Sunday, June 1, 2008

State Treasurer's Race got Dirty Before it Began

The race for State Treasurer got dirty before it even began! It happened back on March 10th, when Mark Walker made Richard Ellis (Deputy Treasurer) the following offer: In return for Richard dropping out of the race, Walker assured Ellis that he and his entire staff would be retained after Walker is elected AND he would substantially increase Ellis' salary. However, if Ellis was to stay in the race he would fire Ellis and his staff if he were to win the election. Walker is claiming it never happened, despite the emails that prove it.

So, what does the position of State Treasurer have to do with our public schools? It has much to do about our State Trust Lands that generate revenue for our schools. So there is much ado about who might hold that position, particularly from public school advocates.

Natalie Gordon, Utah PTA Trustlands Commissioner, has written a very nice post on her blog, Education in Utah. (Edit: It was pointed out that Natalie is not representing the PTA on said blog, rather her own opinions.) Please read the full article here, but allow me to quote some specific points that she makes. After she read the Tribune article, Natalie pointed out that while the job offer is disturbing, it isn't even the job offer that concerns her most. She read between the lines and uncovered Walker's credentials, or lack thereof. (Emphasis added.)

"It is reading between the lines and realizing that Walker didn't actually invest money for Zions - he was a "Sales Resource Officer," whatever that is. And, at the [State Republican] convention, I saw Angus Belliston, former Region VP for Zions, with an Ellis button. I thought that was news! I had worked with Mr. Belliston at the Provo Region office of Zions 14 years ago, and he was an incredible, well respected Region Manager - and he wasn't supporting Walker - the Zions' employee. But today's Trib points out that Harris Simmons, current CEO of Zions Bank, is supporting Ellis as well. It seems like people that understand money understand that you need someone qualified to invest it. I know that Mark Walker has a BS in Political Science. I do, too. I know he was employed by Zions Bank for a while. I was employed there for 5 years. I even balance my own checkbook. But, when you're talking about billions of dollars - especially that one billion dollar permanent fund that so many have worked so hard for - we need a treasurer that knows what he's doing. So, I'm voting for Richard Ellis.

And one great reason to support Ellis? Unlike Mark Walker, his boss is endorsing him.

"Richard Ellis is the only candidate who has negotiated bank contracts, invested public money, managed a state department and made credit presentations to the bond rating agencies. That is the kind of experience we need for State Treasurer."

Edward T. Alter,
Utah State Treasurer
Natalie, I get it now, too. Between trying to bribe his way into office and his lack of credentials it seems clear to me that Walker is not the man for this job.

I'll try to keep an eye on this one and let you know how it goes. We need to make sure that there is accountability when it comes to the $1 billion Permanent School Fund. I've heard through the rumor mill that there could even be some back room deals going on right now about changing how "permanent" the school fund really is. Could it be that that's what Walker's bid for State Treasurer is actually about in the first place? I hope not, but it seems there are lots of fronts from which public education can be attacked and someone is out there making sure to cover them all!


Natalie said...

I just want to point out that I do not represent PTA on my blog. And it was the state convention, not county.

Thanks for the additional exposure of this important issue. I hope people are paying attention.

Sara Brate said...

@Natalie - Thank you for the clarification. I edited the post to reflect your comments so as not to misrepresent or confuse. That was not my intention.

I was given a flier titled "Ellis: The Competent & Qualified Choice". It further strengthened your "reading between the lines" to the point that it was staring me in the face. It listed Walker's lack of credentials and proved how unqualified Mark Walker is with absolutely NO experience in finance! He's a salesman and a politician.

There is no way we can trust him to handle the money and sit on the Utah Retirement System Board, Utah Housing Corporation, Permanent Community Impact Board, Utah Higher Education Assistance Authority, State Bonding Commission, State Building Ownership Authority and the Capitol Preservation Board. There are still other important Boards and Commissions on which the State Treasurer sits. Frankly, we don't need a politician with political agendas sitting on these boards and controlling the Permanent School Fund. We need someone that's good with money, and that is Ellis.

Thanks again for your post!

Howard said...

WOW,Guilty until proven innocent. Once again, you shouldn't jump to such conclusions. I know both candidates and have heard both sides and frankly I can reconcile the two stories without throwing one of the parties in Jail. Of course we have bankers on both sides of this race, but you take this too far. Frankly, the job isn't rocket science either, and to suggest that this is part of some conspiracy to hurt the permanent school fund is ridiculous. The Treasurer would have no control over the permanent nature of the fund. Nonetheless, I would guess that there is no difference between the candidates on this issue.

Anonymous said...

Mark Walker is Howard Headlee's lapdog.

He is also a salesman, not a "banker".

According to Howard's client, Zions Bank:

"Walker's official job responsibilities included sourcing and developing prospects and new clients, selling business banking services and products and developing sales strategies and expanding referral sources."

Not exactly "Manager of Government Finance" as he suggests on his web site.

Seems to me Howard is laying it on pretty thick.

Howard said...

Nice cheap shot anonymous. This is the type of comment these blogs promote. I will simply repeat that caution should be taken before you accuse someone of a crime. As always there is more to the story. As has been pointed out there are bankers supporting both candidates and I will gladly work with whoever wins on behalf of the banking industry.

UtahTeacher said...

I will agree that the weakest argument against Walker is the job offer thing. It wouldn't surprise me terribly--he had better be worried about getting experienced help with a job that is completely beyond his experience --but it really came out at a strange time and in a strange way. I don't know what to think about the charges.

But it is blatantly obvious that he is unqualified. I can see pro's and con's to State Treasurer being an elected position, but electing a party hack to the head financial position in our state is scary. Conservative principles alone do not qualify Walker to run a retirement fund and make important financial decisions.

I read Hughes' silly letter to delegates on the eve of the State Convention and listened to KVNU's interviews of both Ellis and Hughes. I think Ellis really did ruffle some feathers by speaking up with his financial expertise against something the legislature was dead set on passing, but it seems like an honest, understandable disagreement between conservatives and how much risk to take with the state bond rating. I can't believe there's not more to this and the disagreement over the bond rating is just a show. Are they rewarding Walker? Trying for some strange play with the state budget? After vouchers, the soccer stadium, the omnibus, passing the law in the last hours of the '07 session allowing developers to make their own towns and disallow public voting in said town for two years, etc. I have no trouble believing in ulterior motives in almost anything the legislature does...or in this case who they support.