Thursday, October 23, 2008

ATRS Executive Director Paul Doane Resigns in Legislative Joint Audit Committee Meeting (with Video)

Paul Doane, executive director of the Arkansas Teacher Retirement System (ATRS), resigned today during the meeting of the Arkansas Legislative Joint Audit Committee with questions surrounded his department’s travel expenses. (See video above.) The meeting began with Doane reading a statement to the committee stating that he is resigning at whatever date the ATRS Board of Directors deems appropriate. The Board Chair of ATRS, Robin Nicols, later told me she believe this will be at the end of the year. Doane stated his resignation is primarily due to the fact that he feels that this is the best way to “heal the relationship with your body (the legislature) and the agency (ATRS)."

The question and answer session turned quite contentious as the committee members asked questions to Doane and Nichols.

Sen. Jimmy Jefferies questioned Nichols regarding the changes to the ATRS Board Policy changes which took place this year which allow the Board Members to take additional trips to conference paid for by ATRS. Nichols stated that she felt these expenses (totaling $50,000) are appropriate as there are not adequate conferences in Arkansas and it is important for the board members to receive this training.

Sen. Jefferies also questioned Doane regarding the promotion of travel supervisor Suzanne Davenport. Davenport is the staff member in charge of approving the travel expenses of Mr. Doane at is the subject of an article in today Arkansas Democrat Gazette. Her promotion almost doubled her salary from around $47,000 to around $88,000. Mr. Doane said he believed this took place in December of 2006 before he arrived. Later this was clarified that this took place in April of 2007 after he arrived. Sen. Jefferies also discussed a memo from Mr. Doane’s administrative assistant Jane Toledo regarding some reservations she had over Mr. Doane’s travel reimbursements to his home in Massachusetts.

Mr. Doane responded that this memo is being misinterpreted and that the question was not whether he could be reimbursed for his trips from Arkansas to Boston where he was on business but rather from Boston to his house located 95 miles outside of Boston.

Rep. Bill Sample and Sen. Steve Faris directed their questions to Nichols as to why there were several trips taken around the state to interview financial consultants for ATRS. Rep. Sample questioned why this was necessary and why these consultants could not travel to Arkansas to interview for ATRS’s business. Ms. Nichols stated that she believed this was necessary to visit these firms in order to “meet all their people.” She about of the firms she visited saying “that to put it bluntly went we went their, they were in kakis and polo shirts, real nice real laid back, very knowledge, great company” while another firm which was the one chosen she described “as much more well polished.” Sen. Feris commented that he did not understand what the wardrobe of the firms had to do with their performance. Mrs. Nichols replied “I want someone in a suit and tie and will present like someone who is worth spending $12 million on.” Rep.Sample commented “that the way people dress has nothing to do with their performance.”

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