Tag Archives | election

Elect Flaherman and Brown to CalPERS

Keep CalPERS healthy; vote for Flaherman and Brown. Ballots have been mailed out to more than 1.5 million CalPERS members. They must be received by October 2nd to count. This is probably the most important election the $333B+ System has ever held, given how the board isolated and ostracized current director J. J. Jelincic for doing his job.  I voted for Michael Flaherman and Margaret Brown. I recommend all members do the same. Take action today.

Questions? Contact [email protected] and [email protected] before and after the election. Flaherman and Brown won’t hide from members once elected. Both have also been endorsed by J. J. Jelincic, the only current board member who routinely asks the tough questions of staff and others on the Board. Continue Reading →

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Bilbrey Wins CalPERS Board Seat

Michael Bilbrey is the apparent winner of a special runoff election to fill a vacancy on the 13-member CalPERS Board of Administration.

According to the unofficial vote count, Bilbrey received 117,034 votes, while Richard Ross received 78,718 votes.  The result is not official until certified by the California Secretary of State’s Office.

Bilbrey and Ross were among a field of eight candidates vying for a member-at-large board seat following the resignation of Kurato Shimada, who left under something of a cloud last August.  A runoff election was held after no candidate received the majority of votes in the first round of the election that took place earlier this spring.  CalPERS regulations, adopted with the support of PERSWatch.net, require the winning candidate to receive a majority of the votes cast.

Bilbrey, a Vice President with the California School Employees Association, will seve out the remainder of the term vacated by Shimada, which ends on January 15, 2014. Learn more about Bilbrey at his campaign web site, bilbrey4calpers.com.

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Videos of CalPERS Candidate Forum Available

Videos are now available from the “CalPERS Candidates’ Forum,” moderated by the League of Women Voters of Sacramento County, on Wednesday, July 6, 2011 in the CalPERS Auditorium. Although less than 50 people showed up for the forum, I expect many more will watch them online. We will need to consider other options for the next forum to ensure a better turnout. Your ideas are welcome. Please e-mail them to [email protected].

In the first round of the current election only 14% of members voted. Let’s hope more vote in the run-off.

CalPERS members as of June 1, 2011 are eligible to vote in the runoff election. Ballot packages were mailed beginning June 30, 2011 and must be postmarked or received by CalPERS on or before July 28, 2011 in order to count. Unofficial election results will be available online in mid-August 2011.  Below are links to documents previously posted by CalPERS and you can click on candidate names to go to Continue Reading →

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CalPERS Candidate Forum July 6th

CalPERS Auditorium Looking Toward Board Seats

PERSWatch.net will sponsor a “CalPERS Candidates’ Forum,” moderated by the League of Women Voters of Sacramento County, on Wednesday, July 6, 2011 from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. The forum will take place in the CalPERS Auditorium, Lincoln Plaza North, 400 P St., Sacramento, California. Free parking will be available under the building. Enter on the Q Street side between 3rd and 5th Streets.

As discussed below, no new information is forthcoming from CalPERS regarding the candidates. Candidate statements and videos remain unchanged for the runoff. Although you may find some new information on candidate websites, you know these are essentially ads, created to put candidates in the best light possible. At our forum you can put candidates on the spot with tough questions and compare them side by side.

Democracy is a two way street. It works best when an educated electorate fully participates and evaluates the candidates – their experience, qualifications, platform, dedication – whatever you place as high priorities. Hopefully, engagement with members continues after the election to ensure directors are truly representing our interests.

In the first round of the current election only 14% of members voted. Perhaps low turnout is attributable to a low interest or knowledge, a declining sense that voting as a civic duty, the difficulty of voting, or limited contact with the candidates. Whatever the reason, I personally can’t remember a time when the stakes were higher.

Both candidates running in the Special Runoff Election, to fill the Member-At-Large Position B vacancy, have confirmed their attendance. The forum is open to all CalPERS members, media and the general public and is free of charge. Attendees will have the opportunity to submit questions to the candidates via question cards, available upon arrival. League volunteers will group and consolidate questions submitted in order to avoid repetition and cover a broad range of material.

No food or drinks will be allowed in the Auditorium. Seating is limited. Please minimize the use of perfume and cologne out of respect for those with asthma or chemical sensitivities. In addition, please arrive several minutes in advance so the program can start on time without distraction.

Since there was no majority vote winner in the balloting held earlier this year, a runoff election will be held between the two candidates who received the highest number of votes, Michael Bilbrey and Richard H. Ross. As a result of a random drawing, Bilbrey’s name will appear first on the ballot.

CalPERS members as of June 1, 2011 are eligible to vote in the runoff election. Ballot packages will be mailed beginning June 30, 2011 and must be postmarked or received by CalPERS on or before July 28, 2011 in order to count. Unofficial election results will be available online in mid-August 2011.  Below are links to documents previously posted by CalPERS and you can click on candidate names to go to their campaign sites.

