Former pension fund director files suit accusing Lujan Grisham of discrimination, 'jealousy'

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May 27—The former longtime executive director of New Mexico's teacher pension fund is suing Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and multiple other state officials and government agencies, alleging in a lawsuit filed Thursday in federal court she was forced to resign over long-standing pay inequity issues.

Jan Goodwin, a white woman who is 61 years old, is claiming "institutional and systemic" gender, age and race discrimination in her complaint, which states she was paid about $100,000 less than her male counterpart at the New Mexico State Investment Council.

Goodwin, who spent almost 13 years as executive director of the state Educational Retirement Board, was earning just over $183,000 annually before she resigned earlier this year. The lawsuit claims Goodwin was "clearly more qualified" than State Investment Officer Steve Moise, who is paid nearly $276,000 annually. It also claims Goodwin "consistently produced better results for the educational employees of the State of New Mexico than had Mr. Moise, under the scrutiny of any reasonable comparative analysis."

"Bringing this lawsuit was not an easy decision," Goodwin, who left her family in New Mexico to become executive director of the New Hampshire Retirement System, wrote in a statement. "After years of trying to address the gender, age and racial disparities in salary among employees at NMERB and those in similar agencies with similar positions, I realized that I was being forced to quit and my only option was the one I've taken."

Goodwin is paid $235,000 a year for her position in New Hampshire.

The "illegal pay disparity" Goodwin has endured dates to her hiring in March 2008, according to the lawsuit, which states her appointment as executive director was "unfortunately marred by the fact that she was to be paid" about $13,000 less than another male counterpart, Terry Slattery, then the executive director of the state Public Employees Retirement Association.

"These two jobs required equal skill, effort and responsibility and were both performed under similar working conditions," the lawsuit states. "There were no differences between these two job positions because of a seniority system."

In August 2009, Goodwin "finally" received a pay increase that made her salary comparable to Slattery's, which the lawsuit calls an acknowledgment "that she had not been receiving pay equal to that paid to her male counterpart, that such pay disparity was illegal and that the illegal disparity required correction."

Despite the acknowledgement, Goodwin's "deficient back pay" was never addressed or corrected, the lawsuit states.

"Since that time until the present, such pay disparity ... has been continuous and ongoing and constitutes accumulating violations of state and federal anti-discrimination and equal pay laws," the lawsuit states.

When Moise became the state investment officer in April 2010 earning over $100,000 more than Goodwin — an "enormous, unconscionable and obviously illegal disparity" — Goodwin's salary remained the same even though the two jobs required equal skill, effort and responsibility, the lawsuit states. The lawsuit alleges Moise did not have the professional experience required by state statute of at least five years of investment and executive experience to even qualify for the job.

"But his illegal appointment was nevertheless accomplished by then-Governor Bill Richardson and was duly ignored by [former Gov. Susana] Martinez throughout her tenure and by Defendant Governor Lujan Grisham upon her taking office," the lawsuit states.

While Moise "only oversees the management of investment portfolios," Goodwin not only oversees the management of investment portfolios but "performs retirement plan administration providing financial security for all of the public education employees within the State of New Mexico in their retirement," the lawsuit states.

Goodwin's attorney, Merit Bennett, said in a news release that Lujan Grisham was "well aware" of an "enormous pay disparity" between Goodwin and Moise because a lawsuit had been filed against the Department of Finance and Administration by the Educational Retirement Board in February. The lawsuit sought to prevent the department from overriding the board's authority to increase the salaries of Goodwin and other teacher pension fund employees, the news release states. But instead of immediately correcting Goodwin's "illegal pay disparity," the governor's staff let the matter persist, according to the news release.

"The Governor should not resent nor discriminate against other talented women in our state, such as Ms. Goodwin, who deserve to be paid equal to their male counterparts," the news release states. "That is what we have here. Governor Lujan Grisham and her co-conspirators are clearly jealous of Ms. Goodwin, an older, white woman with extraordinary intelligence and talent who has brought our state's educational retirement system to the highest level of performance for our public school teachers and administrators."

Goodwin asserts in her complaint that the teacher pension fund "has consistently outperformed the State Investment Council while the [agency] has been under the management of Mr. Moise."

"It appears that the current Governor and other named Defendants are giving discriminatory deference to Mr. Moise and concomitant disparagement to Ms. Goodwin because Mr. Moise is an older male, because Ms. Goodwin is a younger female close to the age of the Governor and because Ms. Goodwin is a Caucasian female, while the Governor is a Hispanic female who, by statute, is paid far less than Ms. Goodwin (thus also infusing the discrimination being perpetrated against Ms. Goodwin with a racially-motivated bias)," the lawsuit states.

Follow Daniel J. Chacón on Twitter @danieljchacon.