HELENA – Roxanne Minnehan was reinstated Tuesday as head of the state agency managing eight public pension systems about two weeks after the president of the Montana Public Employees’ Retirement Board put her on leave.
Minnehan will return to her job Wednesday as executive director of the Montana Public Employee Retirement Administration. Afterward, Minnehan said she was happy with the outcome.
She had been placed on paid administrative leave Oct. 23 after a meeting with the board’s president, Scott Moore of Miles City. Moore later said he took the actioin because of “concerns brought to the board president by staff and board members concerning multiple issues.”
On Tuesday, the board met behind closed doors for nearly two hours, with Minnehan and her attorney present for some of the executive session.
The board then opened the doors to its meeting to the public and announced that Minnehan had been reinstated. There was no explanation, except for a joint statement agreed to by the board and Minnehan and her attorney.
The statement said:
“The board has completed its assessment of the situation, discussed possible options and has decided to reinstate Ms. Minnehan. She will resume her duties tomorrow.
“There have been no allegations of any improprieties on Ms. Minnehan’s part, and the public should have no concerns regarding the retirement plans or its administration.
“The MPERA board and management, including Ms. Minnehan, have mutually committed to move forward cooperatively to fulfill their responsibilities to the state of Montana and the active and retired members of Montana’s public employee retirement systems.”
Board members present declined to comment beyond the statement.
However, one board member, Timm Twardoski of Helena, who was traveling and listened in by telephone, later told the Lee Newspapers State Bureau, “This isn’t over yet. There are still conversations that need to occur.”
Twardoski said he was referring to necessary conversations between Minnehan and the board, and the agency’s staff and her. He is executive director of Montana Council 9 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
State Sen. Dave Lewis, R-Helena, who had issued a statement defending Minnehan when she was placed on leave, said Wednesday, “I’m very pleased the board members reconsidered their action.”
Minnehan has been executive director of the agency for seven years. Her salary is $145,000 a year.
After the meeting, reporters asked Minnehan about the board’s decision to reinstate her.
“I’m happy with it,” Minnehan said.
Her attorney, Phil Hohenlohe of Helena, said, “Ms. Minnehan looks forward to going back to work.”
No financial settlement between Minnehan and the board was part of the agreement, according to Marjorie Thomas, the Department of Administration attorney who assisted the board in the matter.
The board closed its meeting to the public when Hohenlohe cited Minnehan’s right to privacy.
The Montana Public Employee Retirement Administration oversees eight pension funds, with the largest being the Public Employees’ Retirement System with assets valued at $4.1 billion as of June 30. This pension fund has more than 28,000 active members still working and nearly 19,500 retired or disabled members or dependents.
Last week, a group of retired public employees and four individual retirees filed a lawsuit against the agency, board and Gov. Steve Bullock. They were challenging part of a 2013 law that cuts in half – from 3 percent to at least 1.5 percent – the annual cost-of-living raises that retirees receive.