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Arizona pension system board fires administrator

PHOENIX -- The administrator of Arizona's pension system for police officers and other public-safety responders was fired Friday following the disclosure that he had awarded some employees unauthorized pay raises.

The Public Safety Personnel Retirement System's board voted unanimously to put system administrator Jim Hacking on administrative leave, the Arizona Capitol Times reported.

Chairman Brian Tobin has until July 21 to reach a settlement officially ending Hacking's employment.

Hacking told The Arizona Republic on Tuesday that he gave salary bumps for five employees without getting approval from the Department of Administration, a violation of state law. But he declined at the time to identify who received the raises, how much was paid or when they took effect. That information is supposed to be available under state public-records laws.

Tobin on Wednesday announced that the pension would ``immediately stop any future payments of the improperly implemented salary adjustments to all five investment staff employees.'' Any illegal pay raises of up to 27 percent would be halted.

The raises were awarded late last year. Arizona Department of Administration spokesman Steve Meissner said the trust initiated pay raises in December. Records show four of the raises were retroactive to July 1, 2013. The Department of Administration is continuing to investigate the matter.

In 2012, Gov. Jan Brewer pushed for a change in law that requires all raises for state employees not subject to employment contracts get approval from the department. Andrew Wilder, the governor's spokesman, said Brewer was outraged by the raises.

``The governor wants immediate action to correct the situation and will examine additional reforms that would ensure further transparency and accountability for taxpayers,'' Wilder said.

The raises are the latest in a series of problems surrounding the trust. The pension system is already the subject of a state workplace-violation and a federal criminal probe. Last year, the board halted bonuses for investment staff after suffering political backlash. The Arizona Republic reported that they were given five- and six-figure bonuses even when the trust posted financial losses in 2008, 2009 and 2012.

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