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Oklahoma Teachers Retirement System trustees fire executive director

James Wilbanks was fired Wednesday as executive director of the Oklahoma Teachers Retirement System.
by Randy Ellis Modified: October 2, 2013 at 8:31 pm •  Published: October 3, 2013

Reached by telephone, Wilbanks declined to reveal any reasons board members may have given for firing him.

“I have had very limited conversations with the board,” said Wilbanks, who was paid $118,436 as executive director last year.

“As executive director, I am an at-will employee of the board and they make those decisions and it is my job to respect those decisions,” said Wilbanks, 44. “I stand on my record and am proud of the work that we've done at the Teachers Retirement System during my tenure.”

Wilbanks served 41/2 years as executive director.

The pension system's investments have performed well in recent years.

As recently as last June, the Oklahoma Teachers Retirement System issued a news release stating the fund's investments had gained 16.3 percent during the first 9 months of fiscal year 2013, raising the fund's assets to more than $11.6 billion. The news release said the system ranked in the “first percentile of all public funds in the United States.”

The governing board selects money managers who guide investments, while Wilbanks was in charge of the office's day-to-day operations.

Wilbanks said he is proud of the “efficiencies” and “culture” he established at the Teachers Retirement System, saying they were able to “do more work with less staff.”

He says he saved teachers more than $20 million through various initiatives he oversaw during his tenure and is also proud of the system's investment returns.

“I look at all of those things and am proud of what we have accomplished,” he said.

Wilbanks' dismissal was sudden and caught many by surprise.

State Sen. Rick Brinkley, chairman of the Senate Pensions Committee, said Wilbanks' termination came as a surprise to him.

“I don't know if it was pension-related. I don't know if it was personnel-related. I don't have a clue,” he said.

by Randy Ellis
Investigative Reporter
For the past 30 years, staff writer Randy Ellis has exposed public corruption and government mismanagement in news articles. Ellis has investigated problems in Oklahoma's higher education institutions and wrote stories that ultimately led to two...
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