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Ron Baker, the head of Colorado’s public pension system, is fired after two-month leave of absence

Ron Baker, the executive director of Colorado’s Public Employees’ Retirement Association, was fired Monday night by the 16-member board overseeing the state’s $60 billion-plus public pension system. 

Baker’s firing comes nearly two months after he went on a leave of absence. PERA refused to say why Baker went on leave or to say whether his absence was self-initiated or initiated by the PERA board.  

The PERA board convened in downtown Denver on Monday evening for a special meeting to discuss Baker’s employment status. The board immediately voted unanimously to enter a secret executive session, which lasted more than six hours. 

When the board emerged from its closed-door session, Vice Chair Suzanne Kubec made a motion to terminate Baker, which was seconded by Colorado Treasurer Dave Young, who sits on the board. The motion passed unanimously and the meeting adjourned.

Ron Baker, executive director of Colorado’s Public Employees’ Retirement Association. (Handout)

There was no discussion by the board of why they were firing Baker. 

Baker was appointed to be PERA’s executive director in 2018 and made an annual salary of more than $400,000, In January, the PERA board voted to award Baker a 19% performance bonus and increased his salary by 4%, according to meeting minutes.

As executive director, Baker was responsible for PERA’s operations and its “strategy implementation,” according to the organization.

Baker had worked at the organization since 1994 and was chief administrative officer before taking on the top job. He became a member of PERA’s executive leadership team in 2009.

The Sun’s efforts to reach Baker since he went on leave have been unsuccessful. He did not attend Monday’s meeting. Board Chair Marcus Pennell announced at the start of the meeting that Baker had requested that the board discuss his employment in executive session.

Amy McGarrity, PERA’s chief operating officer and chief investment officer, will serve as the organization’s acting executive director. She assumed that role when Baker went on leave March 8. 

There are about 150,000 people who receive PERA benefits in Colorado and more than 200,000 people actively contributing to the pension system, according to the organization’s 2021 annual report. The employees of more than 500 government agencies and public entities in Colorado receive retirement and other benefits from PERA.

The Colorado legislature has pumped hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars into PERA in recent years to shore up the pension system, which has a large unfunded financial liability to its members. The liability was $27.2 billion as of Dec. 31, 2021, down $3.8 billion from the previous year, the annual report said.

PERA is a constant focus for the legislature because pension benefits are considered one of the biggest perks of being a government employee in Colorado.

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The Colorado Sun — Desk: 720-432-2229 Jesse Paul is a political reporter and editor at The Colorado Sun, covering the state legislature, Congress and local politics. He is...