COLUMBIA, S.C. — 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 during a phone call.
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,” 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.