Tolbert Dodges Questions About Pension’s BlackRock Holdings

Pension puzzle
Pension puzzle | Image by enciktepstudio/Shutterstock

Interim Dallas City Manager Kim Tolbert has been dodging questions from The Dallas Express about fully funding Dallas employees’ pensions and whether the pension program promotes discrimination against Texas industries.

Her recently departed predecessor, T.C. Broadnax, was publicly defensive of the pension system and claimed to support its full funding.

“All employees that work for the city work for me. So I’m vested in making sure that they, whether on the police and fireside or general employee side, their pensions are met,” Broadnax was reported as saying by The Dallas Morning News earlier this year.

Broadnax has since left the metroplex for the same job in Austin after overseeing seven years of crime and tax collection increases in Dallas, in addition to other inefficiencies and debacles, as previously reported by DX.

Dallas’ public employee pension is not even halfway funded, and its board of trustees’ deadline to submit a funding plan is approaching in the fall of 2025. Major unanswered questions remain about the Employee Retirement System’s (ERS) future. DX asked Tolbert if her position aligns with Broadnax’s. She did not respond.

ERS also has questionable holdings. The employee pension has substantial investments in BlackRock, as previously reported by DX. According to records from last year, it invested an unclear amount of money in an entity abbreviated as “BLACKROCK INC COM STK.”

BlackRock is one of a number of firms State Comptroller Glenn Hegar listed as allegedly discriminating against Texas oil and gas producers. Under SB 13, certain state entities are prohibited from making investments in such companies.

Hegar and others believe BlackRock, among others, discriminated against the Texas oil and gas industry because of its adherence to an environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investment strategy. ESG is a type of political activist investing that tries to create social change and profit. BlackRock’s ESG program was intended to steer the company away from fossil fuels.

The program has since been scaled back, and BlackRock executive Mark McCombe previously told the Financial Times, “We have never turned our back on Texas oil and gas companies.”

Nevertheless, state leadership remains unconvinced, and numerous public entities have divested from BlackRock in recent months. The State Board of Education’s chair, Aaron Kinsey, announced in a statement this March that the sovereign wealth fund the body oversees would cut ties with the firm.

The City of Dallas is home to numerous oil and gas firms. Fossil fuel production makes up a significant portion of the industry in the surrounding area, and Dallas frequently hosts Exxon’s shareholder meetings.

DX asked Tolbert if she believed it was time to change some of the City of Dallas’ investments. She did not respond.

Tolbert has been evasive vis-a-vis DX before. In a move of questionable constitutionality, she blocked DX on the social media platform X after the news outlet published a multipart series exposing militant racial activism in her social media feed.

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