ANNAPOLIS – The state pension board tapped Larry E. Jennings Jr. for an advisory post Tuesday, nearly four months after he withdrew from the running amid controversy.
Jennings, approved in a closed session, pulled out in July from his previous effort to land the unpaid Public Member slot, but never disclosed why. Some politicians and business leaders cried foul at the time, saying he was the victim of “character assassination” and “innuendo.”
Robert Feinstein, deputy chief investment officer for the State Retirement and Pension System, said Tuesday that Jennings “graciously decided” to re-apply. The Board of Public Works must approve his nomination, though a vote has not been set.
At a pension board hearing in June, some board members raised questions about Jennings’ connection to a federal bribery case, according to a report in The Baltimore Sun. Jennings was never charged in the case, which centered on his father, who was convicted in 1994 of bribing a Baltimore housing official.
Jennings Jr. served on the Baltimore Housing Authority board at the time.
Pension board members discussed the case Tuesday, said Dean Kenderdine, executive director of the pension system. However, state officials had vetted the case and found that Jennings was not involved, he said, noting that Jennings was picked because of his “experiences and credentials.”
“For someone to say I was cleared of wrongdoing is a misnomer, because I was never charged with anything, I was never called before a grand jury,” Jennings said Oct. 10, at a pension board Investment Committee hearing.
Jennings, a co-founder of TouchStone Partners LLC, a Baltimore-based investment firm, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
This past summer, state politicians and business leaders came to his defense after Jennings withdrew from consideration for the advisory post.
Sen. Catherine Pugh, D-Baltimore, said that Jennings dropped out because he was the victim of “character assassination.” Wayne Frazier, head of the MD. Washington Minority Contractors Association, said in a June 29 letter to the pension board that Jennings’ nomination was “subjected to innuendo.”
The pension system has three Public Members who sit on the board’s Investment Committee, which recommends policy and strategy to the full board.
Pension funds across the country have been bleeding cash due to the souring stock market, and Maryland’s is no exception. As of Monday night, the fund had $29.5 billion worth of assets, down from $40.1 billion on Sept. 30, 2007.
The 26 percent drop is still not as bad as the Dow Jones Industrial Average, a stock market performance gauge, which shed 33 percent in the same time period.
“Everybody’s down,” said Mansco Perry III, the pension fund’s chief investment officer.