Permanent Fund chairman says politics was not a factor in firing of executive director Angela Rodell

The chairman of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp.’s board of trustees says the firing of executive director Angela Rodell was “not based on political or other outside considerations,” denying claims made by the former director.

Chairman Craig Richards’ statement was included in a letter he sent Thursday to the Alaska Legislature’s budget and audit committee, which has scheduled a hearing Monday to investigate Rodell’s abrupt Dec. 9 firing.

The letter cites performance reviews by current and prior board members saying they lack confidence in Rodell. Those reviews were included in Rodell’s 296-page personnel file, which was released Wednesday by the corporation after a public records request by the Daily News.

Richards’ statement is the first time a member of the corporation’s board of trustees has explained Rodell’s removal. She was fired after a year that included national and international acclaim and record earnings for the Permanent Fund.

On Monday, Rodell said the board’s 5-1 vote to fire her was an act of “political retribution” by appointees of Gov. Mike Dunleavy. The governor has previously proposed spending more from the Permanent Fund than allowed under rules approved in 2018 by the Legislature. Rodell spoke against that idea on multiple occasions, advising state lawmakers to follow a “rules-based framework” when spending from the fund.

[Alaska Permanent Fund Corp.’s former director says her firing was ‘political retribution’]

Two-thirds of Alaska’s general-purpose state revenue comes from Permanent Fund investment earnings, and Rodell’s previously unexplained removal sparked concerns among legislators that the corporation responsible for those earnings is becoming politicized.


Richards’ letter to lawmakers says Rodell is an “at-will employee” and “her termination was the result of preexisting concerns raised in prior performance reviews.”

Rodell’s personnel file shows high reviews in her first two years on the job, but the third shows a strained relationship with the board, whose members are appointed by the Alaska governor.

That review examined 2018, a time when the board was filled by Gov. Bill Walker’s appointees. When Walker appointees were replaced with Dunleavy appointees and reappointments in subsequent years, the board’s opinion did not change significantly.

The reasons for the strain between Rodell and the board aren’t fully explained in the reviews.

“There has been a lack of trust and confidence in the board by me, and in me by the board,” Rodell wrote in a 2020 self-evaluation.

That year, the board directed the corporation’s chief investment officer to report to it directly, sidestepping Rodell. Despite what Rodell called a “reciprocal lack of trust,” the board raised Rodell’s salary.

In her final review, done in late 2021 and released separately by Rodell on Monday, board members said they felt manipulated by her.

An anonymous member of the fund’s board of trustees said, “Information that comes to the board is controlled and manipulated, board goals are sometimes ignored or even undermined, and a number of trustees in recent years have lost trust in her veracity and leadership.”

Writing to the legislative committee on Thursday, Richards said, “Each trustee is a fiduciary of the Alaska Permanent Fund and makes all decisions based solely on the trustee’s informed view as to what is in the Fund’s best interests. The decision to seek a new executive director was not a unanimous nor an easy decision. Nor was it determined in advance of completing her performance review.”

Rodell said on Friday that she has not read Richards’ letter, but she stands by the claim that her firing was an act of political retribution.

Asked about the comments in her latest review, she said, “What was it I was exactly supposed to do? When I manage people, I talk to you about it. I talk about the challenges I’m having with your performance, and we set out goals, we set out specific metrics at 90 days, 120 days, or whatever the time period is, and I can go back and say, ‘OK, this is what I asked you to do. Here’s what you did, here’s what you didn’t do, here’s how I didn’t see you correct it.’ ”

That didn’t happen here, Rodell said.

“I don’t think there was anything I could have done to prevent my firing,” she said.

James Brooks

James Brooks was a Juneau-based reporter for the ADN from 2018 to May 2022.