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Ohio teachers' pension fund board suspends executive director after accusations of bad behavior

William Neville, the executive director of the State Teachers Retirement System, talked about retired teachers' concerns about the fund's investments on "The State of Ohio" in October 2021.
Daniel Konik
/
Statehouse News Bureau
William Neville, the executive director of the State Teachers Retirement System, talked about retired teachers' concerns about the fund's investments on "The State of Ohio" in October 2021.

The board of the state’s $90 billion pension fund for retired teachers has suspended its executive director after staffers accused him of violent behavior and sexual harassment.

It’s the latest in a series of concerns at the State Teachers Retirement System.

The STRS board suspended Bill Neville and called for an investigation after an anonymous letter from staff accused him of throwing furniture, making comments about his past relationships and about people’s appearances, and threatening staff whose family members spoke against him at board meetings.

Neville was appointed director in 2020, but has been with STRS since 2004.

A retired teachers group has alleged the pension fund has put money into risky investments with big fees and is secretive about them. The Ohio Retired Teachers Association has called out the fund for paying millions in bonuses to staff though the fund lost more than $5 billion last year and has only paid one cost of living increase since 2017. The group hired pensions expert Ted Siedle to look into STRS, and he concluded STRS “has long abandoned transparency, choosing instead to collaborate with Wall Street firms to eviscerate Ohio public records laws and avoid accountability to stakeholders. Predictably, billions that could have been used to pay teachers retirement benefits have been squandered over time as transparency has ceased to be a priority.”

STRS responded by saying that Siedle's allegations are "baseless" and the fund has outperformed the market over the last decade. STRS also noted Siedle is not an accountant or an auditor, and that his conclusions about the Ohio teachers' pension fund are similar to reports he's written about other states when it comes to transparency and investment fees.

This summer, former board member Wade Steen filed a lawsuit over his removal from the board by Gov. Mike DeWine. Steen was considered among the board members who want to make changes in the fund's investment strategy and to bring more transparency to it. Steen was appointed by DeWine to a term that was supposed to go till September 2024. DeWine said he replaced Steen with G. Brent Bishop, because Steen missed seven meetings in a year. Steen disputes that.

Contact Karen at 614-578-6375 or at kkasler@statehousenews.org.