In testimony in front of the committee, Christopher Slottee, industry group leader at Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt, said, "The trustee's governance documents have a charter that describe the specific duties and responsibilities of the executive director, and the charter also has a very specific performance evaluation process. Those provisions of the charter are indicative of good sound practice for evaluating performance."
"They did have a process that they followed," he said. "They did have an evaluation instrument they used, but it was not the one under their own governing documents." Specifically, Mr. Slottee said the annual performance review of Ms. Rodell, who had led the fund since October 2015, had changed beginning in 2018, and in 2020 and 2021, a survey process "entirely sought out the subjective impressions and comments from trustees and the APFC staff" and did not include objective performance measures required by the APFC's executive director performance evaluation policy.
Following the 2021 review and the survey, the board of trustees cited a "lack of confidence" in Ms. Rodell in the decision to terminate.
The policy requires the board to establish a survey to provide a tool for trustees based on a number of criteria. However, Mr. Slottee said the 2021 survey was given not only to each trustee but to every staff member at APFC regardless of seniority or position.
Mr. Slottee said the survey "lacked any meaningful focus on objective evaluation process meant in the charter," violated "best practices because it went to some evaluators with no knowledge and experience" and the "evaluation summary was also deficient by only including negative comments."
Mr. Slottee also noted that only four of the six trustees completed the survey.
APFC had announced the removal of Ms. Rodell from her position in a Dec. 9 news release, stating the board had "decided to undertake a search for a new executive director to lead the Permanent Fund in its continued growth and evolving role in support of Alaska." According to Mr. Slottee, the decision was made after two days of closed session meetings, and at the conclusion of those meetings, Ms. Rodell was summoned and informed of the decision to terminate her. She denied the option to resign and told the board there would be "political consequences" for their actions, Mr. Slottee said.
In a Jan. 12 letter to Alaska Sen. Natasha von Imhof, a member of the committee, Ms. Rodell said, "At no time over the past six years was I ever given quantifiable metrics for performance. I believed I was required to procure resources as close to the budget adopted by the board as possible, leverage those resources as much as possible, and deliver outstanding returns on the fund."
"I believe my removal to be political retribution for successfully carrying the board's mandate to protect the fund and advocate against any additional draws over the POMV (percent of market value) spending rule in front of the 30th, 31st and 32nd Alaska State Legislatures which is contrary to Governor (Mike) Dunleavy's agenda," Ms. Rodell wrote. "It is this direct conflict of agendas that contradicts the statement made by (Board) Chair (Craig) Richards to the Senate and House Rules (committee) on Dec. 15, 2021 that 'politics had no part in the (board's) decision.'"
Mr. Slottee said there was no evidence of any political retribution for Ms. Rodell's termination and said among the five of the six trustees that voted for termination there were different reasons given for their approval. However, the common thread was that they "lacked confidence" in Ms. Rodell's leadership, and that because the survey results from investment staff showed lower scores than other departments at APFC, trustees were worried about retention of investment staff if Ms. Rodell remained with the permanent fund corporation.
"Lack of confidence in the executive director and concerns about the potential attrition in investment staff would be a legally sufficient reason to terminate an at-will employee," Mr. Slottee said.
The report is posted on the Alaska Legislature's website.