Law firm releases report on firing of former APFC executive director Rodell

Published on 09/30/2022


Law firm Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt, PC conducted an investigation into Angela Rodell’s dismissal process from the US$73.7 billion Juneau-based Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation (APFC) in December 2021. The report concluded that APFC’s trustees failed to follow its own charter and governance policies in evaluating its former executive director, Angela Rodell, although its decision to fire her was likely legal action. The report is posted on the Alaska Legislature website.

LINK: https://www.akleg.gov/basis/get_documents.asp?session=32&docid=94772

According to the report, “The investigation focused on three main issues: (1) the processes employed by the APFC Board of Directors to assess the performance of the CEO; (2) the reasons underlying the directors’ decision to terminate the employment of the Chief Executive Officer; and (3) what role, if any, political considerations played in this decision. »

REPORT FINDINGS
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CONCLUSION
In addition to the factual conclusions set out in the executive summary and based on the evidence, we provide the following findings:

1. The Directors failed to follow the APFC Charter in all material respects with respect to their evaluation of the Executive Director. The Trustees have not used an evaluation instrument or process to assess the CEO’s performance that is consistent with the CEO Performance Appraisal Policy.

2. Trustees lost faith in the CEO’s leadership and her relationship with several trustees was strained. There were several incidents that directors testified to that eroded their confidence in the CEO’s leadership. The cumulative effect of these incidents drove the decision to dismiss the Executive Director, even though these incidents were not directly addressed as part of the appraisal process. The majority of trustees were concerned that failure to improve the relationship between the CEO and the investment team would lead to departures from the investment team.

3. Collectively, the reasons expressed by the Trustees for their decision to terminate the Executive Director supported the termination as a matter of employment law, in that they constituted a valid exercise of the Trustees’ ability to terminate an employee at will such as Mrs. Rodel. A loss of trust in the CEO of an organization such as the APFC is sufficient legal reason under the legal standards for employment at will in Alaska.

4. The structure and importance of APFC as the main source of funding for general public services and payment of dividends inevitably drew the Executive Director into policy discussions and debates. The CEO, as designated spokesperson, took actions and made statements that directors perceived to be “political” and advancing a personal “agenda”.

5. There was no credible direct or circumstantial evidence that the Governor knew in advance that the Executive Director would be removed. There is no direct or circumstantial evidence that the Governor ordered the Trustees to fire the Executive Director.

6. Directors expressed concern about the political impact of certain actions and statements by the Executive Director. These concerns were a factor that the directors took into account during the executive session discussions that led to the termination decision. These concerns did not reach the political level as a significant motivating factor in the decision to terminate, but undermined trustees in the Executive Director’s ability to continue as Executive Director.

7. In order to prevent political concerns from becoming a factor in the evaluation of the performance of the Executive Director, it would be preferable for FPAC that Directors use an evaluation tool or instrument and a process that excludes politics of the equation. The provisions of the Charter on the evaluation of the Executive Director and the process for conducting the evaluation would reduce, if not eliminate, political influence in the evaluation of the performance of the Executive Director, if followed by the Trustees. The stability and independence of the Fund can only be protected by shielding the Executive Director from political pressures and the political repercussions of his work.

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