The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors raised concerns Tuesday about the search for a new chief executive of the county’s massive employee pension fund and called for a more transparent process.
Several county employees who participate in the Los Angeles County Employees Retirement Association spoke out about the June 7 decision to fire CEO Lou Lazatin roughly seven months into her tenure.
An attorney for Lazatin has accused LACERA of gender bias.
David Dunbar, who works with the Department of Public Social Services, called the dismissal “sudden and strange” and told the Board of Supervisors, “It was done in a way that shakes our faith in LACERA … (and) seems to indicate that they don’t feel they are accountable to anyone.”
Other employees, wearing purple shirts identifying them as members of the Service Employees Union International Local 721, questioned whether political motivations drove the decision.
LACERA had a fund value of over $56 billion and more than 171,000 members, as of its 2018 annual report.
Supervisors Janice Hahn and Hilda Solis proposed a motion to send a letter to the LACERA board calling on its members to “conduct a fair and open leadership transition process” and assemble a diverse search committee for Lazatin’s replacement.
They initially intended for the motion to be heard next week, but Supervisor Kathryn Barger said she believed the search process was moving quickly.
“There’s been no transparency on this,” Barger said. “I am concerned … I don’t know what’s fact and what’s fiction.”
Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Sheila Kuehl both pointed out that the board’s authority over LACERA is limited.
After consulting with County Counsel Mary Wickham, the board moved to discuss the issue in closed session as an urgent matter and potentially consider the Hahn/Solis motion after gathering more information.
After that discussion, the board voted 4-0 to send the letter, with Kuehl abstaining.
Two LACERA boards placed Lazatin on administrative leave May 31 and voted to fire her at a future date, according to Institutional Investor.
“The boards thank Ms. Lazatin for her service to LACERA and wish her well in her future endeavors,” said LACERA chief counsel Steven Rice, who is leading the association in Lazatin’s absence. “Beyond the boards’ action, it is LACERA’s policy not to comment further on personnel matters.”
Lazatin’s attorney, Mira Hashmall, told the Los Angeles Times on Friday that her client “was at the helm of an organization with a predominately male leadership team. When she began implementing her vision of transparency and financial accountability, she was cut off at the knees.”
The 63-year-old Lazatin, from La Canada Flintridge, previously served as chief executive at the Shriners Hospitals for Children in Los Angeles and Saint John’s Health Center. She was fired from the job at Saint John’s in a 2012 management shake-up that included most of the hospital’s governing board, according to the Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles billionaire and now-Times owner Patrick Soon-Shiong, who had committed $100 million to Saint John’s, expressed shock about the changes at that time.
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