Suit accuses governor of discrimination involving pay - Albuquerque Journal

Suit accuses governor of discrimination involving pay

Jan Goodwin, former ERB executive director

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – The former executive director of New Mexico's pension system for educators filed a federal lawsuit Thursday accusing Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and others of illegally refusing to pay her the same as male counterparts.

The 46-page complaint was filed on behalf of Jan Goodwin, who left her position at the Educational Retirement Board earlier this year and took a job leading the New Hampshire retirement system.

The lawsuit alleges she was forced to leave because of the Lujan Grisham administration's refusal to pay her the same as Steve Moise, state investment officer at the State Investment Council.

A spokeswoman for the governor said the allegations against Lujan Grisham are baseless.

Merit Bennett, Goodwin's attorney, said in a news release that Lujan Grisham and others in the administration denied equal pay to Goodwin in violation of the state's Fair Pay for Women Act.

They “are clearly jealous of Ms. Goodwin, an older, white woman with extraordinary intelligence and talent who has brought our state's educational retirement system to the highest level of performance for our public school teachers and administrators,” Bennett said in a written statement.

Goodwin had an annual salary of $183,000, according to state salary data from March, while Moise made $276,000. Both were among the highest-salaried state employees.

Nora Meyers Sackett, a spokeswoman for Lujan Grisham, said allegations of jealousy and other claims against the governor are preposterous and “entirely without merit.” Lujan Grisham took office in 2019.

“Her salary was set prior to this governor's administration,” Sackett said. “This woman's grief about her compensation, which made her among the highest-paid government employees in the state, is her own business, not this governor's, and for her to accuse the governor personally of engaging in 'discrimination' defies explanation.”

Lujan Grisham's salary – $110,000 a year – is set by law. Engineering executives, physicians and Cabinet secretaries are among those on the state payroll making more.

The lawsuit names Lujan Grisham and a dozen other individuals and agencies as defendants.

It says Goodwin, 61, was “forced to terminate her employment” this year after having served as executive director of the Educational Retirement Board since 2008. Her prior work experience included service as Cabinet secretary for the state Taxation and Revenue Department, under then-Gov. Bill Richardson.

The illegal pay disparity, the lawsuit alleges, goes back more than a decade. Upon Goodwin's appointment as ERB executive director, the lawsuit says, she made about $13,000 a year less than her male counterpart at the New Mexico Public Employees Retirement Association – a disparity that was eventually addressed.

But Moise was later hired at the State Investment Council at an annual salary exceeding $100,000 of what Goodwin made, the suit said.

No governor – Richardson, Susana Martinez or Lujan Grisham – ever adjusted her salary to match Moise's pay, despite that the jobs required equal skill and effort, according to the lawsuit.

In fact, the Martinez and Lujan Grisham administrations either rejected or failed to fully carry out raises for Goodwin that had been approved by members of the Educational Retirement Board.

Goodwin's lawsuit says her husband and adult children stayed in New Mexico when she took the job in New Hampshire, inflicting emotional distress on the whole family.

As executive director of ERB, Goodwin managed a $13.8 billion pension fund for 60,000 active members and 46,000 retirees, according to her resume. It distributed about $1.1 billion a year in benefits to retirees.

Moise is the top executive at the State Investment Council, which manages a $30 billion endowment for New Mexico, including the Land Grant Permanent Fund, the Severance Tax Permanent Fund and investments for government agencies. The permanent funds will provide “over $1 billion” this fiscal year for the state budget and other beneficiaries, according to the SIC website.

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