New Castle County Council approved retired NCCo Department of Finance employee Michael Finnigan as its second appointment in one month to the depleted county Pension Board Tuesday night.
Finnigan and Terry Stone, the earlier appointment, were then sworn in to provide immediate help to the NCCo Pension board, which had seen two members abruptly resign. That left the board struggling to meet a quorum for its meetings, hence the need to swear both men in immediately, said Councilman George Smiley (D-New Castle). Smiley nominated Finnigan for the position.
Councilman Bob Weiner (R-Chatham) had sent an email to council expressing his concern over Smiley's nomination because Finnigan was the father of Smiley's legislative aide, Tara Finnigan. But Smiley said during council's Executive Committee that he had only met Michael Finnigan three months after he was elected.
Smiley said he simply nominated Finnigan as someone who was imminently qualified to serve on the board.
New Castle County Council appoints four members to the 12-member Pension Board, including two members from the banking or investment security business and one retired county worker receiving a pension.
Finnigan appeared before the Executive Committee without even breaking a sweat and summed up his 36 years working within the New Castle County Department of Finance.
"I have a broad and deep experience in finance," Finnigan said. "Very few people are technically experienced in the ways of the market."
Finnigan said that as a member of the Pension Board he would listen carefully, ask questions and make thoughtful comments.
During committee, Councilman John Cartier (D-Holly Oak) said he was glad to see Finnigan volunteer to join the pension board – an unpaid position – as a retired county employee.
"He is a great nominee who served with distinction," Cartier said. "I am so pleased to have him come forward."
Councilman David Tackett (D-Christiana) said Finnigan would give the board much needed expertise.
"He knows how the county is financed and will be an asset to the board," Tackett said.
Weiner made no comment at committee or during the regular meeting where he voted yes as part of council's 12-0 vote to appoint Finnegan, with one abstention. Councilman Lisa Diller (D-Newark) recused herself because of what she felt was the appearance of a possible conflict.
But, Smiley said after the meeting that he simply nominated a good man to the board.
"I don't bring forward nominees who aren't qualified for the position," he said. "I never have. My appointments are minimal. If someone comes forward and asks to serve and I didn't think they were the right fit, I've told them no."
During the council meeting, Cartier said Finnigan's appointment addressed the Gordon administration's concern with appointing members to the Pension Board with financial expertise.
Page 2 of 2 - With its vote, New Castle County Council sent a message that it cared about the makeup of the Pension Board, Cartier said.
He was referring to New Castle County Chief Administrative Officer David Grimaldi's warning to council at its April 9 meeting that the appointment of someone without expertise in financial analysis would not bode well for the $400 million pension, which was 74 percent funded at this point. The pension fund faced a long term total liability of $700 million in the near future, Grimaldi said. That would leave the county with an unfunded mandate of $300 million it had to meet, he said.
But Council voted 9-4 to appoint Stone, who had experience dealing with pension boards in his line of work. Stone worked in human resources during his time at Syngenta and Zeneca, among others, and earned a bachelor's degree in business administration from the State University of New York at Brockport.