Policymakers and the public need to know more about the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. Board of Trustees’ decision to oust the corporation’s CEO, stated a bipartisan, bicameral committee of state lawmakers.
Angela Rodell, who had served as CEO of the APFC since late 2015, was fired earlier this month following a 5-1 vote by the board. The board did not disclose a reason for removing Rodell. Valerie Mertz is the acting APFC executive director.
In a letter from the Legislative Budget and Audit Committee sent Monday afternoon to the APFC’s Board Chair Craig Richards, lawmakers raised questions about the timing of Rodell’s firing, the board’s personnel processes and procedures, employee surveys, the Permanent Fund’s performance relative to benchmarks for returns. From Fiscal Year 2016 to Fiscal Year 2021, the fund’s total value increased by $30 billion, according to APFC annual reports.
“Alaskans should be given better answers for such a high-profile decision,” stated the letter. “Hiding behind employee confidentiality by refusing to provide any information or transparency regarding the process followed by the Board or its goals and intent contradicts the board’s guiding principles stated on your website.”
Legislative Budget and Audit Committee Chair Sen. Natasha von Imhof, R-Anchorage, who signed the letter, said knowing more is especially important in light of the major role the Permanent Fund plays in state finances.
“The Permanent Fund plays a critical role in Alaska and provides 65% of our revenue, so we want to make sure it stays healthy and is politically independent and sustainable so we can continue to rely on it,” she said in a phone interview.
The letter also requested certain communications related to the firing and that APFC trustees appear to testify at the committee’s next hearing at the Alaska State Capitol.
Additionally, a litigation hold instructing APFC Board trustees to take actions to preserve documents and communication related to Rodell’s firing, the process adopted by the board for identifying a permanent executive director and the process and benchmarks adopted by the board for evaluating the performance of the executive director in general and Rodell, in particular, was sent to Richards.
Among the documents requested under Alaska Public Records Act were communications dating back to 2019 among trustees and the state’s executive branch related to Rodell’s performance; communications from the same time frame among trustees and the state’s executive branch related to the decision to fire Rodell and communications among APFC employees and the executive branch related to Rodell’s performance.
Von Imhof said she is unsure whether Dunleavy knew in advance of the firing,
In a previous news conference, Dunleavy said he did not know what took place during the meeting and was surprised by the move.
“Unless those personnel records are released so we all can look at them I don’t know what the reason is,” Dunleavy said.
Shannon Mason, deputy press secretary for the governor’s office, said in a Tuesday afternoon email Dunleavy did not have an additional comment and referred to the previous news conference.
The letter also asks for copies of employee surveys from 2019 to the present, copies of Rodell’s employment contract, copies of policies and procedures regarding how the board evaluates the executive director of the APFC, copies of all policies and procedures regarding employee termination, discipline and counseling that apply to the executive director position and copies of all reports, memos or other documentation considered by the board at the meeting during which it terminated Rodell.
Based on the scope of the documentation requested, von Imhof said it’s hard to say how quickly answers to lawmakers’ questions may materialize.
In a statement shared with the Empire, the APFC Board indicated it will be present for the meeting and is working to furnish the requested materials.
“As Alaskans, APFC’s Board of Trustees and Staff have a vested interest in protecting and fulfilling our fiduciary duty to the Alaska Permanent Fund for the benefit of all Alaskans,” said a statement shared by Paulyn Swanson, director of communications for APFC. “Aligned with this shared objective, APFC’s Board looks forward to meeting with the Legislative Budget & Audit Committee on January 17, 2022. In our ongoing commitment to public service and accountability, APFC is working to fulfill the Committee’s request for information in advance of the meeting.”
The Legislative Budget and Audit Committee’s next hearing is scheduled for 2 p.m., Jan. 17, 2022, at the Alaska State Capitol.
• Contact Ben Hohenstatt at (907)308-4895 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.