Long-time CEO of Mental Health Trust Authority resigns

Former Alaska Mental Health Trust Executive Director Jeff Jessee tells reporters why he supports Gov. Bill Walker’s efforts to expand Medicaid at a press conference in the Capitol, March 17, 2015. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)
Former Alaska Mental Health Trust Executive Director Jeff Jessee tells reporters why he supports Gov. Bill Walker’s efforts to expand Medicaid at a press conference in the Capitol, March 17, 2015. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)

The CEO of the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority resigned on Wednesday and will take on a different role in the organization. Jeff Jessee served in the position for 21 years. He will be transitioning to a new role focused on programming ahead of his planned retirement in three years.

In a phone interview Wednesday evening, Jessee and Trust Board Chair Russ Webb said the transition has been under discussion for several years.

They said the primary reason for the change was so the Trust could shift efforts to focus on raising revenue for its beneficiaries and programs.

“What [the change] will free me from is some of the administrative areas where my talents aren’t best suited to the needs of the Trust,” Jessee said.

In light of the state’s current fiscal situation, Webb said, “We want to maximize our ability to generate revenue to mitigate difficulties our beneficiaries might face.”

Greg Jones, who formerly served as the executive director of the Trust Land Office, will serve as the interim CEO while the board recruits a new CEO.

The Mental Health Trust was created to fund comprehensive care for people with mental health illnesses, Alzheimer’s, traumatic brain injuries, and developmental disabilities. It is a state-owned corporation with cash and land assets that, according to its website, are managed by the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation, Department of Revenue Treasury Division, and the Trust Land Office within the Department of Natural Resources. The Trust distributed nearly $21 million in grants last year.

The Trust was recently criticized in a letter written by former Attorney General Bruce Botelho and former Commissioner of Natural Resources Harry Noah, both of whom were involved in establishing the Trust in 1994.

In the letter, Botelho and Noah ask Rep. Mike Hawker and the Legislative Budget and Audit Committee to request a special audit of the Trust because they believe the corporation is not following the statutory requirements for how their assets are managed. They allege the board is taking money from the principal of the Trust and using it to buy real estate instead of contracting with the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation to manage the assets as is required.

The bottom of the letter, dated October 22, 2016, indicates copies were sent to both Webb and Jessee.

Jessee and Webb said they have not seen the letter or read it in full, and it did not play a role in Jessee’s decision to resign.

Webb called it a “separate and irrelevant issue from today’s decision” and said the allegations that others are managing the fund are “manifestly untrue.”

The exact details of Jessee’s new role and salary are yet to be determined. In 2015, he received more than $215,000 in compensation.

Previous article722 days after vote, Alaska’s first pot shop opens Saturday
Next articleAmid audit and a case backlog, state Human Rights Commission tries to move forward
After being told innumerable times that maybe she asked too many questions, Anne Hillman decided to pursue a career in journalism. She's reported from around Alaska since 2007 and briefly worked as a community radio journalism trainer in rural South Sudan. ahillman (at) alaskapublic (dot) org | 907.550.8447  |  About Anne

No posts to display