Head of North Dakota Public Employees Retirement System Board Steps Down

North Dakota's Public Employees Retirement System board chair, Michelle Kommer, has stepped down from her position, resigning less than half a year after her appointment by Governor Doug Burgum. Her resignation was communicated to the governor via email on Monday evening.

Kommer's departure comes shortly after her pivotal role in the board's decision to terminate former PERS Executive Director Scott Miller during her inaugural meeting in November. Miller, who opposed legislation aimed at closing the public employee pension to new hires, cited alignment with the board's stance as the basis for his actions.

Earlier in the current month, Kommer proposed the appointment of Rebecca Fricke as the new executive director, a position Fricke had been temporarily filling. The board unanimously endorsed Kommer's suggestion.

“I believe I was the right person at the right time to help this important agency navigate some necessary change,” Kommer wrote in her resignation letter. “I’m proud of having led the board through a leadership transition which will serve members for years to come.”

During the special legislative session held in October, North Dakota lawmakers modified the composition of the PERS board. These alterations involved clarifying the legislation to explicitly state that the governor had the authority to dismiss his appointees.

Last autumn, Governor Burgum had requested the resignation of Kommer's predecessor, Mona Tedford Rindy. However, she declined to step down. Following the legislative adjustment, Burgum replaced Rindy with Kommer, who had previously served as the state Commerce commissioner.

As per the amended law in October, the governor is now responsible for appointing four members to the PERS board, including its chair. Furthermore, the board now includes four legislators out of its 11 members, with no stipulation requiring representation from the minority party. These modifications also eliminated a retired state employee from the board, along with appointees from the attorney general and state health officer.

Following the enactment of House Bill 1040, which took effect in January 2025, significant modifications were made to the public pension system. The legislation closed the pension plan to new employees, redirecting them to a 401(k)-style retirement plan. This move was met with opposition from the former PERS board during the 2023 legislative session. Despite these changes, the public employee pension plan will continue to be available to current employees. However, it still faces an estimated unfunded liability of $1.9 billion.

Source: North Dakota Monitor