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November 28, 2014

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Was this state contract decided by email?

Allegations surfaced Thursday that secret Internet negotiations took place to continue a firm’s contract that, in part, manages the $611.7 million savings account of more than 11,000 state workers.

Rex Reed, former chairman of the state’s Deferred Compensation Committee, said that current board Chairman Scott Sisco and others used email messages to retain the Hartford's Retirement Plans.

In a meeting of the board Thursday, Reed suggested this was a violation of Nevada’s open meeting law. But Sisco said Reed was “stirring" the pot and that no collusion had occurred on the decision. Hartford's Business Plans has been acquired by MassMutual.

Board member Carlos Romo told Reed, “I don’t appreciate the accusation.” He challenged Reed to produce evidence there was collusion. Board member Steve Woodbury said there was no evidence of wrongdoing in continuing the contract.

Reed said he had 27 pages of email that showed discussion involving Hartford.

The issue was turned over to the state Attorney General’s Office for an opinion on whether the open meeting law had been violated.

Sisco said the decision to retain Hartford was made while the board adopts new regulations, and bids will probably be advertised in January for firms to gain the management contract. The other firm that now manages the savings account is ING.

Board member Brian Davies said Reed's allegations are “devastating information.”

Reed said the board ignored other bidders that had applied for the contract. ”It seems a shame that the other bidders went through all the expense and all the efforts when the emails seem to paint a picture that the decision was a foregone conclusion before the submissions were even evaluated,” he said.

A source close to the committee, who asked not to be identified, said there was a split between old and new members over the decision to retain Hartford.

Sisco said Reed came to his office advocating the system get rid of Hartford. Reed denied the statement.

Davies and others said the decision to retain Hartford was made in an open meeting and the board followed the law.

The next meeting is set for mid-August, at which time the opinion from the Attorney General’s Office may be ready.

The voluntary savings account is in addition to the pension plan that covers state workers.

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