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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

James Wilbanks was fired Wednesday as executive director of the Oklahoma Teachers Retirement System.

Trustees voted 11-0 to fire Wilbanks, but were secretive about the reason for his dismissal.

“Information came to the attention of the board in recent weeks that related to day-to-day operational decisions made by the executive director,” the board said in a news release prepared in response to questions from The Oklahoman. “Based on this information, the board voted to terminate the employment of the executive director.”

Preston Doerflinger, director of the state Office of Management and Enterprise Services, said Wednesday evening he believes the board's action was appropriate.

“The board acted in the best interest of protecting the interests of the teachers who participate in the system and the integrity of the system, itself,” said Doerflinger, who is a member of the Teachers Retirement System Board, but was represented by a designee at Wednesday afternoon's special meeting. “That's really about all I can say at this point.”

Board members said they wanted to reassure teachers and retirees who are clients of the Teachers Retirement System, as well as state taxpayers, that the “system is sound and will not be impacted” by Wednesday's decision.

Assistant Executive Director Joe Ezzell will oversee Teachers Retirement System operations until an interim director is appointed, board members said. A national search for a new director is anticipated.

A report may be published in a few months that could shed further light on Wilbanks' dismissal, one source said.

Oklahoma Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi made the motion to fire Wilbanks, but did not state a reason in her motion and afterward referred all questions to board Chairman James Dickson. Dickson declined to answer questions beyond information contained in the news release.

Wilbanks' dismissal came at the conclusion of a two-hour closed-door meeting that took place in a conference room at the Oklahoma Attorney General's office building.

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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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