June 30, 1996, Larry Eddington, a review board member and Stalnaker ally, wrote a letter asking that the board bring Stalnaker to Austin to brief the board on the Dallas situation.
Although the board has the power to issue subpoenas, hold hearings, and make recommendations, it has no direct power to dictate policy to a pension fund's trustees. But it can provoke publicity and highlight problems.
Eddington, a police officer and chairman of the Dallas Police & Fire Pension Fund board, was appointed to the panel by Governor George W. Bush. In his June letter seeking Stalnaker's appearance, Eddington appeared to already know that questions had arisen about the Dallas fund, and that state involvement might be needed.
"Our prompt action in this matter will be a positive influence taken outside the passions of persons involved in the day-to-day management," Eddington wrote.
Behind the closed doors of Dallas City Hall, passions were indeed running high.
In July--even as Randy Stalnaker was bringing Austin officials into the fray--John Ware was building his own case to argue that the pension fund was fine, and to raise questions about the performance of the trustees.
Ware's office began compiling the travel records of the trustees, while he looked for an actuarial firm that would bear out his assessment of the fund's solvency.
By August, Ware had commissioned the actuarial firm of Conrad Siegel, a Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, outfit, to review the Towers Perrin findings. Ware's office had asked the city's outside auditors--KPMG Peat Marwick--for recommendations, and KPMG's list of possibilities described Siegel as "extremely experienced but possibly with smaller-sized plans" than Dallas'.
In his earliest communications, Conrad Siegel, the founder of the firm, appeared to make it clear that he could see things Ware's way. On July 30, for instance, Siegel sent a fax to Assistant City Manager Mary Suhm discussing the fund's soundness. (City officials turned over copies of the fax and other pension fund-related documents to the Dallas Observer in response to a public records request. Suhm's office delayed releasing the documents past the legal deadline for responding to a request, and turned them over only under persistent pressure.)
Siegel scrawled his fax to Suhm before he had landed the $200-an-hour contract or done any lengthy review of the pension fund's books. Yet Siegel referred to the Towers Perrin report as "gobblegook [sic]." Later, in an August 5 letter, Siegel referred to the supposed shortfall as "an inconvenient item for the City to budget in 1996."
Suhm insists Siegel was chosen because of his qualifications as an actuarial advisor, not for political reasons. Siegel's opinions on the politics of the situation are something he simply offers free of charge, Suhm says. "I don't pay for that," she says.
By October, Siegel's report for Ware was ready. Stalnaker sensed that something was wrong when Ware scheduled an October 16 briefing from Siegel, but explicitly excluded the trustees from the meeting. "That worried the heck out of us," concedes Stalnaker. "My honest feeling is they wanted to discredit the board."
Randy Stalnaker had no intention of sitting back and letting Ware ambush him with the Siegel report. On October 31, 1996, Stalnaker says, he visited editorial writer Henry Tatum at the News. More than a month later, on December 4, the News published an editorial headlined "Retirement Fund: Council must act to avoid pension crisis."
Stalnaker had pushed the fight into the open. Stalnaker also continued pressing his case with the Texas Pension Review Board in Austin. With Eddington's introduction, Stalnaker had briefed the panel in mid-September, but he had come home with no firm commitment from the board to look into the matter.
On November 26, Stalnaker asked the panel to accelerate its inquiries into the situation. "This request is urgent because of the upcoming presentation to Dallas City Council on this issue that is scheduled," Stalnaker told the state agency.
Stalnaker's lobbying paid off with an extremely helpful letter from the state oversight agency. In a December 5 letter, Don Reynolds--a Smith Barney stockbroker and Bush appointee who serves as chairman of the board--wrote Stalnaker that the board agreed that Ware's assumptions on the fund's rate of return were too high. "The Board does not think it would be prudent to use 9.25 percent with all other actuarial assumptions unchanged," Reynolds wrote. It may seem an arcane point, but for Stalnaker the letter was a godsend--an outside, seemingly independent body had sided with him.
Unfortunately for Stalnaker, the politics of the state review board quickly changed afterward. Eddington, who had been responsible for putting the Dallas case before the board, recused himself from any further discussions. In a letter to Reynolds, Eddington acknowledged the appearance of a conflict since he is a trustee for the Dallas police and firemen's pension fund.
