Ohio teachers pension fund director remains on paid leave; investigative report found no illegal activity

State Teachers Retirement System director Bill Neville will remain on paid administrative leave through May 17 and is required to undergo training following a law firm’s investigation into his management style.

In November, the board put Neville on paid leave after an anonymous letter accused him of creating a hostile work environment, including sexually harassing employees and violent outbursts. The Ohio Attorney General’s Office appointed an outside firm to investigate. A final investigative report, which was done by Worthington law firm Haynes Kessler Myers & Postalakis, found most of the accusations in the letter were unfounded.

“In conclusion, we found no evidence of unlawful workplace conduct by Mr. Neville,” the report said. “We did find evidence that Mr. Neville has a temper that can appear suddenly. He has a practice of raising his voice and admonishing employees, at times in the presence of other employees. This behavior seems to be exhibited only with senior employees.”

The investigation, which lasted three months and was done primarily by partners David Kessler and Stephen Postalakis who have frequently investigated workplace claims, also found Neville had a habit of telling stories about his college days. Those stories included women he’d dated but were not found to be explicit.

The report noted the law firm did not find out who wrote the letter accusing Neville of these practices, but figured it was written by someone without direct knowledge.

“Rather, the letter strikes us as one perhaps composed by a person or persons who heard second and third-hand anecdotes from a variety of sources,” the report said.

Rex Elliot, a Columbus attorney who is representing Neville, said the investigation found no evidence of Neville behaving illegally.

“It is even suggested that the false claims may have originated from someone external to STRS,” Elliot said in a statement. “Despite this, the author of the false email remains unidentified, and the STRS Board has yet to reinstate Mr. Neville, who should promptly resume his role as Executive Director to continue his commendable work for Ohio’s teachers.”

STRS Ohio oversees about $90 billion in pension funds for about 530,000 retired school employees.

Neville has been unpopular with many teachers and retired teachers who are represented by the Ohio Retired Teachers Association.

ORTA executive director Robin Rayfield said given the outcome of the report, he didn’t understand why the board chose to keep Neville on paid leave.

But he also said many teachers and retired teachers who either contribute to or draw from STRS do not feel Neville is effectively leading the organization. ORTA advocates for more transparency from STRS and questions many of the agency’s moves, such as giving people who manage the funds bonuses whether the market does well or not.

“We would not be supportive of Mr. Neville’s leadership and we’re not supportive of the board members who think everything is fine down there,” Rayfield said.

Neville has been employed by STRS for almost 20 years, holding positions of general counsel and executive director.

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