Someone Is Stealing The Campaign Signs Of CalPERS Board Candidates

campaign signs

Two candidates running for a spot on CalPERS’ board—David Miller and Theresa Taylor—have noticed one similarity in their campaigns: their signs are disappearing. From the Sacramento Bee’s State Worker blog:

In an email to The State Worker, Taylor suggested that Miller’s signs may have been taken down by CalPERS for violating election rules. And she forwarded a cordial email exchange between her campaign consultant and Miller about vanishing signs on both sides:

“… Just a friendly heads up that there seem to be some campaign sign thieves operating in the downtown area,” Miller wrote in a Wednesday email that Taylor forwarded to The State Worker. “Quite a few of my campaign signs have disappeared over the last few days and my campaign workers confronted a couple of the sign thieves just today while working for me downtown. It doesn’t appear that your signs have been targeted but I thought I would let you know so your folks can keep a lookout as well.”

Taylor consultant Scott Adams replied to Miller’s email: “… We too are experiencing our signs disappearing from posted locations. Unlike your guys, we have not spotted any sign thievery in progress. We just started noticing the removal of our signs so it appears to be a recent development. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to collect these as souvenirs – but you never know. Thanks for the note. I will pass it on to Theresa.”

On Friday, Miller said that he doesn’t believe Taylor’s campaign is responsible for the thefts.

“I think it most likely that some overzealous supporters took it upon themselves,” Miller said, “to help their candidate by removing my signs.”

Taylor suggested that some of Miller’s signs could have been removed by none other than CalPERS. The fund might have taken down the signs if they were placed on the fund’s property, which violates election guidelines.


Photo by Dvortygirl via Flickr CC License

CalPERS Board Member Facing Stiffer Penalty After Latest Failure To File Campaign Documents


What do the years 2002, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2013 all have in common?

Those are the years that Priya Mathur, Vice President of the CalPERS board, failed to submit campaign finance documents or conflict of interest statements in a timely manner.

She was fined three times by the Fair Political Practices Commission over that period for those violations. Now, another fine is coming for her latest transgressions. From the LA Times:

At issue in the recent enforcement action was the failure to file four semiannual campaign financial statements for 2012 and 2013 in a timely manner.

In a recent email, she described the missed reports as an oversight. “I had inadvertently failed to file the proper forms in 2012 to close my campaign committee,” she said.

The proposed fine of $1,000 was announced Aug. 11 after she and FPPC attorneys reached an agreement to settle the charges. In turn, Mathur and her board reelection committee pledged not to contest the punishment.

But the panel reversed course on the $1000 dollar fine and decided they should quadruple it—raising it to $4000. The Sacramento Bee reports:

Mathur, the pension fund’s vice president, had agreed to a $1,000 fine with the staff of the state Fair Political Practices Commission. But the commissioners refused to accept the fine Thursday, arguing that Mathur should get a higher penalty because she had been fined several times before by the FPPC.

Gary Winuk, the agency’s chief of enforcement, said commissioners sent the case back to the FPPC’s staff and suggested the fine be increased to $4,000.

“Given her history … they felt it warranted a higher penalty,” he said. He said the matter could be brought back to the commission next month.

At this point, Mathur and the ethics panel probably know each other on a first name bases. But repeated disciplinary actions haven’t changed Mathur’s behavior. From the Sac Bee:

The FPPC has already fined Mathur a total of $13,000 for earlier transgressions, including late filing of campaign documents and her conflict-of-interest statements. The most recent fine came in 2010, prompting the CalPERS board to punish her by removing her as chair of the health benefits committee and suspending her from traveling on pension fund business.

In the latest case, Mathur was late filing four campaign finance statements in connection with her re-election bid. Mathur told The Sacramento Bee last week that the late filing was the result of a paperwork mix-up.

The FPPC staff, in its report to the commissioners, said it took “numerous requests” from investigators to get Mathur to finally file the documents. That conduct played a role in the commissioners’ desire for a stronger penalty, Winuk said.

The board’s election takes place next week. The election is conducted by mail.

Photo by Blake O’Brien via Flickr CC License

California Governor Calls Out CalPERS On Pension Tweak

Jerry Brown Oakland rally

Today CalPERS approved 99 types of “special pay”, or additional income that can be included in calculating a worker’s pension.

California Governor Jerry Brown was receptive to most of the “special pay” items—except for one. But it was enough to compel him to send a letter to CalPERS urging the board not to approve the pending changes.

At issue is a section of the CalPERS proposal that allows pension benefits to be increased based on temporary pay increases and ad hoc payments.

That contradicts a section of Jerry Brown’s 2012 reform law which states that pension benefits can only be based on “normal monthly pay”, and not “short-term” pay increases. From Reuters:

Although Calpers approved 99 types of extra pay that can be factored in to a worker’s income when calculating their pension, Brown only objected to one of those: allowing temporary upgrade pay to be counted as permanent, pensionable income.

Brown, a Democrat, sent a letter to Calpers last week asking them not to allow temporary upgrade pay to count toward pensions.

On Wednesday, the Calpers board rejected Brown’s opposition and voted to pass all 99 pay provisions, including that temporary pay hikes can be factored into a final pension.

“Today Calpers got it wrong,” Brown said in a statement. “This vote undermines the pension reforms enacted just two years ago. I’ve asked my staff to determine what actions can be taken to protect the integrity of the Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act.”

Read the full letter below, courtesy of the Sacramento Bee:

Screen shot 2014-08-20 at 4.49.36 PM

[A quick PSA, in case you don’t live in California: Edmund is the legal first name of Gov. Jerry Brown.]

CalPERS Responds To Criticism Of Plan To Boost Pensions


CalPERS is holding a hearing today seeking public comment on a set of potential rules that would open the door for many workers to increase their pensions.