Reynolds, the review board chairman, has also since eased his previous opinion of the fund's finances. Since sending Stalnaker the letter in November, Reynolds says he has changed his mind--although not the board's official position--about the Dallas employees' plan. He now says he might look favorably if the fund assumes a higher rate of return--from 8.75 to 9 percent. Reynolds says he has changed his mind, in part, after hearing from Ware's office.
If John Ware has brought anyone around to his way of thinking on the pension fund, he hasn't done it with subtlety. After the fight became public, Ware jumped in the ring and stripped off his gloves.
The city manager launched his public campaign on December 6 by sending a letter to all city employees, insisting their pensions are safe. Ware apologized for his silence on the matter until that date, pointing to the self-imposed gag order spawned by the possible lawsuit against the actuarial advisors. Ware said employees had been "limited to one-sided views of the [pension] board and inaccurate newspaper articles." He told the employees about the wonderful news he had received from Conrad Siegel, and described Siegel's 35 years of experience.
"There is not a funding problem with the Employee Retirement Fund. You have my personal assurance that we will continue to work to provide a retirement fund that is fiscally sound," Ware wrote.
Lest anyone miss the message, Ware sent a cover letter to all of the city's supervisors instructing them to make sure every city employee got a copy of his letter. "I am holding you personally responsible for ensuring that this memo is placed in every city employee's hands by you or your assistant director by the end of the day," Ware wrote.
Ware also pledged to council members that he would talk to Reynolds and try to change the state review board's point of view on the matter.
John Ware did not stop with city employees and the state overseers. To keep his campaign going, he also charged up members of the city council.
At a December city council hearing, held coincidentally on the day of the News editorial, some council members had their rhetorical guns blazing and aimed at Randy Stalnaker.
Before the meeting, Ware's staff had dug into the extensive worldwide travel of Stalnaker and other trustees. As chairman, Ware's staff learned, Stalnaker had flown to England, Germany, Chile, and Australia. All together, the trustees had spent $54,000 of pension fund money since 1992 on travel. It was not enough even to nick the estimated $21 million shortfall. But some of the trips had been subsidized by stock brokerage firms and investment banking houses, which could potentially receive lucrative business from the trustees. To city council members, the travel information reeked of mismanagement and possible conflicts of interest.
At the December afternoon gathering, Stalnaker was prepared to take a hit. He smiled, adjusted his tie, and buttoned his jacket when councilmember Mary Poss launched into him. Poss literally pointed her pen at Stalnaker as she posed questions. Ware, chest held high, chin jutting forward, strolled confidently behind Poss as she plugged away.
The first-term council member demanded to know why the fund had contracts with 29 different financial managers. The trustees were getting rid of 18 of those managers, Stalnaker told Poss.
"That sounds good. But that's not my question," Poss curtly cut in. "Did we possibly attend conferences where [the financial managers] might have entertained us?" she asked Stalnaker sarcastically. The insinuation was hard to miss: Had Stalnaker and the others awarded work to fund management companies on the basis of trips they were offered?
Stalnaker bit his lower lip. "It's hard for me to answer," he told Poss. "Because many of [the fund managers] were here before I came on the board."
With the advantage in her court, Poss switched into a lecturing mode. "When Mr. Ware makes his next juncture to Wall Street as he does annually," Poss said, glancing in Ware's direction, "I can guarantee your editorial will be in their file. And I think you can also safely assume that this will impact the next bond sale. This will cost the city money."
Poss scored Ware's point with the council, but Ware also delivered some hits in the press. Stories about the travel expenses appeared in the Morning News and on WFAA Channel 8.
It didn't hurt that Siegel, the consultant Ware was paying $200,000 to look over the fund's books, also offered his advice on the public-relations battle. In a letter faxed to Suhm on December 19, Siegel opined that Ware would get more mileage in the newspapers if the city manager wrote even more letters to the city employees.
Siegel also provided Ware a list of issues that might help the city manager's case, including highlighting in public that Stalnaker was seeking changes in the fund that would benefit him personally.
In early January, Ware had other fish frying. At a January 8 executive session, the council brought in its two appointees to the pension board for a review. Dan Paul, a retired city auditor, and I.M. Rice, a former sewer worker, trooped down to meet the politicians. The worldwide trips were the subject of much of the discussion, even ridicule. Councilmember Donna Blumer recalls, "They didn't have any justification for the overseas trips. One said he had been in England because they were investing in Russia. We all just laughed."