Richard H. Ross

Michael Bilbrey

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CalPERS Candidates’ Forum

PERSWatch sponsored the “CalPERS Candidates’ Forum,” moderated by the League of Women Voters of Sacramento County, on Tuesday, April 26, 2011. The forum took place in the CalPERS Auditorium, Lincoln Plaza North, 400 P Street, Sacramento, California.

Seven candidates running in the Special Election, to fill the Member-At-Large Position B vacancy, participated in the event. This forum was open to all CalPERS members, media and the general public. Attendees had the opportunity to submit questions to the candidates via question cards.

Over 120 people were able to attend in person, twice the number that attended our last CalPERS Candidates’ Forum and four times the number that attended our first forum. We hope these forums will improve the dialogue between candidates, CalPERS members, and the general public, as well as helping members make more informed voting choices.

Special thanks to the League of Women Voters of Sacramento County for facilitating the Forum and to CalPERS for the use of their auditorium and for creating the following videos so that those of you who could not attend in person can still benefit from this effort.

  1. Video: Introduction and Opening Statements, Part 1Read the transcript (PDF, 33 KB)
  2. Video: Question and Answer Session, Part 2Read the transcript (PDF, 45 KB)
  3. Video: Question and Answer Session, Part 3Read the transcript (PDF, 56 KB)
  4. Video: Closing Statements and Conclusion, Part 4Read the transcript (PDF, 28 KB)

Please remember to vote by May 20, 2011. Thanks to the election reform efforts of PERSWatch, if no candidate receives a majority vote in the initial election, a runoff election will be conducted between the two candidates who received the highest number of votes.

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Diehr Elected: Another Candidate Forum Planned

George Diehr has been officially re-elected to the board of administration of CalPERS, as the state elected member. Diehr received 77.5% of the votes; Inderjit Kallirai received 22.4%. Only 28,373 votes were cast by state and Cal State University employees out of about 340,000 eligible voters. We tried to boost interest and voting by holding a candidate forum, also sparsely attended. (see Candidate Forum coverage)

Diehr, who was first elected to the CalPERS’ board in 2002 is vice president of the board and chairs the powerful investment committee. Rob Feckner, current president of the CalPERS board and the school representative, and Priya Mathur, public agency representative, both ran unopposed and were already declared winners.

With the recent resignation of Kurato Shimada, there will be another election at CalPERS next spring. With no incumbent running and since the seat is elected by all members of the system, I expect much higher interest and intend to sponsor another candidate forum.

I may ask candidates a number of questions in advance of the forum so that potential voters and the public have a better understanding of their positions on the issues even before a forum is held. I did this before the 2009 Forum. (see CalPERSCandateResponses2009, a pdf file file with Q&A from 2009). Please send your suggestions for candidate questions, as well as ideas about Candidate Forum sponsors and format via email or by posting comments here (You must register before posting comments. No spam will be posted. To register, see bottom right column under Administration.)

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Diehr Wins in Low Turnout CaPERS Election

George Diehr has been officially re-elected to the board of administration of CalPERS, as the state elected member. Diehr received 77.5% of the votes cast; Inderjit Kallirai received 22.4% of the eligible vote. Only 28,373 votes cast by eligible state and California State University employees out of about 340,000 eligible voters. I did my part to try to boost voting by holding a candidate forum, also sparsely attended. (see Video Friday coverage)

Diehr, who was first elected to the CalPERS’ board in 2002 is vice president of the board and chairs the powerful investment committee. Rob Feckner, current president of the CalPERS board and the school representative, and Priya Mathur, public agency representative, both ran unopposed and were already declared winners. (Diehr wins re-election to CalPERS board, P&I Daily, 10/27/2010)

With the recent resignation of Kurato Shimada, there will be another election at CalPERS next spring. With no incumbent running and since the seat is elected by all members of the system, I expect much higher interest and intend to sponsor another candidate forum. I may ask candidates a number of questions in advance of the forum so that potential voters and the public have a better understanding of their positions on the issues. Questions for candidates from readers are welcome.

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Incumbent Wins CalPERS Race: But…

The following is a table with the unofficial results of the most recent CalPERS election. No real surprise; with an incredibly low turnout, the incumbent won by a large margin.

George Diehr 21,988 votes
Inderjit Kallirai 6,360 votes

Board candidate uses CalPERS address, phone writes Ed Mendel in his post to CalPensions. CalPERS board member running for re-election, George Diehr, listed the CalPERS headquarters address in Sacramento and a CalPERS-funded home telephone as the contact information on a campaign brochure and website.

Dr. Diehr is head of the Investment Committee and Vice President of the Board but appears to be somewhat oblivious as to the laws governing campaigns. According to the post:

Diehr, preferring not to list his home address, said he thought the CalPERS address was acceptable because he had used it in filing documents, drawing no objections.

