Updated 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 unethical?

I passed 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 charge.

The following was posted on MERS' website:

MERS Retirement Board Proudly Names Peake Interim CEO
Longtime MERS 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 Retiree Services.

"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 retiree."

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 is 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:

Anne Wagner

Caryn Mateer

Lynda Pittman

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.

This agreement supersedes a May 11, 2010 employment agreement 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 obtained her 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 2.25%.

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 termination agreement; 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 - Library
Rebecca Campbell - Communications
Mark Gilbeaux - Custodian
Jerry Campbell - Custodian
Amanda Knox - Learning Manager; husband Dave Knox is MERS staff attorney
Ann Cool - Communications
Becki Becsey - Communications
Jay Havener - Learning
Jeff Grusnick - HR Generalist (?)

From Argyle Journal, 10/15/2012:

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 Columbus Dispatch. Overall DeRose has over fifteen years experience in managing pension systems.

MERS, which holds some $6.8 billion in assets and has over 100,000 members statewide released a statement coinciding with the news that praised his work with the Ohio system, worth over $70 billion and serving close to one million members.

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 belong to.

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.

A contractor 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 If you wish to remain anonymous, mail it to me at 3125 Tecumseh River Rd, Lansing, 48906.