WRAL Investigates

Ex-investment officer defends her spending

Posted September 25, 2009 5:18 p.m. EDT
Updated September 25, 2009 5:43 p.m. EDT

— North Carolina's former chief investment officer on Friday defended her expenses in the State Treasurer's Office.

Public records obtained Thursday by WRAL News show Patricia Gerrick was fired from her job on Sept. 4. She directed investments for the state's $60 billion pension fund and was one of the highest-paid employees in state government, with an annual salary of $340,000.

Documents show that, at the time of her termination, she repaid the state $3,045.80 for personal use of her state-issued cell phone.

In a telephone interview Friday, Gerrick said she was told she had an unlimited cell phone plan and that she spent a lot of time on the phone because she traveled extensively for her job.

She also defended the practice of having investment firms doing business with the state's pension fund reimburse her for air fare, food and hotels when she traveled to meet fund managers.

A spokeswoman with the Treasurer's Office said Thursday that there was nothing unusual about the private reimbursements.

Yet, the Treasurer's Office gave no specific reason for Gerrick's termination, citing personnel confidentiality.

"I know of nothing behind the scenes that would have caused a termination," Gerrick said.

She acknowledged that her professional relationship with Treasurer Janet Cowell had been somewhat rocky in recent months. Still,  Gerrick said she was surprised in late August when Cowell told her things weren't working out and asked her to leave.

"My focus has always been on the investment portfolio, and I let the politicians take care of the politics," she said. "Sometimes that works for you. In this case, it didn't."

Documents show that the Treasurer's Office gave her the chance to resign on Aug. 24. Gerrick said she tried to take that option but said Cowell wouldn't agree to her terms for payment for vacation and past work.

Gerrick said she is looking for another job and hasn't decided whether to challenge her firing.