Roxanne Minnehan, executive director of the state agency managing eight retirement systems, was placed on administrative leave, with pay, on Wednesday.
Minnehan has been executive director of the Montana Public Employee Retirement Administration for seven years.
Two sources who requested anonymity said that Scott Moore, a firefighter from Miles City and president of the Montana Public Employees’ Retirement Board, met with Minnehan on Wednesday to inform her of his decision to put her on leave.
Moore refused to comment about the decision. Minnehan couldn’t be reached for comment.
The board will meet in executive session Monday morning, by conference call, to discuss the matter.
Minnehan was promoted to become MPERA executive director, after having previously worked at another job there. She has worked for the state of Montana for more than 23 years. Her salary is about $145,000 a year.
Gov. Steve Bullock was not involved in the decision to put Minnehan on leave, his spokesman, Mike Wessler, said.
“No, in fact our office was only made aware and notified that the chair had placed the executive director on administrative leave late this afternoon,” Wessler said.
Sen. Dave Lewis, R-Helena, called the State Bureau to defend Minnehan.
“Roxanne Minnehan always told me the truth,” Lewis said. “That’s probably what got her fired. She was just a good, hard-working civil servant.”
MPERA administers eight pension systems for retired state and local government retirees and their dependents and current employees.
The largest fund, the Montana Public Employees’ Retirement System, had investments with a market value of $4.5 billion on Sept. 30.
The agency also manages separate pension funds for judges, Highway Patrol officers, sheriffs, game wardens and peace officers, municipal police officers, firefighters and volunteer firefighters.
There are more than 32,000 active members and nearly 21,000 retirees served by the eight pension funds under MPERA.
Pensions have been a major political issue in Montana since the state pension investments faced a financial battering in the national recession of 2008-2009 and lost about one-fourth of their market value.
Going into the 2013 Legislature, six of the seven state pension funds faced future shortfalls or unfunded liabilities totaling $4.24 billion.
Bullock proposed, and the 2013 Legislature passed, two major laws to shore up the financing for PERS and the Teachers’ Retirement System.
Under these laws, employees and employers are paying higher contribution rates into the pension funds, annual cost-of-living adjustments for retirees have been cut and the state has pumped in millions of additional money to the pension funds.
The cut in TRS cost-of-living adjustments have been challenged in court as unconstitutional in a recent lawsuit filed by some retired and current educators and MEA-MFT union. A similar lawsuit is expected to be filed soon against PERS by retirees and unions.