VA Officials Eye Ex-Pension Fund Chief's Severance

July 8, 2005 ( - A spokesperson for Virginia Attorney General Judith Williams Jagdmann said Thursday that her office had reviewed the $263,000 severance package for the state's former pension fund chief.

However, according to a Richmond Times-Dispatch news report, Stephanie Hamlett, special counsel to Jagdmann, refused to say whether her office thought the compensation package for W. Forrest Matthews Jr. was appropriate.  Hamlett, is one of two government lawyers who advise the $43-billion Virginia Retirement System (VRS).  According to the newspaper, Matthews’ package was based on two years’ salary and additional retirement credits.  Matthews was appointed to the post in February 2002 (See Matthews to Direct Virginia Retirement System ).

The General Assembly’s watchdog agency is also reviewing the Matthews’ severance package, the newspaper report said. Matthews left the VRS and a $131,000 annual salary in April amid concerns among VRS trustees about his managerial and communications skills, the newspaper reported.

The Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission apparently has received conflicting accounts on whether the VRS board of trustees was required to authorize talks between its chairman at the time, Alfonso Samper, and Matthews, and to approve any resulting agreement about the severance deal, the Times-Dispatch said.  At least one trustee, John Albertine, has said the board sanctioned Samper to fashion a deal with Matthews but did not officially approve it once VRS and the departing administrator reached terms.

The governor’s office, which last week criticized the Matthews payout as excessive, said it is monitoring the controversy but will defer to the board of trustees to resolve the matter.

JLARC will release its findings on Monday, the eve of a meeting of the VRS board at which some trustees may publicly challenge the payment to Matthews, the newspaper reported.

VRS provides pensions and other benefits to 114,000 retired state and local employees.