Tight vote selects new chief of state worker pensions

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With out a vote to spare, state Division of Transformation and Shared Companies Secretary Amy Fecher was employed by the trustees of the Arkansas Public Staff Retirement System as its new govt director earlier this month, system information present.

Seven trustees voted for Fecher’s appointment, whereas 4 trustees voted towards her appointment and two trustees abstained, the system’s information revealed in a response to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s request beneath the Arkansas Freedom of Info Act for any correspondence referring to the trustees’ votes on June 1 to rent Fecher.

The trustees voted to rent Fecher in a voice vote to steer state authorities’s second-largest retirement system, which has greater than $10 billion in investments and greater than 75,000 working and retired members. She’s going to begin work on July 1 with a beginning wage of $165,396 a yr.

In interviews after the divided vote, two trustees mentioned they voted towards Fecher as a result of she lacked a monetary diploma. One other trustee mentioned he voted towards her as a result of he favored one other candidate with funding expertise.

Fecher was chosen over state treasurer’s workplace Senior Funding Supervisor Steve Pulley; the retirement system’s Chief Funding Officer Carlos Borromeo; and retired Fredericksburg, Texas, Metropolis Supervisor Kent Myers, who’s a former Scorching Springs metropolis supervisor.

Not less than a couple of trustees might be heard throughout the June 1 assembly dissenting from the vote to rent Fecher. But it surely wasn’t clear what number of trustees dissented as a result of not one of the trustees requested for a roll name vote and board Chairwoman Candace Franks did not ask if any trustees abstained from the vote earlier than they departed from the assembly.

In a textual content to Pulley on June 2, Arkansas Municipal League Govt Director Mark Hayes wrote “I attempted to push you thru, however i believe it got here all the way down to politics like [Duncan] Baird’s appointment.

“You’d have been good. The system stinks typically,” Hayes wrote in his textual content to Pulley obtained by this newspaper beneath the Arkansas Freedom of Info Act.

Trustee Larry Walther, secretary of the state Division of Finance and Administration, declined to remark concerning the textual content, mentioned Scott Hardin, a finance division spokesman.

In 2019, the system’s trustees employed then-state price range administrator Duncan Baird as govt director in a voice vote with no dissenters. Trustees chosen Baird over actuary Jody Carreiro and Borromeo. Baird’s predecessor, Gail Stone, served because the system’s govt director from July 1, 2001 till Dec. 31, 2018.

Baird, who’s a former Republican state consultant from Lowell, departed the system on April 9 to start work as senior supervisor of profit companies at Walmart the place he’s chargeable for administering Walmart’s 401 (okay) plan.

Based on system information supplied by interim system director Allison Woods in response to the Arkansas Freedom of Info Act request, the seven trustees who voted to pick Fecher had been:

• Staff Compensation Fee Chairman Dale Douthit.

• State Division of Labor and Licensing Secretary Daryl Bassett.

• Sebastian County Decide David Hudson.

• Van Buren Mayor Joe Hurst.

• Retired state Home assistant coordinator/assistant to the Home speaker Kaye Donham.

• Walther.

• Retired Alma Police Chief Russell White, who’s the chief of police on the Northwest Arkansas Nationwide Airport.

Douthit, Bassett, Hudson, Hurst and Walther are every appointees of Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson. White and Donham had been each appointed by Home Speaker Matthew Shepherd, R-El Dorado.

Based on the information supplied by Woods, the 4 trustees who voted towards choosing Fecher included:

• State Auditor Andrea Lea, a Republican from Russellville

• Retired Bureau of Legislative Analysis assistant director of analysis Richard Wilson.

• Retired Arkansas Recreation and Fish Fee regulation enforcement corporal Gary Wallace.

• Scorching Springs Metropolis Engineer Gary Carnahan.

Wilson and Wallace are each appointees of Senate President Professional Tempore Jimmy Hickey, R-Texarkana. Carnahan is an appointee of Hutchinson. As state auditor, Lea serves on the system’s board beneath state regulation.

Trustee Jason Brady, who’s chief deputy state treasurer for operations, and Franks, who’s the state’s retired financial institution commissioner, each abstained from the vote, based on the information supplied by Woods.

Brady serves on the board because the consultant of Republican state Treasurer Dennis Milligan of Benton. The state treasurer serves on the board beneath state regulation. Earlier this month, Brady mentioned that he abstained from voting on hiring Fecher as a result of one of many treasurer’s workplace staff was a candidate for govt director.