The rules would introduce 98 new forms of “pensionable compensation”, or income that is counted when calculating a worker’s ultimate pension benefit.

But many interested parties didn’t wait until the hearing to voice their opinions. California Gov. Jerry Brown was among the first to voice his displeasure at the potential rules, as they contradict certain sections of the reform law he passed in 2012.

“This disregards the rule that pensions will be based on normal monthly pay and not on short-term, ad hoc pay increases,” Brown wrote in a letter to the CalPERS board. “I urge the board to vote against these regulations and instead request a new draft that excludes temporary pay upgrades from employee pension calculations.”

Other big players weighed in as well. Jon Ortiz writes:

Public pension-change advocates, including Democratic San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, say the proposal is another sign that the union-dominated CalPERS board “is doing what they can to resist reforms. … They’re in favor of anything that expands benefits.”

Elk Grove City Manager Laura Gill said including temporary upgrade pay “really does invite spiking” and threatens to erode savings from pension changes the Sacramento suburb has enacted the past couple of years, such as city employees paying their share of pension costs.

If such practices became standard, “it would put us backward from all the work we’ve done to have a sustainable and sound pension system,” Gill said.

Unions responded as well, but they were receptive to CalPERS’ plan. From the Sacramento Bee:

Mike Durant, president of the union-backed Peace Officers Research Association of California, dismissed those kinds of concerns. If a city or the state needs pension relief, he said, “they can bargain it.”

Instead, he said, government employers expect CalPERS to save them from themselves.

“They want to put it on the backs of someone else to make those decisions rather than making it themselves,” he said.

You can bet CalPERS is listening to all this. And the pension fund responded to the criticisms in a statement sent out to numerous newspapers, including the Daily Bulletin:

CalPERS has approached this issue with full transparency and sought stakeholder input along the way, including employee and employer feedback. The purpose of the public hearing is to seek even greater input on what compensation should and should not be counted toward pensions.

While reasonable people may disagree about what aspects of a public servant’s compensation should count toward a pension, an editorial should stick to the facts and not try to inflame readers with inaccurate terms like pension spiking. Pay for a service is still compensation at the end of the day. Our staff made a recommendation based on a good-faith interpretation of the law. If changes need to be made, we welcome the public’s input.

CalPERS is holding a hearing today to gather the public’s comments on the proposed rules. Once the hearing is wrapped up, the full CalPERS board will vote on the rules, likely on Wednesday.

VP of CalPERS Board Faces Repeated Discipline from State Ethics Panel


Priya Mathur is the Vice President of the CalPERS Board of Administration, and she is currently seeking re-election to serve a fourth term on the Board. Her tenure requires her to submit semi-annual campaign financial statements and statements of economic interest.

But the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC), California’s political watchdog agency, says Mathur failed to submit her campaign financial statements in a timely manner four separate times in 2012 and 2013.

And it’s not the first time Mathur has failed to turn in required documentation in a timely manner—the FPPC has fined Mathur three times in the past for similar offenses after she failed to submit statements on time in 2002, 2007, 2008 and 2010. From the LA Times:

This is not Mathur’s first run-in with the ethics panel. The commission has taken enforcement actions against Mathur three other times in the last nine years, fining her a total of $13,000.

The fines could become an issue in her current reelection campaign, with mail-in balloting running from Aug. 29 to September 29.

“I find it interesting that she feels she doesn’t have to comply with these standards,” said Mathur’s opponent, Leyne Milstein, the finance director of the city of Sacramento. “We all need to be held accountable if we want to represent the public.”

The fine and settlement agreement follow a series of filing lapses by Mathur that were investigated and prosecuted. The commission fined her $3,000 in April 2010, and $4,000 in May of that year for failing to file on time legally required statements of economic interest for 2007 and 2008.

As a result, Mathur’s board colleagues punished her by stripping her of a chairmanship of the health committee and temporarily suspending her travel privileges. However, they subsequently voted to make her vice president of the board.

In 2006, Mathur paid a $6,000 fine for not properly filing financial documents after her initial 2002 election to the CalPERS board.

The FPPC is expected to formally approve the charges against Mathur at its next meeting on August 21. Mathur is not disputing the charges.

Gary Winuk, the FPPC’s chief of enforcement, had this to say:

“Failing to file a campaign statement is a serious violation of the Act because it deprives the public of important information about a candidate’s financial activities,” he told the LA Times.


Photo by Blake O’Brien via Flickr CC License

Jerry Brown Sends CalPERS Board Back to School


California Gov. Jerry Brown wanted to make sure that the members of the CalPERS board knew what they are doing when making decisions regarding the fund’s nearly $300 billion investment portfolio. Now, Brown can rest assured that the members have spent some time in the classroom, studying up on the topics that are relevant to the governance of the country’s largest public pension fund. That’s because he just signed a bill requiring all board members to receive 24 hours of education on a variety of investment issues every two years.

From the Associated Press:

AB1163 by Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, originally was introduced as a way to meet Brown’s request to “bring financial sophistication” to the California Public Employees’ Retirement System’s 13-member board, which is dominated by public employees and labor union representatives.

Its original language required adding two board members who had financial expertise and did not have a financial interest in the pension system. It also proposed replacing the State Personnel Board representative with the state Director of Finance.

The bill was changed to give board members 24 hours of education every two years, require records of board members’ compliance with education requirements, and provide an annual report on CalPERS’ website.

The topics of the training are varied, but they include fiduciary responsibilities, ethics, pension funding, benefits administration, investment management, actuarial matters, and governance. All great things to learn about when you govern one of the largest pension funds on the planet.

You can read the entire bill here.

Photo by Eric James Sarmiento via Flickr CC License