Of course using his address at CalPERS to disclose his potential financial conflicts of interest is much different than potentially soliciting campaign funds to a state office. Most funds in CalPERS campaigns come from unions, so he may not have received any contributions to a state building. Additionally, he has apparently agreed to pay any cost to CalPERS. However, the law doesn’t appear to be predicated on the actual expenditure of moneys by public agencies.

Government Code section 8314 states,

It is unlawful for any elected state or local officer, including any state or local appointee, employee, or consultant, to use or permit others to use public resources for a campaign activity, or personal or other purposes which are not authorized by law.

I’m relatively sure Diehr knows the use of state property is prohibited. In fact, a related legal opinion written by Legislative Counsel at my request was sent to CalPERS in 2007. (download pdf)

As far as I can tell, Diehr is doing a good job at CalPERS. Unfortunately, this latest action demonstrates continued inattention by a long line of board members to ethics laws. Whether or not use of the state address and/or phone number constituted an actual violation of law deserving of a fine of up to $1,000 a day is up to others to decide. However, it is clear that CalPERS and its board members are too frequently in the news for questionable activities. Why would Diehr be so careless?

There is little question it has resulted another black mark on the reputation of CalPERS, however small. CalPERS finally instituted a hot-line for people to disclose ethical violations and took several additional measure.  That’s great but, of course, both board members and staff need a fundamental understanding of ethics laws to be able to recognize violations.

When I was the Ethics Officer for the Department of Toxic Substances Control. my duties and those of my staff included the following:

  • Determine which DTSC staff would be required to file the form 700 and amend regulations as appropriate, working with the various unions and the interested public.
  • Ensure that everyone required to file did file. Reports of laggards went directly to executive staff and were briefly discussed weekly until corrected. If necessary, the Director or Chief Deputy Director would call the laggards. (CalPERS board member Priya Mathur would have faced constant warnings if she had been at DTSC. It is highly unlikely that she would have missed three filing deadlines.)
  • Develop and hold ethics classes at HQs and throughout our regional offices, supplementing the required online AG/FPPC class with material covering state and federal laws specific to DTSC.
  • Ensure that every member of staff required to file a form 700, which was the vast majority of staff, also took the required AG/FPPC class and the supplemental class (which I usually conducted along with an attorney). CalPERS is now requiring attendance at a new “Working Values class” hosted by their legal office, diversity office and enterprise compliance office.
  • Made frequent determinations concerning requests by DTSC employees (as well as those of CalEPA) to engage in outside employment, to accept gifts, to accept speaking engagements and to provide advice concerning potential conflicts of interest. (I presume this is done at CalPERS by their legal office but board and staff may feel slightly less comfortable asking for a legal opinion on what may seem to be small issues.)

Recently, after a yearlong scandal involving alleged influence peddling and corruption, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill that will regulate the activities of outside deal-makers who help investment managers secure government pension fund money. (Schwarzenegger signs pension fund transparency bill, LATimes, 10/1/10)

While CalPERS is certainly making progress, their ethics is still not beyond reproach. I’m confident they will get closer but in the meantime, these little slips are embarrassing to those of us associated with the system. It is much easier to advocate for good corporate governance if your own pension fund and its board members follow only the highest ethical practices. CalPERS recently added a risk officer. They should give serious consideration to adding an ethics officer.

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Massey Board Under the Gun

The following is a statement from the CtW Investment Group Executive Director William Patterson regarding the results of the shareholder vote at today’s Massey Energy Company annual meeting.

Preliminary tallies indicate that shareholders cast 49.8% of their shares against Dan Moore, 49.6% against Baxter Phillips Jr., and 48.5% against Richard Gabrys.  This razor thin vote casts a cloud over the legitimacy of the current Massey board and is a clear demand for new directors who will make needed changes in company leadership. The opposition votes against the Massey directors were the highest of any this year at an S&P 500 company.  Despite demands from shareholders at the meeting today, the Company refused to disclose the actual vote count and that nearly half of the voting shares appear to have opposed these directors’ election.

North Carolina’s State Treasurer Janet Cowell also criticized the company’s leadership. “Based on the close results, it is clear that a near majority of shareholders have no confidence in these directors. We will continue our fight to secure leadership at Massey Energy Company that will look out for the interest of their shareholders and the safety of their own workers,” Cowell said in a statement. (Three directors re-elected to Massey board, MarketWatch, 5/18/10)

Two non-binding shareholder proposals passed at the meeting. One urged the Massey board to have all of its members stand for election annually—a move the board announced it was endorsing last Friday. A second resolution suggested that directors facing reelection be required to receive a majority of votes cast. Last month, Massey directors adopted a similar policy. Two other proposals that would have encouraged the board to issue reports on the company’s water management and carbon emissions failed to pass. (Three Massey Directors Eke Out Reelection, WSJ, 5/18/10)

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