March 4, 2013
On June 23, 2012
I received an unsigned letter that said:
Heard from an
inside source that Anne Wagner, CEO of MERS, was suspended due
to unethical behavior/practices. This was announced to employees
on June 4, 2012. There is nothing on the website about the
suspension of the CEO, who then is in charge? Members, Retirees
and Employers have not been notified. Anne announced her
retirement, effective June 30, 2012. Are they letting her sneek
out without advising their members of her suspension: What was
the information on to media contacts and a few former MERS employees
whose email addresses I had. The next day, I got a phone call from a
woman who would not give her name. She said that Caryn Mateer got
fired and Anne was forced to resign. The caller said Caryn was the
number 2 person in the organization (and Anne's next door neighbor).
(She is not listed as an officer on the MERS website, however.) She
got fired because of an ethics violation. Deb Peake is now in
The following was
posted on MERS' website:
Retirement Board Proudly Names Peake Interim CEO
leader replaces retired Anne Wagner
June 26, 2012
— The MERS Retirement Board named Debra Peake, Interim CEO
of the Municipal Employees Retirement System (MERS) of
Michigan effective immediately. Ms. Peake replaces Anne
Wagner, who retires from her position as CEO on July 1. Ms.
Wagner served as MERS CEO from 2000-2012.
Ms. Peake has been employed
with MERS for over 15 years serving in a variety of
positions, most recently as the Officer of Employee and
"We are pleased that Deb
has agreed to step into this position as Interim CEO. Her
extensive experience with the system and her commitment to
member service will provide a stable transition for our
organization," said Larry Opelt, Board Chairperson.
As Interim CEO, Ms. Peake
will be responsible for the day-to-day operations — with
assistance of MERS senior leadership — of the $6.7 billion
retirement system. The Board has worked with MERS senior
leadership to develop a transition plan while the CEO search
is being conducted.
In November 2011, Ms.
Wagner announced her desire to retire in 2012. Ms. Wagner
began with MERS as the Chief Investment Officer in 1988. For
the last 12 years, she served as CEO.
"Anne has served MERS well
for the last 24 years," Mr. Opelt said. "On behalf of the
Board and membership, we appreciate and thank Anne for her
vision for MERS. She leaves a legacy of product innovation,
solid investment returns, and excellent customer service. We
wish her well in the next chapter of life as a MERS
MERS is a statewide public
pension system serving nearly 800 municipalities with about
90,000 members and retirees. The system has $6.7 billion in
assets under management. MERS offers Defined Benefit,
Defined Contribution, and Hybrid retirement plans, as well
as Retiree Health Funding Vehicle, Health Care Savings
Program and other retirement programs.
On July 19, I was informed that long-time MERS employee Lynda Pittman got fired.
But still no detail on any of these firings. MERS has a reputation
for being quick to fire employees. I learned months after my
own contract was abruptly terminated that it was because I was friends
with another MERS employee who'd been fired a day or so earlier.
Somehow that made sense to Anne Wagner.
Then on August 17, it occurred to me
to request the termination agreements for Anne, Caryn and Lynda.
MERS loves termination agreements, and they continue to call
them "confidential" termination agreements even though they know
that since MERS is a public, non-profit agency, such documents are
subject to Michigan's Freedom of Information Act. The reason they know that
because I successfully sued them the last time they refused my
request for confidential termination agreements.
I requested the termination agreements
- not knowing for sure they existed - on August 17 using the handy
form for doing so in the "Contact" section of the MERS website, and
on about August 28, they arrived in the mail. No problem. I scanned
them into PDF documents, and here they are:
The shortest of the three is 12
pages, and they are packed with boilerplate legalese that is
mind-numbing to read through, so here are the highlights:
Anne retired on July 1, 2012 after 1 month of paid "administrative leave
of absence". She signed her agreement on June 20, 2012. Her severance pay was $58,104.39, which represents 90
days pay, which makes her annual salary about $230,000. The severance pay is
to be included in her final average compensation, which means it
increases her pension. The agreement says she was "permitted" to
retire. During her leave of absence, Anne shall not be permitted
on MERS' premises for any reason. She is not to seek or accept
employment with MERS ever again. And there will be no retirement
party (just kidding; it doesn't really say that). Anne will
inform anyone who wishes to confirm her employment that they
must contact only the Retirement Board Chair, who will disclose
only that she last held the position of Chief Executive Officer
and she was employed from August 28, 1996 until June 30, 2012.
agreement supersedes a May 11, 2010
in which her severance pay was to be one year's salary and she
was to receive a $50,000 paid life insurance policy upon
retirement. The salary in that 2010 agreement was $185,000 with
a merit of up to 10% annually.
