Arizona pension fund fires leader after harassment probe
PHOENIX (AP) — The board overseeing a $10 billion pension fund for retired Arizona police and firefighters fired its top executive Wednesday after state human resources officials said he admitted to sexual harassment and other issues.
The Public Safety Personnel Retirement System board voted 8-0 to fire administrator Jared Smout, who has been on paid leave since April after complaints were filed against him.
The Arizona Department of Administration, the state’s human resources agency, on Monday recommended Smout be immediately fired and not given any other job in state government following the outcome of an inquiry led by outside investigators.
The allegations were outlined in a heavily redacted four-page letter to William Buividas, chair of the board overseeing the pension system. The letter says Smout admitted he was attracted to an employee of the pension fund, sent inappropriate text message and often hugged the worker inappropriately. It also says he acknowledged looking at an employee’s body inappropriately and explained his behavior by saying he “was a man.”
Smout also was accused of inadequately responding to a complaint that computer staff spied on two employees that he didn’t like. The letter says he considered the allegations to be credible and acknowledged telling the employees he would contact a forensic investigator to look into it, but didn’t do so.
Furthermore, the letter says a 2014 investigation found Smout spent hours watching workers to whom he was attracted on live video from the building’s surveillance cameras. He did not disclose the findings to the pension fund’s board of directors before he was promoted to the top job.
“The conduct to which Mr. Smout has himself admitted does not even remotely comply with the values of PSPRS and has brought embarrassment and discredit to the State,” Elizabeth Thorson, deputy director of the Administration Department, wrote in the letter.
Smout could not be reached for comment.
Buividas, the board chairman and a Phoenix police officer, said firing Smout “was a decision we could not in good conscience avoid.”
“To be blunt, the behavior described in the Arizona Department of Administration investigation is in no way acceptable from any employee of PSPRS, let alone the system’s top executive,” Buividas said in a statement. “Let me be as clear as I know how to be: We will not tolerate inappropriate workplace behavior.”
Smout, who makes $252,200 a year, oversees a nearly $10 billion pension fund that administers retirement benefits for police officers, firefighters, corrections officers, judges and elected officials. The system is badly underfunded, with only enough assets to cover about half of the projected costs for retirement benefits promised to current and former workers.