Alaska Diary | Alaska Permanent Fund board chairman declines to speak to lawmakers in detail about reasons for director’s firing

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JUNEAU — Questioned by a bipartisan legislative committee on Monday, the chairman of the board of directors of the Alaska Permanent Fund defended the board’s decision to fire former chief executive Angela Rodell but declined to answer substantive questions about the reasons for the council’s action.

Chairman Craig Richards said Rodell was an “at-will” employee and the board had years of “trust issues” with her. Citing the confidentiality of board discussions and the possibility of a lawsuit from Rodell, he declined to answer questions about the source of these issues, and he declined to say whether he or other directors had been in communication with Governor Mike Dunleavy regarding the dismissal. .

“We’re not here ready today to go into a deep and detailed analysis of everything she did right and everything she did wrong,” Richards told the budget committee and audit of the Legislative Assembly.

“It’s very unfortunate because you’ve had a month to prepare,” said Sen. Natasha Von Imhof, Republican from Anchorage and chair of the committee.

Alaska lawmakers feared Rodell’s removal December 9 was the result of political pressure from the governor, who appointed or reappointed five of the board’s six trustees. All five voted to fire Rodell; the sixth no.

Richards said the board didn’t need an excuse to fire Rodell. State Law gives the board the right to hire and fire the managing director of the fund for any reason.

“Ms. Rodell was a highly paid executive level employee and ultimately that is the prerogative of the board,” he said.

“Just because you can doesn’t mean you should — and that’s what we’d like to know is if you should,” said Rep. Chris Tuck, D-Anchorage and budget committee vice chairman. and auditing.

Revenues from the Permanent Fund provide two-thirds of the state of Alaska’s general-purpose revenue, and under Rodell’s tenure, the fund outperformed similar funds in other places. Rodell herself rose to international fame as chair of the International Forum of Sovereign Wealth Funds, and within days of her dismissal, the Permanent Fund was named by a trade magazine as one of the best places to work in finance.

The board has a fiduciary responsibility to provide maximum returns, said Senate Speaker Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna.

“A lot of this stuff stinks of something else,” he said.

At times during his testimony, Richards pushed back at lawmakers, saying they themselves are politicizing the firing by arranging a committee hearing on it.

“What’s best for the fund is to move on,” he said.

In 2018, the Alaska Legislature pass a law limit annual withdrawals from the Permanent Fund. Dunleavy previously proposed temporarily break this limit during the transition to a new formula for dividends from the Permanent Fund.

Rodell, following resolutions passed by the Permanent Fund’s board, has frequently testified against exceeding the limit, saying lawmakers should follow a “rules-based approach” when spending from the fund.

Rodell herself said his dismissal was “political retribution” by the governor’s appointees, though she said she had no proof for that claim. She did not respond to a text message or phone call seeking comment on Monday.

Dunleavy repeatedly said he had no role in the shooting and reiterated that before Richards testified.

“I was not involved in this matter,” the governor said Monday.

Richards told lawmakers that Rodell’s argument made no sense because the board had passed resolutions in favor of the 2018 limit and against overspending. Current board members reviewed those resolutions in November and did not repeal them.

“I will say unequivocally that for me and every other director I know, we still believe in and support these resolutions,” he said.

In June, Revenue Commissioner Lucinda Mahoney defended the Dunleavy plan and an overdraft at the Sitka Chamber of Commerce, according to local public radio station reports.

Mahoney is the vice chairman of the fund’s board and was in charge of reviewing Rodell’s performance this year. She did not immediately respond to a question asking if Richards’ testimony was accurate in her case.

Testifying on Monday, Richards described long-term tensions between the board and the executive director. At a meeting this fall, Rodell and Mahoney disputed on a bonus program offered for employees of the Permanent Fund. There was “visible tension” at that meeting, Richards said.

by Rodell 296-page personal file, released last week after a public records request filed by the Daily News, includes several years of performance reviews, and from 2018 to 2021, those reviews show board members losing faith in Rodell.

“It often feels like the board is run on the agenda of the (executive director), as opposed to the chief executive trying to internalize and achieve the agenda of the board,” one board member wrote in 2018. , before Dunleavy took office.

“In my opinion, the relationship of the (executive director) with the board is broken,” a board member said in 2019.

“Does not adopt the council’s vision but rather tries to control the council to achieve its own vision and views,” one council member wrote in December.

It is unclear from the personnel file if any specific actions led to these and similar comments. No board member’s name is attached to it, and Rodell still received raises – his last coming in early 2021.

Richards declined to answer lawmakers’ questions about the source of the comments, but said the ratings were only part of the basis for the board’s decision to fire Rodell.

At the end of Monday’s meeting, Von Imhof and other lawmakers said they intended to hold further meetings on the issue.

Rep. Andy Josephson, D-Anchorage and member of the Budget and Audit Committee, also law Project which proposes to change the composition and appointment process of the Board of Directors. This legislation will be officially introduced on Tuesday, when the legislature convenes its 2022 session.

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