Legislative committee boosts budget for Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. investigation

a woman wearing glasses stands up in a meeting room
Sen. Natasha von Imhof, R-Anchorage, speaks Tuesday, May 10, 2022 on the floor of the Alaska Senate at the Alaska State Capitol in Juneau, Alaska. (James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)

A committee of the Alaska Legislature voted unanimously on Wednesday to spend another $50,000 on its investigation into the firing of Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. director Angela Rodell, bringing the investigation’s total budget to $150,000.

Sen. Natasha von Imhof, R-Anchorage, the chair of the House-Senate Legislative Budget and Audit Committee, said the money is needed to get the investigation “to the finish line,” and she expects a full report in October.

“I’ve asked that the report be finished by mid-October and presented to this committee. We have not set a date, but it’s going to be somewhere in the middle of October,” she said.

Members of the committee hired a special investigator in January to determine whether political factors played a role in the December firing of Rodell by the corporation’s board of trustees.

The corporation manages Alaska’s $78 billion Permanent Fund, and a transfer from the Permanent Fund to the state treasury accounts for at least half of the general-purpose revenue used for services and Permanent Fund dividends, making management of the corporation a critical operation to the state.

Rodell’s firing came after the corporation’s most successful year on record, and Rodell said at the time that she believed the firing was motivated by Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s proposal to spend more from the Permanent Fund than allowed by a 2018 law.

Dunleavy dropped that proposal after oil prices rose, and a subsequent public records request revealed years of conflicts between Rodell and the board of trustees. Some conflicts predated Dunleavy’s election as governor.

The firing alarmed state legislators, who generally held a positive view of Rodell, and in an extraordinary step, the budget and audit committee said it was prepared to issue subpoenas to compel testimony from the board of trustees.

After initially indicating that they might fight the subpoenas in court, board members agreed to voluntarily answer questions from a special investigator.

That investigator, Howard Trickey, has spent much of the year conducting interviews with trustees and other witnesses familiar with the events that led to Rodell’s removal.

Trickey is employed by the law firm of Schwabe, Williamson and Wyatt, and in an Aug. 9 memo, the firm said it had exhausted the $100,000 previously allocated by the budget and audit committee.

The additional $50,000 approved Wednesday includes a 15% reserve and is expected to be enough to finish the investigation.

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