COLUMBIA — The chief operating officer for the agency that invests pension money for South Carolina workers announced his resignation Friday, saying he is leaving after seven months on the job because he can’t stand being bullied by state Treasurer Curtis Loftis.
The Retirement System Investment Commission showed its support of Darry Oliver’s decision at a special meeting by passing a new anti-bullying policy.
“We do not expect our people to endure being called names I am not going to say on television. It is not permissible in polite society,” said board Chairman Reynolds Williams.
Loftis, who is a member of the board which makes investments for the state’s $27 billion pension portfolio, left the meeting just after it began after an angry exchange with Williams. Loftis wanted the bullying discussion to take place behind closed doors. The board voted against it.
Williams says Oliver decided to quit Sept. 30, after Lofits went on a tirade using foul language. A YouTube video posted by The State newspaper from the meeting shows Loftis walking out before Williams reads a transcript of the tirade.
In a statement released after the meeting, Loftis said Oliver’s version of the call was a lie and he was the one who was threatened.
“In today’s special meeting of the Commission, I was silenced in what was a well-orchestrated effort to damage my mission to bring transparency and accountability to the underperforming $27 billion pension fund. This will not stop me and instead fuels my efforts further,” Loftis wrote in his statement.
By leaving, Loftis didn’t get a chance to vote on the new chief operating officer for the commission. The board unanimously agreed to hire former state Sen. Greg Ryberg at $161,000 a year.
Williams called Ryberg a brilliant and well-qualified person and pointed out he wrote the law that created the agency that oversees state pensions.
In a statement, Ryberg said he was honored to be picked for his new job and his goal will be to make sure the system is strengthened and gains returned to make sure the state pension fund can keep its promises.
“Current economic and financial conditions are challenging, and the Commission needs as little distraction as possible,” Ryberg said.
Loftis and the Retirement System Investment Commission have been at odds for months. The board censured Loftis in February for what it called “false, misleading and deceitful rhetoric.” Loftis called that decision a badge of honor.
Loftis thinks the commission doesn’t get enough money back on its investments and gets paid too much money. He asked lawmakers to review a bonus program for the agency after 14 staff members received a combined $1.4 million in bonuses for the portfolio’s performance.
During the meeting, Williams started to recount Oliver’s version of his phone call with Loftis when the treasurer interrupted him.
As Williams banged his gavel and said it wasn’t his turn to speak, Loftis said the report was not fair because there was no due process or investigation.
“There’s an old saying that goes something like, ‘have you beaten your wife today?’ There’s no way to answer that question properly,” Loftis said, announcing he was leaving.
Oliver sat two seats away with his eyes closed. Oliver left before the meeting ended, but the board passed a resolution agreeing to negotiate a settlement of any possible legal claims between him and the board. Williams praised the former executive’s work.
“We wish he would not have been put in this intolerable situation. No reasonable person could have been expected to endure what he had already endured,” Williams said.
The board hopes the anti-bullying resolution will draw lines about what kind of conduct is allowed and help commissioners be more productive. Williams said he is tired of the agency having to deal with these kinds of problems.
“I would tell the retirees their assets are secure, their returns are reasonable and the commission is dealing with an intolerable situation reasonably and effectively,” Williams said.
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