The head of the Retired Public Employees of Alaska announced her retirement, effective Aug. 1, with a letter criticizing several members of the executive board, particularly the board secretary, Stephanie Rhoades.
Sharon Hoffbeck, who has served as RPEA president in an volunteer position for the past nine years, has a strong record of defending the rights of public employment retirees, including fighting to stop the diminishment of retiree health care benefits. A lawsuit she initiated against the state is expected go to trial at the end of August. Her resignation could imperil that lawsuit, which is fighting to save the medical benefits of retirees.
Hoffbeck said that the office manager and medical information committee director are also resigning due to the hostile environment she says has been created in the workplace by Rhoades.
Sources say that Rhoades, a former judge who has been on the board for about a year, has been constantly harassing Hoffbeck in what appears to be an attempt to force her out of the organization.
“It’s been pure hell since Stephanie came on the board,” said a MRAK source, who concurred with Hoffbeck’s assessment of the situation.
“There are several on the executive board who have allowed themselves to become convinced by the board secretary, Stephanie Rhoades, that my management style is not in the best interests of RPEA members and by extension, all retirees. She seems to disregard or ignore the many achievements under my leadership such as the completely successful DVA lawsuit, the establishment of the Retiree Health Plan Advisory Board, the hiring of an accounting firm to help assure fiscal responsibility rather than depending on volunteers who have been elected but may not have the appropriate skills, and the medical diminishment lawsuit that is currently set for trial at the end of August. Her complete resistance to my leadership has created a very hostile environment that I am no longer willing to endure,” Hoffbeck wrote.
“I expect you will hear varying stories from other sources that differ from my explanation. I leave you to draw your own conclusions based on your own experience with RPEA while I was the president,” Hoffbeck continued.
“There is still much to be done to resist and fight the state’s plan to reduce our retiree medical benefits as much as possible. I plan to continue to be involved in helping prevent this ever-increasing loss of retiree benefits, just not as president of RPEA,” she wrote.
The organization represents the interests of not only state retirees, but municipal and school district retirees statewide. The organization has about 5,000 members who pay about $35 a year to keep the organization going.