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HUNSAKER RESIGNATION MAY BE START OF SHAKE-UP

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The director of the Utah Retirement System has resigned, and Gov. Norm Bangerter believes other employees should be closely scrutinized and possibly disciplined for abuses uncovered in a recent audit.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the system's board of directors, State Treasurer Ed Alter, said at least six of the seven top administrators who received a combined $243,260 in extra retirement benefits will be asked to return the gift.Alter said the board has not decided whether to ask the resigning director, Bert Hunsaker, to return his portion of the benefit, which amounted to four years of retirement credit.

The audit, conducted by the legislative auditor general and released last week, uncovered problems of nepotism, falsified payroll rec-ords, high salaries and unusual benefits at the retirement office.

In a meeting with the retirement board of directors on Monday, Bangerter outlined action he wants taken in response to the audit.

"I hope the resignation (of Hunsaker) will not preclude you from looking at others who may have been short in fulfilling their responsibilities," Bangerter told the board.

Although the retirement system operates independently from the state, Bangerter appoints six of the seven board members. The system handles retirement funds for approximately 100,000 state, municipal and county government and school district employees.

Hunsaker announced his resignation as director of the system on Monday in a statement released to reporters. He could not be reached for further comment.

Hunsaker's statement said he resigned as a result of the audit and in the best interest of the system, adding he is proud of his record of managing the system's $3.2 billion in retirement assets. The audit did not question the system's solvency.

"I will receive continued satisfaction from the part I have played in such an outstanding organization," he said in the statement.

The board of directors recently granted Hunsaker, 57, four years of additional retirement credit at a cost of $74,829. Alter said the board has yet to calculate whether Hunsaker has enough credit to retire and qualify for a pension.

"He is close to retirement right now," Alter said, adding that the four years of extra credit would not affect Hunsaker's pension much. "I'm sure at his salary level he would've gotten a good retirement anyway."

Hunsaker earned a yearly salary of $76,000 plus an $8,700 annual car allowance. He also earned $15,000 as executive director of the National Association of State Retirement Administrators.

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(Additional information)

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State Retirement Director Bert Hunsaker says he resigned as a result of the legislative audit and in the best interest of the system. Deputy Director Vee Sharp has been reassigned to an untitled staff position with no administrative duties. Public Relations Director Dee M. Williams will be the acting director of the system until the board hires a new director.