Legislative Committee grills Permanent Fund board chairman

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The Legislative Budget and Audit Committee called in Alaska Permanent Fund Board Chairman Craig Richards for grilling on Monday. LBA Committee Chair Sen. Natasha von Imhof characterized it as a fact-finding mission, rather than an investigation, into the board’s firing of Permanent Fund CEO Angela Rodell, who says she was let go due to “political retribution.” Von Imhof cautioned members of the committee to reserve judgment.

Since the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation board voted to fire executive director Rodell in December, some state lawmakers and many news and opinion writers in the mainstream media have contended or insinuated the decision was politically motivated.  Rodell has threatened to sue over her dismissal.

For his part, Richards said the hearing itself was political. The corporation is an independent agency of the State of Alaska.

On Monday, members of the committee tried to get Richard to explain the board’s reasoning in detail. Richards, a former Alaska attorney general, maintained that Rodell was an at-will state employee and he would not discuss specifics of her performance.

“You brought up the chairman of the board to grill me pretty good, I might say, about essentially a personnel decision involving an at-will employee,” he said. “It’s your right to do it, but … you know, there’s politics going both ways here,” Richards said to the committee.

Richards was appointed to the Permanent Fund Corporation Board of Trustees by former Gov. Bill Walker, and was reappointed by Gov. Mike Dunleavy in July of 2021.

“I don’t know what to tell you,” Richards said, referring to the overwhelming board vote to fire Rodell. Only one of the six members of the board voted to retain Rodell, who was fired as Commissioner of Revenue by Gov. Bill Walker, but later hired by Walker as CEO of the Permanent Fund. “Obviously, there were some performance issues and we made a change.”

Senate President Peter Micciche said trustees need to be focused on growing the fund. It has had record growth during a stock market in which most funds experienced meteoric rise.

“Do we actively separate politics from maximum returns, which is your mission, your vision, because a lot of this sort of reeks of something else,” Micciche said.

Some members of the committee maintained that with such successful growth of the fund, Rodell should be retained and rewarded.

“At the end of the day, it’s important to understand the executive director did not handle investments. Ultimately, it is the CIO that is responsible,” Richards noted.

Richards pointed out there were negative performance reviews of Rodell going back four years. Her entire personnel file was released to the media last week and is rife with instances that demonstrated a growing break in the trust relationship with the board, stretching back to at least 2019.

“I am truly shocked that I am here. This is, this is a new one to me. We have an at-will employee that reports to the board who years of documented evidence demonstrates that there were trust problems going both ways between the board and the executive director,” Richards said.

“As the executive director, she was a critical part of the team, and she did a lot of things very well that contributed to the fund’s success … Some of the administrative stuff was really good for the fund, and that helped the fund, and it contributed to the fund. My point was only that her responsibility was not the direct supervision of the investments,” Richards said.

Rep. Andy Josephson an Anchorage Democrat and lawyer, cautioned that Rodell may be able to sue the state and win, which could cost the state money.

“We’re not here, prepared today to go into an in-depth, detailed analysis of here’s everything she did right and everything she did wrong,” Richards said at one point.

“That’s most unfortunate, because you had a month to prepare,” responded Chairwoman von Imhof.

“Ms. Rodell was a highly compensated executive-level employee, and at the end of the day it is the board’s prerogative,” Richard said.

Anchorage Democrat Rep. Chris Tuck, the vice chairman of the committee, commented that just because you can do something, like fire someone, doesn’t mean you should: “And that’s what we’d like to find out, is whether you should.”

Richards remarked that the committee itself is now politicizing the job of the Permanent Fund CEO, new territory for the Legislature.

“What is best for the fund is to move on,” he said. Richards had already answered the committee in writing, and revealed nothing more in the Monday grilling than he had already written to the committee.

The over two hour meeting of LBA can be watched at this link.

39 COMMENTS

  1. For Alaska Republicans Richards is Rudolph Hess. Nothing more, nothing less. Only the weak and the dishonest would welcome him.

  2. Good for Craig Richards as he appears to have answered everyone’s questions about as well as he could have and perhaps put a stop to this witch hunt…..facts seem to be a hard thing for some legislators to deal with…..

  3. Richards answered the questions perfectly and appropriately. I have to wonder why people as intelligent as Von Imhof\f and Josephson don’t understand that they are politicizing the decision by the Board of Trustees to seek a CEO in which they had more trust. Judging by Rodell’s actions and public statements, there was definitely a problem in her attitude toward them. Honestly, they don’t even need a specific reason for her termination. Richards is very wise to avoid any tit for tat.
    Everything it seems becomes a political inquisition these days.

    • You didn’t watch it, did you?

      Richards couldn’t answer any important questions as to why she was fired. He couldn’t elaborate why the personnel file was provided, or what the legislature remark was about.

      Are you just shilling for Dunleavy?

      • Give us a break break, Saymore. The corrupt, former governor Bill Walker is behind this. It’s called a “a false flag operation” to try and get an advantage over Dunleavy, at least amongst Democratic and Lefty legislators. That’s why Bill Walker is so crooked. Figure the guy out. Another exposed attempt by Scott Kendall who can’t control himself. Dunleavy has their number…….again.

        • Marla, how and why would Walker have anything to do with this? Richards was re appointed by Dunleavy. Are you saying Dunleavy is not in power?

          Why on Earth would Walker want to do this? You’ve theories…. granted they’re not supported in reality, but in some imaginary world you live in, no doubt they make sense.