By the end of the executive session, Rice had resigned and Paul had agreed to give up his appointment in August. Stalnaker supporters felt the two elderly gentlemen had been bullied by Ware and the council. Paul didn't want to comment publicly on the matter; Rice could not be reached.
The council opted to replace Rice with one of its own: councilman Bob Stimson. A certified public accountant, Stimson wasted no time in getting to business.
At a January 31 trustees meeting, Stimson asked that the cost-of-living adjustments for retirees be limited to 3 percent, down from 5 percent. The board unanimously passed Stimson's measure, an acquiescence that Larry Duncan sees as an illustration that city employees are the ones losing out in the battle between Ware and Stalnaker.
On January 30, Siegel faxed a message to Suhm proposing a compromise to end the fight, which had been dragging on for eight months. Siegel suggested that the city agree to reduce the projected rate of return to 8.9 percent if the pension trustees would agree to reduce the cost-of-living adjustments allowed to beneficiaries.
So much for the science and precision of actuarial advice.
With momentum on his side in Dallas, Ware still had the pension review board in Austin to contend with. For months, Ware would not even give the panel the report he had commissioned from Siegel.
In addition to Siegel, Ware had retained John Peavy, a professor at Southern Methodist University, as a financial advisor, and a second actuarial firm, Alexander & Alexander Consulting Group, Inc. The Dallas firm had been the losing bidder when the pension trustees originally hired Towers Perrin for the review that started the whole political fracas. In January, Ware assigned a $50,000 contract (later enriched by $35,000) to Alexander & Alexander. The firm's mission: review--and ultimately corroborate--Siegel's findings.
In February, Ware had the consultant reports he wanted, but refused to turn them over to the review board in Austin. Instead, Ware had Sam Lindsay, the city's top lawyer, tell the Austin panel that the reports were not public records because the city was still contemplating its lawsuit against the fund's previous actuaries.
But the trustees' lawyers at Jenkins & Gilchrist put the kibash on that line of reasoning. Jenkins & Gilchrist wrote to the review board saying that its client--the fund--had no problem with the city releasing the reports.
The ensuing correspondence between Lindsay and the trustees' outside counsel showed the bitterness of the whole affair. "I wish you had bothered to share this change in your legal strategy with me at an earlier juncture than this," Lindsay wrote to Jenkins & Gilchrist lawyer Rodney Acker. "The city's credibility has been unnecessarily damaged, and an apology from you is appropriate."
But Jenkins & Gilchrist's Acker offered none. He and his partner, Riva Johnson, had been asking Ware for the reports themselves. "Your letter is a classic," Acker wrote to Lindsay. "The best defense is a good offense."
In a reply letter, Lindsay called Jenkins & Gilchrist's actions on behalf of the pension trustees "despicable...downright false and defamatory."
On February 20, all the players in the Dallas fight--or their representatives--flew to Austin to make their presentations to the review board. The city still had not turned over the reports Ware commissioned, and would not do so until March. But the advisors--Siegel, Peavy, and Alexander & Alexander--went to Austin on the city's behalf. The pension trustees had their actuarial firms present as well. Both sides testified, but the board issued no conclusions after hearing their arguments.
"Overall, the meeting reminded me of stockpiling actuaries like hydrogen bombs during the post-war period," Siegel told Assistant City Manager Suhm in a note sent after the meeting. "More than enough to kill every living thing on earth 10,000 times...I think you are going to have to solve this in Dallas. You have enough input from the experts. Now the political process has to work."
The problem, indeed, ultimately must be worked out in Dallas instead of Austin. The state review board is scheduled to hear more about the Dallas fight on April 10. But both the city manager's office and Stalnaker have expressed a willingness to postpone that hearing if a settlement can be worked out.
The trustees are still negotiating with their previous actuarial firm, trying to reach a settlement without the expense of a lawsuit. A mediation session is scheduled for April 15. Stalnaker says Ware hasn't helped the trustees' position any by running around saying the fund has no problems.
At their next meeting on April 8, the trustees also plan to review the decision to project an 8.25 percent rate of return, and might decide to move that number up. If so, Ware will have effectively won much of what he wanted, and the city's bond ratings will remain untainted. Only time--and the future benefit checks of city pensioners--will tell if Ware was right.