Without explanation, the board of directors of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. abruptly dismissed its executive director, Angela Rodell, on Thursday, despite the fund’s record performance over the past year.
The fund provides most of Alaska’s service revenue, and state lawmakers have said they are stunned by the action, which board members have declined to discuss. The vote, which came at the end of a regular quarterly meeting, was 5-1 in favor of immediate impeachment.
In six years as an executive director, Rodell has grown the fund at an all-time high, with assets growing from $ 51 billion to over $ 83 billion.
“I’m stunned. I can’t wait to see the board’s reasoning for firing her. For me it’s the equivalent of trading Michael Jordan after winning five NBA championships,” said Senator Click Bishop , R-Fairbanks and a member of the Senate Finance Committee. (Bishop and Rodell both served in the administration of former Governor Sean Parnell.)
The board’s action came after the company’s directors left an executive session to review Rodell’s performance.
President Craig Richards called for a motion to immediately remove Rodell, State Revenue Commissioner Lucinda Mahoney seconded the proposal and the directors adjourned the meeting immediately after the vote.
âWith that, our meeting is over,â said Richards.
âI am absolutely stunned. The Permanent Fund is operating at a record pace and the Executive Director is fired? What the hell is going on? âSaid Rep. Bryce Edgmon, I-Dillingham and member of the House finance committee.
Richards, Mahoney, State Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Corri Feige, Administrator Steve Rieger and Administrator Ethan Schutt voted in favor of the removal. The only vote against was that of administrator William Moran. None offered an explanation.
The five votes in favor of Rodell’s impeachment came from directors appointed by Governor Mike Dunleavy. The only no came from an administrator appointed by former Governor Bill Walker.
âThe Permanent Fund will not comment on personnel matters. And that’s the only comment I can make on this question. â¦ That’s all we’re going to say on this one, âRichards said in a brief phone call Thursday night.
Mahoney, contacted by email, forwarded an interview request to a company spokesperson who provided a short written statement and declined to answer further questions.
The statement does not say why Rodell was removed from his post, only that the directors “decided to undertake a search for a new executive director” after Rodell’s annual review.
CFO Valerie Mertz will act as interim CEO, and directors will begin recruiting a permanent replacement. Mertz has been the company’s chief financial officer since 2012.
Rodell said Thursday night she was not ready to talk about the trustees’ action.
âIt has been an honor and a privilege to serve the Alaskans and their fund, which is our most important resource both for Alaska today and for future generations,â she said via text message. âI am especially grateful to the incredible employees of FPAC and the community of Juneau. “
Independent advisers had praised Rodell and company staff during the two-day quarterly meeting, calling their performance outstanding against similar funds nationwide.
In the last fiscal year, the fund gained 29.73% in value, the highest since its inception, and on Wednesday its total unaudited value stood at $ 83.5 billion.
“I would just like to point out that instead of calling them ‘pretty strong results’, they are exceptional,” said George Zinn, Microsoft vice president and treasurer, a member of the company’s board of directors. investment advisory group.
âCongratulations to Angela and (Chief Investment Officer) Marcus (Frampton) and the rest of the staff,â he said on the first day of the meeting.
The fund is the source of two-thirds of the state of Alaska’s revenue, far more than oil and all other taxes combined.
Rodell was appointed director of the company six years ago.
A graduate of Marquette University and the University of Kentucky, she held various positions in the financial industry before becoming Senior Vice President of First Southwest Co. in March 2004. In 2011, she became Assistant Commissioner of Revenue. Appointed Parnell’s Revenue Commissioner in 2013, she worked as a consultant to the Senate Finance Committee before taking a leadership role at the APFC. At the time, the fund stood at $ 51 billion.
During their two-day annual meeting in Anchorage, the directors expressed satisfaction with the fund’s performance, which seems to indicate further dissatisfaction with Rodell.
At the company’s annual meeting in October, Rodell clashed with directors on the issue of bonuses paid to investment managers that exceed targets. After Mahoney offered to reduce the bonuses offered and cited the amount of this year’s Permanent Fund dividend – an issue not controlled by the fund – Rodell questioned whether the fund’s independence was being eroded.
As Executive Director, Rodell encouraged elected officials to stick to a ârules-based approachâ when withdrawing money from the Permanent Fund. Since 2018, an annual fund transfer has paid for most utilities in Alaska.
Although this transfer is governed by a formula in state law, the Alaska legislature can increase or decrease the size of the transfer at will. Rodell urged managers to stick with the formula in order to create reliability for fund managers, allowing them to invest more effectively.
This year, Governor Dunleavy proposed to temporarily withdraw the fund to pay a larger dividend from the permanent fund during a period of transition to a constitutionally guaranteed dividend proposed by the Governor.
When asked what the governor thought of the decision to fire Rodell, a spokesperson replied in writing: âGovernor Dunleavy has no involvement in the actions or decisions of the board. The governor is not asking for any personnel action for an independent state corporation. The Alaska Constitution and the state statutes entrust the management of the FPAC to the trustees.
The spokesperson did not respond to a follow-up question asking if the governor had any concerns about the abrupt removal.