SANTA FE — The board overseeing New Mexico’s $18 billion pension fund for state employees has hired Greg Trujillo to serve as the fund’s new executive director, putting an end to a lengthy search.
Trujillo had been working as the acting director for the Public Employees Retirement Association acting director for several months and the retirement fund’s board voted 8-1 on Thursday to elevate him to the position on a permanent basis.
“I think it gives PERA the footing in needs to move forward,” said PERA board member Lawrence Davis, a city of Albuquerque budget official.
However, the board’s vote to halt its search and hire Trujillo comes more than eight months after former PERA executive director Wayne Propst stepped down and amid increasing legislative scrutiny of the pension fund.
Earlier this month, the PERA board had voted to relaunch its executive director search instead of selecting one of three selected finalists for the position, one of whom was Trujillo.
But state Treasurer Tim Eichenberg, an ex oficio board member who was part of the internal search committee, said it became clear the board could not meet a goal of hiring a new executive director by Dec. 1 by using an outside firm to help with the search.
“We just couldn’t meet the timeline,” Eichenberg said.
One of Trujillo’s first obligations as PERA’s executive director will be filling several top staff positions at the pension fund. In addition to PERA’s previous director stepping down, both its chief investment officer and general counsel have also resigned in recent months.
Meanwhile, Trujillo’s salary as the retirement system’s executive director has not yet been finalized.
Acting PERA board chairman Francis Page said Friday the board will discuss salary levels during a meeting this month.
He also said the pension fund’s board had requested the pay range for the executive director job be raised to around $230,000 annually, but the request was denied by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office. Propst had been making a salary of about $166,000 per year before stepping down.
The state’s other large retirement system, the Educational Retirement Board, has also filed a lawsuit against the Lujan Grisham administration for squashing proposed salary increases for top pension fund officials.
The Public Employees Retirement Association covers police officers, judges and legislators, in addition to state workers. It had more than 47,000 active members and paid retirement benefits to roughly 42,700 retirees during the budget year that ended in June.
Some lawmakers have proposed overhauling the PERA board due to a pattern of infighting and divisiveness, but a bill filed during this year’s 60-day session failed to gain traction at the Roundhouse.