In an unusual example of pension fund camaraderie, the boards of trustees of the $8 billion Oklahoma Public Employees Retirement System and $13.2 billion Oklahoma Teachers' Retirement System, have agreed to temporarily share Thomas Spencer, executive director of OPERS.
The boards of the Oklahoma City-based pension funds agreed to name Mr. Spencer interim director of OTRS for a four-month period while a permanent director is sought. Under the terms of the agreement, Mr. Spencer will spend 80% of his time on OTRS responsibilities in the first month and 70%, 60% and 50% in each of the remaining three months, respectively, Mr. Spencer said in an interview.
“Logistically, I could work in one place,” Mr. Spencer said, noting that he can see the OTRS offices from the window of his OPERS office, but added that “there are 40 people who work at OTRS, and it's important for them to have a physical presence from the director, especially in the first month.”
Both retirement systems are operated similarly and Mr. Spencer said he doesn't expect to run into any problems or conflicts as he works for both pension funds. He said he has confidence in the OPERS staff to manage that pension fund's operations in his temporary absences to his other office down the street.
James Wilbanks, OTRS' previous executive director, was terminated by the board on Oct. 2. Joseph Ezzell, assistant executive director, assumed operations of the retirement system after Mr. Wilbanks left.
“We have started a national search for a permanent executive director,” said James Dickson, chairman of OTRS' board in a joint news release.
“That process could take several months and the Teachers' board felt it was prudent to have an experienced public pension fund director serve in an interim capacity until the process is complete,” he added in the news release.
Responses to the OTRS' RFP for an executive recruiter to conduct the executive director search were due Friday.
“Tom Spencer has done an excellent job for OPERS for more than 10 years. Our board felt it was the right thing to do to help a sister state agency while it seeks new leadership,” said DeWayne McAnally, OPERS' board chairman, in the release.