Temporary lodgings for Alaska Permanent Fund managers?

Posted: Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The state of Alaska's top investment manager, charged with overseeing the state's $35 billion Permanent Fund, has not sold his Seattle home, which he has listed for sale at more than twice its assessed value, and has yet to move to Juneau, despite working for the state for nearly two years.

Jeff Scott, chief investment officer for the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp., told a legislative committee in 2009 he had, at that time, a condo in Juneau, but a trade publication wrote eariler this month he still lives in Seattle.

Scott declined, through spokespeople, to talk with the Empire or to provide any evidence of where he actually lives.

Scott's residency, as well as that of some other top permanent fund money managers have some legislators concerned as well. After raising questions about where Scott was living last year, they said recently that they were disappointed to find out he hadn't yet moved to Juneau, but that fund managers have disregarded legislative concerns in the past.

"It come as no surprise that he may not have had the veracity that he represented," said Rep. Mike Hawker, R-Anchorage.

Hawker is a member of the Legislative Budget and Audit Committee, charged with overseeing the permanent fund. Committee members questioned Scott on his residency last year. He told them he lived in Juneau.

Scott began working for the Permanent Fund Corp. in November, 2008. In mid-2009, he told the legislative committee he said he had finally moved to Alaska.

"I wasn't a citizen of Alaska before, but I am now," he said, and went on to explain he had a condo in Juneau and was waiting for his Seattle house to sell before completing the move with his wife and two school-age children.

Legislators urged him to hurry.

"We want you to be an Alaskan as soon as you can," said Sen. Kevin Meyer, R-Anchorage, the committee's chairman.

Hoping for a new Alaskan

Sen. Linda Menard, R-Wasilla, said Alaskans wanted to see a commitment to Alaska from someone in Scott's position.

"We want you to really invest in the state," she said. "We want your family to be part of the community of Juneau."

Instead, Scott took his house off the market and continued his regular flights to and from Juneau.

Other legislators at the time questioned whether Scott and some other fund managers were Juneau residents, and grilled him on an exodus from the Permanent Fund's Juneau offices each Thursday, and a return on Alaska Airlines each Sunday evening.

Scott's top investment deputy, Max Giolitti, also appears to not live in Juneau. He told the Alaska Budget Report newsletter a few months after his April, 2009 hire that he was intending to move his family to Juneau but was unable to find a house.

"I'm having a hard time finding one, to tell you the truth," he told the newsletter.

More than a year later, Giolitti and his family, which includes a wife and three children, appear to still live in Devon, Penn.

Giolitti, who did not claim to live in Juneau, is paid $180,000 a year. He does not appear to own property in Juneau, but he and his wife own a $500,000 house Pennsylvania.

Investment managers won't talk of residency

He declined to respond to an interview request from the Empire, and an e-mailed request for information about where he lives was answered by Permanent Fund Corporation Executive Director Mike Burns, who said he is the corporation's designated spokesperson. Burns also responded for Scott.

"When it is appropriate, I will ask employees if they are willing to be interviewed on topics that relate directly to APFC business, but will not do so if the topic is their private life," he wrote. Burns is a long-time Alaskan.

Scott did talk to trade publication Institutional Investor, and told them of his living arrangements.

"APFC staff are supposed to live in Juneau, but Scott and his wife are waiting for their house to sell before moving their children," the magazine wrote this month.

With a salary of about $350,000 a year, Scott is the highest paid employee in the Alaska state government.

The corporation's equities manager, Maria Tsu, lives in Anchorage, with Burns' approval. Her predecessor, Melody Prenner Bryant, never relocated to Juneau from the East Coast during her less than two years with the corporation.

Instead, she lived at the Juneau Hotel when in town, the Budget Report stated.

At last year's Legislative Budget and Audit Committee meeting, two of the Legislature's most influential members, House Finance Committee Co-Chairman Hawker and Senate Finance Committee Co-Chairman Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, grilled Scott and Burns about how much time Scott spent in the office and how much working from his Seattle home.

Scott told them he works from his Seattle office 20-30 percent of the time, with another 50 percent of his time on road visiting permanent fund business contacts.

Scott pays for his own personal travel, Burns said.

It is not clear whether Scott's claim of having a "condo" means that he owns property or rents living quarters in Juneau.

City property records show no ownership of any Parkshore condo or any other property in Juneau in his name. What is in Scott's name, however, is his Snoqualmie house. That's the house he said more than a year ago he was trying to sell, but instead took off the market.

Earlier this month, he put it back on the market, asking $1.65 million for a house the King County assessor valued at $701,000 this year.

Scott changed his voter registration to Juneau soon after being hired in 2008, but his wife remains registered to vote in Washington. Scott used the address of the permanent fund's Goldbelt Building office to register, but has never cast a vote in Alaska, according to the Alaska Elections Division.

Stedman said it would be appropriate for all top state employees to live in the state.

"I'd just say it is beneficial to the state to have the permanent fund employees in the state," he said.

Hawker said he'd prefer better information from fund managers, and that it sounds like they may not have been provided as full a description last year as they should.

"That would have been the type of commitment to honesty with the Alaska public that I would have hoped the fund would manifest, but clearly they haven't," he said.

• Contact Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com

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