      • Bwahaha, no sir I am not a Dunleavy Fan. You don’t seem to understand that Richards should not, for many legal and ethical reasons, start talking about specific incidents. As I said, he answered the questions perfectly.
        Or are you just shilling for someone else?

        • Why would you think Richards’ answers were perfect and appropriate? He played dumb. Admitted he didn’t have a good reason for firing the director. And stumbled over simple questions. Did you not watch it? Are you just assuming he is in the right? Where do you get any of this from? It’s not from the world we live in. Do you live on Marla’s planet, by chance?

      • John, learn to think a little more deeply. You sound shallow, uninformed, and slightly retarded. This is a forum for reasoned discussion…..not for Lefties to spew old rhetoric that one can hear on any Commie network

        • Marla: so to you, reasoned discussion includes calling someone slightly retarded. Hypocrisy is a defining trait among the Right.

          • Evan,
            You and John sound like a match. Or, are you and he the same person? Either way, your arguments are old, trite, and predictable.

        • Great follow up, Marla. Let me know if you accidentally stumble onto a critical thought. Maybe we can have a discussion civilly then.

    • Chris: you’d be having a baby on the sidewalk if the political sides we’re reversed. Put another way, ideology over evidence.

    • Maybe this is why my grandparents generation were skeptics of women leaders. When workplace management and leaders was male
      Dominated we didnt see the executive style of the cat fight. A male executive fire another male, the one out will pack his things and leave. Go home and grieve. Then either grow depressed or move on. No cat fights.

      • Dunleavy is the one instigating this. Are you saying men shouldn’t be leaders because the inevitable outcome is incompetent decision making out of spite? At least try to follow along here.

  4. Rodell is history. Really, who cares?
    Another political witch hunt by Democrats who fear that Dunleavy is going to win a second term and Bill Walker is going to be further exposed this year for past illegal activity.
    BTW, Steve Rieger sits on the Board. Former Republican Senator and House member in the Legislature. A Harvard MBA with loads of banking experience and impeccably honest. He voted to can Rodell. Enough said.

    • What do Democrats have to do with any of this? Chrissy, if you can’t follow a simple article such as this from beginning to end without getting tripped up, why are you commenting? You should be reading, re-reading, and re-re-reading until you comprehend it, before you ever comment.

      • I comprehend much more than you, mister. You comprehend……at about the fifth grade level. You only THINK you are smart.

      • That’s pretty rich coming from you, who a few comment above announced to all that it is supposedly Dunleavy’s fault. (There isn’t even a hint of proof on that) This is an attempt at another ginned up scandal, like the national guard story back in the day when Walker ran the first time. (After he won “crickets” on that issue btw). The majority of the board apparently did not agree with her leadership style, so they decided to make a change and the vote was not even close.

    • Yeah. What is a 50 billion dollar strategy to you or the state of Alaska. She had solidarity for the fiduciary interests of Alaska. We were lucky to have her calibre at work for us. We are not lucky that we are now in the maverick market of finding someone new, unknown, untrusted, and beholden to unknown others. The wrong person can easily dissipate the funds with just a few moves. Alaskans are losers here. This 50 billion dollar decision is worthy careful indepth scrutiny. Best Wishes.

    • Rieger was in favor of recalling Dunleavy, but still got appointed. his qualifications were that good. I’ll vouch for Steve, personally. A better trustee couldn’t be found.

  5. “ Von Imhof cautioned members of the committee to reserve judgment”

    Cripes that’s rich. Does she even realize she says stuff like this, then makes the most asinine judgements and statements about the people of Alaska?

  6. We don’t have time for this. Legislators, get to work on the budget, repay us the dividends that you and Bill Walker took from us, and get it done before the end of the session.

    Then, once the important work is done, you can play tiddlywinks for the microphones.

    • Thank you, Joel. But it’s clear they have no intention of cutting off their access to our PFD. They did it, they got away with it, and they’re determined not to give it back. Even Dunleavy is conceding half of it away from us who rightfully are entitled to it.

  7. ““I am truly shocked that I am here. This is, this is a new one to me. We have an at-will employee that reports to the board who years of documented evidence demonstrates that there were trust problems going both ways between the board and the executive director,” Richards said.”

    Why would he be shocked? This corporation handles not only the State’s money, but mine as well. I would think every Alaskan would want to know why she was fired after such high production the last few years.

    I don’t really care about which political party she or he is part of. I DO care about job performance. I’ve read that she had outstanding job performance reviews, and then I’ve read she hasn’t. So which is it?

  8. I watched the Richard’s grilling. I simply don’t get what the deal is. Angela Rodell works for the board, and they voted 5 out of 6 to fire her because they think she sucks. Good riddance. Happens every day in the real world. Who cares if it’s politics? Rodell’s job is to serve the board. That’s her entire job, nothing else. If her politics prevents her from doing that, let her go and get somebody else.

    Can somebody please explain to me why the Democrats care about Rodell at all? What is really going on here? There must be something “behind the scenes” that explains this, like Rodell is some rich guy’s kid so Dems are rushing to defend an another incompetent like Rodell? This is clearly inside baseball and the real story is not being discussed. Can somebody please enlighten me, because the PDF is a big deal.

  9. I have learned in “at will” employee situations that the less said the better off the firing entity is. Our legislative representatives are not ‘at will’ and can’t accept the principals of “at will”. My advice would be keep your mouth shut and there is no requirement to further comment or explain. The term ‘Grandstanding’ sheds light here!. Whether this is personal, relational, or political….I am rooting for it to die for the sake of employers all around our great state.

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