Legislative committee hires law firm to investigate the firing of Rodell as permanent fund head

The Alaska Legislative Budget & Audit Committee meets shortly before voting to approve hiring a law firm to investigate the firing of Angela Rodell as the executive director of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp., on Jan. 27, 2022, in the Alaska State Capitol in Juneau, Alaska. (Photo by Andrew Kitchenman/KTOO and Alaska Public Media)
The Legislative Budget & Audit Committee meets shortly before voting to approve hiring a law firm to investigate the firing of Angela Rodell as the executive director of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. on Thursday in the Capitol. (Photo by Andrew Kitchenman/KTOO and Alaska Public Media)

A committee of the Alaska Legislature will hire a law firm to investigate the recent firing of Angela Rodell from her position as executive director of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation. 

Legislative Budget and Audit Committee chair Sen. Natasha von Imhof, an Anchorage Republican, explained the decision at a committee meeting on Thursday.

“It is this committee’s goal that the fund is protected from political intervention or manipulation to ensure the fund’s continued growth and sustainability,” she said.

The investigation will examine the circumstances of Rodell’s firing and whether there were improper actions or undue political influence by board members or by Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s administration. 

The permanent fund’s board fired Rodell on Dec. 9. 

Dunleavy has said he had no knowledge of or influence over the firing. Board chair Craig Richards has said Rodell was an at-will employee and cited negative evaluations of Rodell’s performance. He has declined to provide details, saying it’s a confidential personnel matter.

The committee also authorized issuing subpoenas in the investigation. Von Imhof said she plans to keep a hands-off approach but will work with the investigators to decide if people who decline to talk should be compelled to by subpoena.

Rodell’s firing has drawn scrutiny from lawmakers who have noted the fund grew by $30 billion while Rodell led it

The committee plans to hire lawyers Howard Trickey and Christopher Slottee of the Anchorage firm Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt. The contract, which the committee plans to finalize next week, will be for up to $100,000. 

The committee was unanimous in supporting the investigation and subpoena authority. 

Von Imhof said she hopes the investigative report will be completed before the end of the legislative session, since there may be legislation proposed as a result of the report. 

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Andrew Kitchenman is the state government and politics reporter for Alaska Public Media and KTOO in Juneau. Reach him at akitchenman@alaskapublic.org.