AUSTIN (KXAN) — State Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston) requested a state audit — and an opinion from Attorney General Ken Paxton — into the Teacher Retirement System of Texas’ real estate investments Thursday after the agency recently reversed course to lease office space in the new Indeed Tower on Sixth Street.
After a public records request, KXAN first broke the news in January that the agency would spend at least $326,000 a month in rent at the Indeed Tower. Among the reasons, TRS cited space concerns at their existing 816 Congress location.
The agency is now seeking a sub-lease for their Indeed Tower lease and an expansion at 816 Congress. The Indeed Tower building is expected to be completed in 2021.
“We owe it to our dedicated active and retired teachers to ensure the investments of their hard-earned pension funds are sound and transparent,” Whitmire said Thursday in a prepared statement.
Lawmakers skewered TRS over the Indeed Tower lease during a state Senate Finance Committee meeting Tuesday.
“Even downtown, to consider the most expensive real estate in downtown was probably not a good thing to consider,” Finance Committee Chairwoman Jane Nelson told TRS Executive Director Brian Guthrie Tuesday. “What were you thinking? There’s a lot of land around here.”
“Do ya’ll ever think how we’re gonna explain your actions when you use such poor judgement in the eyes of your stakeholders, those pension members?” Whitmire, also on the committee, added. “You create a hell of a mess…it’s one of the more dumb decisions I’ve seen.”
Several committee members mentioned how they were flooded with letters over the Indeed Tower lease.
TRS provided the following statement to KXAN in response to Sen. Whitmire’s requests: