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Senators to Review $10,000 Bill for Hedge-Fund Investment Records

October 6, 2011 - 6:00pm

The head of the State Board of Administration is being called back to the Capitol to address a $10,750 invoice to a state lawmaker for a public records request centered on a $125 million investment by the agency in a private equity firm.

Ash Williams, executive director of the State Board of Administration, is expected to face a group of state senators when legislators return for committee meetings the week of Oct. 17.

Williams defended the invoice before members of the Florida Cabinet on Oct. 4.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi called the bill indefensible.

Senate President Mike Haridopolos summoned Williams to further address the invoice submitted to Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, in response to a request by Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater.

Like CFO Atwater, it is my hope that this meeting will alleviate any questions that lawmakers or the public may have regarding this investment and the SBA, and the (Investment Advisory Council) may continue to conduct business, Haridopolos wrote Thursday.

Atwater wrote that all members of the Legislature should have full access to information from any part of the state government and that Fasano shouldnt be charged for the request.

As a sitting senator, Senator Fasano should be granted the opportunity to review all relevant materials, including those that may be confidential, Atwater wrote on Thursday. Knowing him to be a man of integrity, I trust him not to release or reveal confidential information.

Haridopolos, however, did not grant Fasanos request to subpoena the requested records, estimated at more than 6,000 pages and requiring more than 300 hours of a paralegal's time to redact select personal information.

Williams, whose agency manages the Florida Retirement System, which handles more than $150 billion in assets including the pension fund for public employees, told Cabinet members he was following the law in making the invoice estimate.

He also expressed concern that releasing certain information about the nature of the investment into Starboard Value and Opportunity Master Fund Ltd. could financially harm the private equity firm.
Fasano, who requested the records on behalf of the St. Petersburg Times, has dismissed suggestions that he be allowed to review the records in private after signing a nondisclosure agreement.

If he were to do so, and then once being given access to the documents sees or is concerned that something is amiss, what could he then do? Fasanos spokesman Greg Giordano stated in a release. By signing the form he has tied his own hands. The public would be ill-served if he did not then have the ability to disclose his concerns so that an oversight entity (i.e., SBA board of trustees) could look further into the apparent or alleged concern.

The interest in Starboard was raised because Williams, who has been the SBA executive director since 2008, previously worked at a hedge fund that included as a client the global investment firm of Ramius LLC.

Starboard is a spinoff of Ramius LLC.

Williams said the Starboard investment was in the works before he joined the SBA.

Reach Jim Turner at or at (850) 727-0859.

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