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    Democrats question pension fund hire

    They say Coleman Stipanovich was reprimanded in a previous job.

    By LUCY MORGAN, Times Tallahassee Bureau Chief

    © St. Petersburg Times
    published February 22, 2002

    TALLAHASSEE -- The Florida Democratic Party is raising questions about Coleman Stipanovich, an official with the state agency criticized for losing more than $325-million in the state pension fund because of Enron's collapse.

    Stipanovich, deputy executive director of the state Board of Administration, is the brother of J.M. "Mac" Stipanovich, who was chief of staff for former Republican Gov. Bob Martinez.

    Florida Democratic Party chairman Bob Poe raised the questions Thursday in a letter to Tom Herndon, executive director of the SBA, a state agency that manages Florida's $95-billion pension fund. In a written response, Herndon accused Poe of "willfully misstating facts" about Stipanovich for "dramatic effect."

    Poe questioned why Stipanovich was hired by the state after he was reprimanded by state banking and finance officials when he was a branch manager for Paine Webber.

    Stipanovich and another supervisor at Paine Webber were cited by the state for their failure to adequately supervise an employee who caused two elderly investors to lose a total of $11,000 in the late 1980s. Paine Webber was fined $5,000 and ordered to repay the clients in 1992.

    Herndon said he was aware of Stipanovich's background and had reviewed the old allegations with the Department of Banking and Finance before hiring him.

    Stipanovich previously served in the 1990s on the advisory board that helps the state decide where it will invest pension fund money. He was appointed to the full-time position about two years ago.

    Stipanovich could not be reached for comment.

    Poe asked the state for all records pertaining to Stipanovich after noting that he participated in two conference calls with Alliance Capital, the investment manager who kept buying Enron stock last fall even when it was clear the company was in trouble.

    Herndon criticized Poe's questions.

    "The content and tone of your letter border on sleazy politics and should have no bearing in any thoughtful consideration of Mr. Stipanovich's qualifications and the operation of this organization," Herndon wrote.

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    Lucy Morgan

    From the Times state desk