Deputy rises to the helm at California's CDIAC

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Robert Berry, the man Mark Campbell, former head of the California Debt and Investment Advisory Commission, selected to be his deputy in 2010, will take the helm at the agency.

Berry is a natural and he has all the qualities needed by someone to run CDIAC, said Mark DeSio, communications director for the state treasurer’s office.

The executive director position at CDIAC has been vacant since Campbell left in September to work as the managing director and head of western region client engagement for Aquorn Inc., a cloud-based debt management service for public agencies.

CDIAC provides information, education and technical assistance on debt issuance and public fund investments to the state’s local governments, agencies and public finance professionals. It is also the clearinghouse for debt issuance information and CDIAC employees compile data from all municipal debt issuers in the state. The agency organizes a pre-conference event to The Bond Buyer’s annual California Public Finance conference.

DeSio, who was on the final selection committee, said Berry stood out as the right person for the job. He offers continuity from Campbell, who was an institution at CDIAC, has the financial acumen and has the customer-centric approach also favored by Treasurer Fiona Ma, DeSio said.

Campbell and Berry had worked together prior to their time at CDIAC in economic development for the state, where they helped attract private companies in the U.S. and around the world to do business in the state.

When former Treasurer Bill Lockyer appointed Campbell to head CDIAC, Campbell asked Berry, who was then a manager in the Capital Markets Group of Panattoni Development Co., to be the organization’s second in command.

“I am honored to be named executive director of CDIAC. The organization has a long history of working with treasurers dating back to its inception in 1981,” Berry said. “I am excited to continue on with the important projects in the works. There is a level of anxiety in making sure we meet the needs of our public finance constituents, but it’s also exciting to be leading efforts to make sure the organization is headed in the right direction.”

Berry spearheaded development of the Debt Watch website under then-Treasurer John Chiang that enables users to search data on the state’s bond sales and he worked closely with Campbell in helping to bring on new technology to make CDIAC’s data on public finance sales and educational materials more user-friendly.

CDIAC has some big projects underway that Berry wants to fine tune including a next generation version of Debt Watch and creating an app for the debt financing guide that is currently an enhanced PDF. The new debt guide will be more relational, so users can more easily find the section that answers their question, rather than reading it front to back, Berry said. Users will also be able to log in and keep notes making it a more personalized tool for the issuer community.

The organization collects the increased disclosure required from the state’s issuers after Senate Bill 1029 was approved by state lawmakers in 2017 to ensure better tracking of bond proceeds. The law originated after the bond embezzlement scandal involving the chief financial officer for the Association of Bay Area Governments.

The state used to only require issuers to provide information when bonds priced and closed, but now requires annual reports from issuers outlining how the bond proceeds are being used. But Berry said the current method of gathering information has glitches and is a hassle for issuers. It requires, for instance, that issuers file separately on each issue, rather than being able to submit a single report covering a dozen or 100 issues.

So far, compliance is about 50% on the law that took effect in January 2018, he said.

“We would like to get that number higher,” he said. “But we know the system we use to collect information is cumbersome and time consuming.”

Making that system more efficient is one of his highest priorities, Berry said.

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