Legislative committee approves investigation into Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. director’s firing

The Legislative Budget and Audit Committee hopes to have a report from the third-party law firm by the end of session
Members of the Alaska Legislative Budget and Audit Committee meet on Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022 in...
Members of the Alaska Legislative Budget and Audit Committee meet on Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022 in Juneau, Alaska.(Sean Maguire/Alaska's News Source)
Published: Jan. 27, 2022 at 6:05 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - An Alaska legislative committee has approved a $100,000 contract to hire a third-party law firm to investigate the circumstances around the ousting of Angela Rodell, the former executive director of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp.

Legislators have been trying to get answers after Rodell was abruptly removed as the corporation’s director in December. The Legislative Budget and Audit Committee also held a hearing earlier in January trying to get more details from Craig Richards, chair of the Permanent Fund’s Board of Trustees. At the time, Richards declined to answer several of the committee’s specific questions from legislators about why Rodell was fired, citing confidentiality in the board’s decision making.

On Thursday, the committee went immediately into executive session after calling their meeting to order, to consider Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. personnel “and related procurement.”

Following the executive session, the committee unanimously passed two motions — one to contract third-party legal services to investigate the circumstances surrounding Rodell’s removal, and another to give the committee’s chair, Anchorage Republican Sen. Natasha von Imhof, the power to subpoena people or documents related to the investigation.

The committee approved contracting up to $100,000 for a law firm to perform an independent investigation “at arm’s length” from the Legislature. As Rep. Chris Tuck, D-Anchorage, read the motion, he said the investigation should be professional and unbiased.

Following the meeting, Tuck said the contract is going to Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt. The committee has requested the firm return its findings in “a timely manner” but no hard deadline has been set.

According to the motion, the investigation will probe whether there were any “improper” actions by the corporation’s board of trustees, or political motivations from either the board or Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s administration.

The second motion, also passed unanimously, gives von Imhof subpoena power to call people or documents before the committee or as part of the investigation process.

“We will provide a list of people that we would like the firm to contact and depending on what that person says when they initially answer the phone or email or whatnot, if they agree then the firm will proceed,” von Imhof said. “And if they say ‘I don’t want to agree’ then we will discuss.”

She said the committee’s goal is just to find out what happened, and determine whether there was any political influence involved by either the corporation’s board or the executive branch. von Imhof said the hope is to have a report by the end of the legislative session “because there may be legislation that comes out of this.”

“We just want to make sure that the fund stays healthy and not affected politically by any undue political influence either by the board of trustees or by the executive branch,” she said. “It was set up to be politically protected and apolitical and we want to make sure it stays that way.”

On Monday, the state published a request for information, seeking an executive search firm to help find Rodell’s replacement.

“The Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation (APFC) is seeking interest in soliciting proposals for an executive search firm’s services to assist APFC’s Board of Trustees in a nationwide search for an Executive Director to lead the Corporation,” the public notice states.

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