Franks, who’s an appointee of Hutchinson, mentioned final week that she sometimes would not vote because the board’s chairman except she has to vote to interrupt a tie, however “I feel the board made a great choice.”

After the trustees chosen Fecher, Hutchinson mentioned earlier this month that “This was a choice made by the board independently and I applaud their diligence within the choice course of.”

On Thursday, Hickey mentioned Thursday that he did not point out his desire for both Wallace or Wilson.

Requested concerning the trustees’ choice of Fecher, Hickey, who’s amongst her legislative critics, mentioned Thursday, “I haven’t got any remark.”

Shepherd mentioned Thursday in a written assertion that “I didn’t contact any of my appointees to the APERS Board of Trustees concerning the Govt Director place.

“As with the various actions of our boards and commissions, I belief members make selections in one of the best curiosity of the state of Arkansas,” Shepherd mentioned.

JOB DESCRIPTION

Fecher, who has a bachelor’s diploma in bodily science from the College of Central Arkansas, has been secretary of the state Division of Transformation and Shared Companies since 2019.

She additionally served because the state’s chief transformation officer from 2016-2019, govt vice chairman for the Arkansas Financial Growth Fee from 2015-2019 and director of the Division of Rural Companies in 2015 beneath Hutchinson, based on her resume. She labored as assistant director in Gov. Mike Huckabee’s workplace from 2000-2001, deputy director of the Division of Rural Companies from 2001-2005 and as legislative advisor and liaison for state officers for the Hutchinson Group consulting agency from 2005-2007, her resume states.

The job description for the retirement system govt director publish requires minimal training and/or expertise that features a bachelor’s diploma in enterprise administration, accounting, finance, economics, public administration or a associated discipline and 5 years of govt expertise reporting on to company or public management, together with three years in a supervisory or managerial capability.

Woods mentioned in an e-mail dated April 22 to the 5 trustees on the choice committee that if any of the 21 candidates for the job didn’t meet not less than one part of the three elements of the minimal necessities, they might be decided to not have met the general minimal necessities.

“For the diploma requirement, which mentions a associated discipline, we accepted any discipline of research so long as they’d earned a level,” she mentioned.

Appearing as a spokesman for Walther, who served as chairman of the trustees’ choice committee, Hardin mentioned Thursday in a written assertion that “The choice by APERS employees to permit any bachelor’s diploma to proceed (together with the opposite necessities) supplied the choice committee the discretion to find out whether or not a level was inside a associated discipline as there was not a proper record of associated levels.

“Whereas a bachelor’s diploma could also be required for positions all through state authorities, it’s not unusual for hiring officers to have discretion concerning the kind of diploma,” he mentioned.

Hardin mentioned that Walther indicated that 9 candidates had been decided to satisfy necessities based mostly on data supplied to him by the system’s employees, and the choice committee on April 28 selected 4 candidates for an interview.

The choice committee embody Walther, Bassett, Carnahan, Wilson and Lea.

Earlier this month, Wilson mentioned he voted towards hiring Fecher as a result of “we had a disagreement on a technical difficulty.

“Amy meets loads of necessities. Everyone knows that,” he mentioned.

However Wilson mentioned that “the way in which that they had been written there was a disagreement” about whether or not the bachelor’s diploma must be in enterprise administration, accounting, finance, economics, public administration or a associated discipline.

Lea mentioned earlier this month that she voted towards choosing Fecher as a result of Fecher’s bachelor’s diploma “is in science and never finance and the opposite candidates all had monetary backgrounds and levels.”

However Carnahan mentioned final week that “to me, that was not a hardline rule” for the manager director to have a bachelor’s diploma in a finance-related discipline.

Whereas he mentioned he voted towards hiring Fecher because the system’s govt director, he mentioned that “I used to be actually voting for one of many different candidates,” whom he declined to establish.

“She could be very sturdy in having a great understanding of working with the legislative course of, and the governor’s workplace and and in addition managed authorities businesses,” Carnahan support. “We’re all 110 % behind her and can do every thing we will to work together with her.”

White mentioned he voted to pick Fecher because the system’s govt director as a result of he felt like she was your best option for the place.

He mentioned Fecher — who has expertise in coping with lawmakers concerning laws and can attain out to the system’s members at city corridor conferences — and one of many candidates with monetary funding expertise, whom he declined to establish, had one of the best interviews for the job.

Borromeo already gives “actually good monetary management for the system,” White mentioned.

White mentioned lobbyist Rett Hatcher, a former aide to Hutchinson, endorsed Fecher as one of the best candidate for the system’s govt director job.

“No person mentioned the governor needed her for the job.”

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