By Associated Press - Wednesday, January 22, 2020

PHOENIX (AP) - Arizona Public Safety Personnel Retirement System board members earned thousands of dollars in commissions for representing the pension plan’s administrator in a home purchase, records show.

Board trustees Mike Scheidt and Will Buividas assisted Adminstrator Jared Smout’s 2018 purchase of a $550,000 Fountain Hills home, The Arizona Republic reported.

Tempe firefighter Scheidt acted as real estate broker, and Phoenix police officer Buividas was the loan officer for the purchase, real estate records show.

One of the board’s primary duties is hiring and overseeing administrators who manage the $11 billion pension fund for Arizona police officers, firefighters, judges, lawmakers and correctional officers.

Smout reported to Buividas, Scheidt and the other board members.

Smout’s attorney, Kory Langhofer, said Buividas approached Smout about hiring him in early 2018 and then recruited Scheidt, who was a frequent partner on real estate deals.

Smout was not coerced into hiring Buividas and Scheidt, and the pay of up to $6,000 each for Buividas and Scheidt reflects market rates, Langhofer said.

Buividas and Scheidt did not disclose at the time that they had been hired to help the administrator with a real estate transaction, according to retirement system records.

In the months that followed the deal, Smout approved travel expenses for the two board members to stay at upscale hotels during out-of-state investment conferences, records show.

Buividas, Scheidt and the rest of the board approved a retroactive raise for Smout in early 2019 that lifted his annual pay to $250,000, records show.

Buividas and Scheidt defended the deal in emails, saying it had no influence on their retirement system duties.

No laws were broken, but the arrangement creates an “appearance” issue for the board members, Langhofer said.

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