Willamette Week – Emails Reveal Tensions Between Two Ambitious Players Overseeing Oregon’s $100 Billion Investment Portfolio

By Nigel Jaquiss – November 13, 2019

Emails WW has obtained via a public records request show friction in recent weeks between Rukaiyah Adams, chairwoman of the Oregon Investment Council, and State Treasurer Tobias Read, who acts as the state’s banker and is one of five members of the OIC.

Pictured is Rukaiyah Adams (Left) and Tobias Read (Right). (Photograph: Willamette Week)

In her day job, Adams is chief investment officer for the $800 million Meyer Memorial Trust and is also a leader of Albina Vision, a civic group seeking to revive inner Northeast Portland. As OIC chair, she’s responsible for policy and investment decisions for more than $100 billion in pension and public funds. Adams was appointed to the OIC in 2013 by then-Gov. John Kitzhaber and reappointed by Gov. Kate Brown.

Read, a Democrat who represented Beaverton in the Oregon House for five terms before winning election as treasurer in 2016, manages the state’s borrowing and its cash.

Adams and Read work closely together, but emails show she’s bluntly expressed concerns about the OIC’s transparency and a key policy shift treasury staff is mulling—as well as whether that policy could benefit Read’s political ambitions.

Although the Oregon Investment Council plays an important role in the state—it is the agency tasked with filling the seemingly bottomless pension deficit—its operations get little scrutiny from either the public or the press. That makes the exacting emails from Adams, who has a full-time job to occupy her attention, all the more unusual. The correspondence underscores why many people predict she’s preparing for even greater responsibilities in the future.

Bill Parish, a Portland investment manager who regularly attends OIC meetings and has frequently criticized the agency, raised concerns about transparency in the OIC’s public comment period. “What Tobias and Dmitri Palmateer don’t seem to understand is that this is not some private parlor game but rather an exercise in the integrity of governance,” Parish tells WW. “Read serves the public, not his additional political or Wall Street ambitions. Scrubbing away years of meeting minutes and attached materials removes important accountability.”

Note: This story was based upon original research by Parish & Company.