Alaska legislators seek answers to why former Permanent Fund Corp. director was abruptly ousted
JUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU) - The Legislative Budget and Audit Committee held a hearing on Monday, seeking to learn why Angela Rodell, the former executive director of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp., was abruptly ousted last month.
Craig Richards, chair of the Permanent Fund’s Board of Trustees, declined to answer many specific questions from legislators about why that decision was made, citing confidentiality in the board’s decision making. He also noted that Rodell has said she may sue over her firing.
Richards directed legislators to Rodell’s 296-page personnel file and her performance evaluations which were made public after records requests were submitted by the media.
He said that relationships between Rodell and investment staff had been “strained” and were getting worse, but he noted she recently received glowing evaluations from operations staff. The report states there was a lack of “trust and candor” from the board to Rodell, but Richards didn’t provide specific details on what those trust issues were, again citing confidentiality.
“I don’t know what to tell you,” Richards said about the 5-1 vote to remove Rodell. “Obviously, there were some performance issues and we made a change.”
Several legislators noted that in Rodell’s six years of managing the fund, it had grown from $53 billion to over $83 billion. The corporation had also recently won an award as a great place to work in money management.
Rodell has previously alleged that her firing was “political retribution” for supporting a rules-based management system for the fund. Gov. Mike Dunleavy last year proposed overdrawing the fund by $3 billion to act as a bridge to enact a long-term fiscal plan.
Richards said the board had also consistently supported the same rules-based system for the fund, but several legislators on the committee were not convinced, noting that the board had called for the $3 billion overdraw of the fund to be modeled by an independent firm.
“It smells really bad,” said Rep. Ivy Spohnholz, D-Anchorage, about Rodell’s dismissal, echoing comments from several other committee members. The fund now provides over two-thirds of state revenue annually and there were multiple comments from legislators that its management should not be politicized.
Responding to a question by Spohnholz, Richards would not comment on whether he had communicated with members of the governor’s office about Rodell’s ouster before it occurred. Dunleavy spoke during a press conference earlier in the day, denying again that he knew about it ahead of time.
“The Permanent Fund really needs to be left alone to do its business,” the governor said. “But this idea that somehow I orchestrated the dismissal of Angela Rodell, I would ask if anyone has evidence to that that they bring it forward so we can take a look at that, because I was not involved in this issue.”
Richards declined to speak to Alaska’s News Source before the committee hearing on the search for a new executive director for the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. He told the committee that he wasn’t going to put his own name forward for the position, saying that is “not even a possibility.”
Rodell did not respond to a request for comment on Monday.
Republican Sen. Natasha von Imhof, chair of the Legislative Budget and Audit Committee, expressed frustration at some of Richards’ responses and said more legislative hearings on Rodell’s ouster would take place in the future. The next regular legislative session starts at 1 p.m. on Tuesday.
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