I have also
pension calculation sheet,
which shows her pension to be $93,396.07, calculated as
$262,164.96 (FAC) x 15.8333 (15 years 10 months of service) x
I also asked for documentation of the FAC
calculation, but could make no sense of the material I was sent.
Caryn's agreement says she resigned May 14, 2012. She signed her
agreement on July 9. Her severance is $160,000 "to replace lost
wages". It is not clear how much time that represents. MERS also
will pay the employer's share of COBRA costs for 18 months and pay for 6
months of "Executive Career Transition Services". Her title was
Director of Organizational Development. MERS agreed to remove from
her personnel file all disciplinary notices.
Lynda's title was Retirement Outreach Director. She was terminated
July 19, her last day worked. Her severance was $60,534.89,
representing 6 months pay, which puts her salary at $120,000. MERS
also will pay the employer's share of COBRA costs for 6 months. She signed
the agreement on August 8.
On September 20, 2012
I received another unsigned letter saying that Jamey Smythe and
Steve Schefka had been fired, along with another person from IT. Jamey got a
Steve did not.
Jamey gets 6 months' salary, not to exceed $75,734.36 (which means
his annual salary was $151,486.72). MERS will also pay the
employee's share of COBRA costs for up to 6 months, which has a
value of $12,885.06. The agreement says that MERS paid 100% of his
tuition at U of M for his Masters in Business Administration. The
original agreement was that he'd have to reimburse MERS for one
year's tuition - $22,000 - if he did not continue working for MERS
for 5 years after completing his degree. Under the circumstances,
MERS will forgive the $22,000.
On Monday, October 1,
I was informed that 9 MERS employees were "let go" on Friday,
September 28. Here they are:
Dave Tuffs -
Rebecca Campbell - Communications
Mark Gilbeaux - Custodian
Jerry Campbell - Custodian
Amanda Knox - Learning Manager; husband Dave Knox is MERS staff
Ann Cool - Communications
Becki Becsey - Communications
Jay Havener - Learning
Jeff Grusnick - HR Generalist (?)
According to a statement released last week by the state of
Michigan’s Municipal Employee’s Retirement System, on October
29th Christopher DeRose will take over as CEO. DeRose has
previously served as the CEO of the Ohio Public Employees
Retirement System, the Executive Director of the State of
Michigan’s Office of Retirement Services and most recently as
the Vice President of client services for Strategic Accounts at
Ingenix, now known as OptumInsight.
DeRose served in his role for the state of
Ohio for four and a half years before pursuing a career in the
private sector, according to the
Overall DeRose has over fifteen years experience in managing
MERS, which holds some $6.8 billion in
assets and has over 100,000 members statewide released a
coinciding with the news that praised his work with the Ohio
system, worth over $70 billion and serving close to one million
DeRose said he was looking forward to guiding Michigan in his
new post: “MERS has an excellent reputation for providing
quality products and excellent service… I am excited to serve as
the next CEO and appreciate the confidence the Board has shown
in me. I look forward to working with the Board and such a
talented and dedicated team to ensure MERS is an essential
partner to municipalities across the State of Michigan.”
Debra Peake had been serving as interim
CEO since the retirement of Anne Wagner in July, according to
Pensions and Investments.
On October 26, 2012, I
received this email:
I just read
your site for the first time, since we were forbidden to do so
during my employment at MERS. The fact that you have the b_ _ _s
to share the information is beyond me since I still have PTSD
from working there. I also appreciate my friends who have shared
some of the unbelieveable inequities at MERS. There is so, so
much more. Most of us who have "sought other opportunities
elsewhere" without a cake, had the common goal of fighting and
speaking up for MERS municipalities right to receive to truely
"cost-effective" pension administration.
We also believe
staff should be able to work without being bullied and paid
based on skills and value of work (processing pension payments
vs. "strategic planning") not according to which clique you
The hope for:
streamlined administration, wage alignment with the private
sector, no more expensive staff training events, no more office
re-design and painting, giving the employers the
information/manuals they need instead of pamphlets with pictures
and worthless statements, was dashed with the annoucement of
Chris DeRose as CEO since he is Carrie Lombardo and William
SaintAmour's friend/mentor. Just more of the same looking out
for number one.
working on the building once stated "when you walk in the halls
you can feel the evil." How very true.
At the end of
December, 2012, I received another
anonymous letter with an article from the
Livingston Daily attached. I relayed the information to the author
of the article, but got no response.
If you have any further information on
today's MERS, please send it to me at email@example.com.
If you wish to remain anonymous, mail it to me at 3125 Tecumseh River
Rd, Lansing, 48906.