Priya Mathur, an otherwise conscientious director at CalPERS from what I know, faces her third fine for failing to timely disclose her financial interests. She reportedly evaded service of legal papers and other efforts to reach her by staff of the California Fair Political Practices Commission, so the Commission increased her fine from $3,000 to $4,000 to get her attention.
State Treasurer Bill Lockyer proposed that directors be barred from carrying out their official duties if they fail to file financial disclosure papers. CalPERS board President Rob Feckner agrees and expects to discuss the measure in a governance committee as early as next week. Feckner wants to change board policy to require that all economic-interest filings be sent first to his office to make sure that all members have complied. “If and when they don’t file, for whatever reason, I am proposing that they be suspended until such time as they are compliant,” Feckner said. (CalPERS board member Priya Mathur is fined $4,000, LATimes, 5/14/10)
Unfortunately, the Board probably will not be able to suspend directors, since the California Constitution contains the following provision:
(f) With regard to the retirement board of a public pension or retirement system which includes in its composition elected employee members, the number, terms, and method of selection or removal of members of the retirement board which were required by law or otherwise in effect on July 1, 1991, shall not be changed, amended, or modified by the Legislature unless the change, amendment, or modification enacted by the Legislature is ratified by a majority vote of the electors of the jurisdiction in which the participants of the system are or were, prior to retirement, employed.
However, the Board could deny delinquent filers their committee assignments, optional travel and other activities until they have filed. As a former department ethics officer in California, all FPPC filings came through my office, including a copy of the director’s. If we didn’t get them before the FPPC deadline, employees got a phone call from the chief deputy director. It was like getting called into the vice principal’s office in junior high.
Mathur, who works as a financial analyst with the Bay Area Rapid Transit District, was fined $3,000 last month for not filing her 2007 statement on time and was fined $6,000 earlier for problems related to her filings after being elected to the board in 2002. Since her reports show “no reportable” financial interests, it is difficult to understand why she has taken what appears to be such a cavalier attitude toward meeting these legal obligations.
When I was in state service, the form took me an hour or two to fill out but I had to report on business activities and all my stock transactions. As the publisher of CorpGov.net, I still feel it is important to report potential conflicts of interest to my readers, even though I am under no legal obligation to do so. See Possible Conflicts of Interest. My Form 700 filings ran up to maybe 10 pages. Mathur, claiming “No reportable interests,” would only need to fill out one page, mostly giving the address of where she works.
Although she’s a financial analyst by profession, she doesn’t seem to have done a very good job calculating the cost/benefit analysis of taking 15 minutes to fill out a one page form versus a $4,000 fine. Worse, CalPERS seems to be getting constant press for scandals surrounding former officials and Mathur is up for reelection this year, although she is unopposed. Neither Mathur nor CalPERS can afford the bad publicity that comes from such irresponsible behavior. Hopefully, turning forms into a central office will allow CalPERS to send reminders before they are due to the FPPC, avoiding any such future incidents.