Cover-Up of CalPERS’ CEO Frost’s Misrepresentations of Her History: Document Destruction/Loss at CalPERS, Pressure on The Evergreen State College

We suggest that you start with the first post in this series: CalPERS CEO Marcie Frost’s Misrepresentations Regarding Her Education and Work History During and After Her Hiring.

One sign that CalPERS CEO Marcie Frost recognizes that she is skating on thin ice as a result of her misrepresentations about her background during the hiring process and after she joined CalPERS is that CalPERS claims not to have records that would establish whether Frost committed perjury by making false statements on her employment application.

Another sign is that when we started re-checking the information we had gotten from the Evergreen State College about Frost’s enrollment history, records that had been readily accessible were suddenly on restricted access. Fortunately, we were dealing with sufficiently senior administrators so as to be able to be able to surmount this hurdle.

The Serious Legal and Practical Implications of Frost’s Missing Employment Application Pages

We understand from senior officials at CalHR, the department in charge of personnel issues at all state
agencies, that all California state employees, even their CEOs, are required to fill out an employment application STD 678, as a condition of employment.1 That document is also disclosable in a Public Records Act request.1

In keeping with this disclosure requirement, we obtained the first four pages of former Chief Financial Officer Charles Asubonten’s employment application earlier his year and have embedded that document at the end of this post. You will see the “Employment” section, on the top of page 2, is completely unredacted.

We later requested Marcie Frost’s employment application, as well as her resume and other records. CalPERS provided only the first page. Pages 2 through 4, where the applicant sets forth their education, licenses, and work history, were missing.

The instructions for filling out Form STD 678 make clear the form must be completed in full (emphasis original):

All questions must be answered completely and accurately, except as noted….

Question 5 – Employment History/Discharges. Question 5 must be answered by all applicants…Applicants are also required to provide factually correct information on the Employment History section of the application….

Education – You must include a complete record of your training and educational background.

My message to the head of CalPERS’ communications department:

From: Susan Webber
Sent: Thursday, August 09, 2018 9:00 AM
To: Pacheco, Brad
Subject: Seeking complete versions of incomplete records from PRA #3867

Dear Mr. Pacheco,

Thank you for overseeing the timely production of records for my recent request, #3867.

However, one record requested specifically was not produced properly, namely (quoting from my request on June 24):

“2. Marcie Frost’s employment application”

The documents supplied include only the first page of her employment application, the then-current version of this form: https://jobs.ca.gov/pdf/std678.pdf.

In response to PRA #3698 [related to Asubonten], CalPERS provided the first four pages of this document, supplying the “Education” and “Employment History” sections. Moreover, as you can see if you compare the responses to the two PRAs, the version number for this form in #3867 is identical to the one in #3698: “STD 678 (REV. 10/2013)”. See page one of “img-411145509-0001.pdf” attached versus page one of “PRA #3867 Webber_Part1.pdf” attached.

Please send me the missing pages from the employment application requested in PRA #3867. Further note that the only portions of the missing pages 2-4 that are subject to redaction are the ones redacted in response to PRA #3698.

Since your staff has already located this record, it should take only minimal effort to find the missing three pages and send them on as required. Since these are overdue items from a supposedly completed PRA response, I trust they will be sent to me promptly. I know the upcoming board week is a busy time for many CalPERS staff members, but I would assume the members of the Public Records Act Unit are well insulated from that. I hope I can receive the missing pages from the employment application by the end of Friday, August 10, or at worst, by the end of day Monday, August 13.

Thanks for your help in this matter.

Susan Webber

The reply:

From: “Pacheco, Brad”
Subject: RE: Seeking complete versions of incomplete records from PRA #3867
Date: August 10, 2018 at 6:03:36 PM EDT
To: Susan Webber

Ms. Webber,

I asked our Human Resources Division to check our records for Ms. Frost’s state employment application, STD 678. You have all the documents responsive to your PRA. There are no additional pages to the employment application in our records…

Brad

Even though CalPERS may be providing a “dog ate my homework” level excuse for impermissibly withholding records that it is required to deliver under the Public Records Act, we have no choice but to take CalPERS claim at face value.3

And that claim does not reflect at all well upon CalPERS and Frost above all.

Since there is every reason to believe that Frost did complete Form STD 678 in full, Pacheco’s remark is tantamount to saying that CalPERS destroyed records. That is a crime:

Government Code 6200.
Every officer having the custody of any record, map, or book, or of any paper or proceeding of any court, filed or deposited in any public office, or placed in his or her hands for any purpose, is punishable by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 of the Penal Code for two, three, or four years if, as to the whole or any part of the record, map, book, paper, or proceeding, the officer willfully does or permits any other person to do any of the following:
(a) Steal, remove, or secrete.
(b) Destroy, mutilate, or deface.
(c) Alter or falsify.

However, no prosecutor would ever bother pursuing a state official solely on records tampering; it would most likely be invoked as an additional charge in connection with a different crime, like embezzlement. Moreover, CalPERS would claim, despite it being facially ludicrous, that Frost had provided only the first page of the document and so nothing was amiss. But the statutory language is nevertheless relevant because it shows how serious an offense it is to remove or destroy state records.

Keep in mind that California requires that Form STD 678 be delivered as a hard copy. I asked CalPERS as a separate Public Records Act request to search and provide scanned and e-mailed versions of Frost’s employments record, since as IT experts will tell you, it is very difficult to remove all of the versions of a document once it has been committed to electronic form.

The original paper version would be part of Frost’s personnel file. Access to that is highly restricted, and likely limited to the head of Human Resources, her secretary and/or deputy, and Frost herself. While the General Counsel Matt Jacobs could certainly ask to see Frost’s records when his job made that necessary, even he would presumably have to go through channels to get to relevant documents. You can’t have subordinates ruffling though confidential information about their boss.

The claim that CalPERS destroyed records to protect Frost may seem like a stretch to some readers. Remember that this is the same CalPERS that has board members signing blank, undated expense forms, has staff members forging board member signatures, and regularly has the General Counsel and other senior executives tell obvious lies on tape at public board meetings.

The interference we encountered in re-verifying Frost’s enrollment history at Evergreen lends credence to the notion that CalPERS, or Frost personally, tried to stymie our investigation. Fortunately, the attempt at Evergreen was both too late as well as ultimately unsuccessful.

Interference at Evergreen State College

I had obtained what by normal standards would be considered to be official information about Frost’s attendance at Evergreen, in the form of a report from National Student Clearinghouse. Evergreen, like many other schools, has agreed to provide data to National Student Clearinghouse, although some information, like transcripts, requires the consent of the student. However, I was already speaking to a senior individual at Evergreen State College about its policies, and said I would like to make sure the report I had gotten was accurate, and that party was able to do so.

Given how inflammatory the findings were, I thought it was critical to re-check both the policy information as well as the fact that Frost had attended for only 2 quarters in 2010. The additional parties I contacted reconfirmed what I had already been told and found on line about Evergreen’s programs. One, who was particularly upset that Frost had claimed to be enrolled in dual bachelor’s/master’s program, went to pull up Frost’s records. That individual found that access to it was limited, and said that was the first time that had ever happened (this officer was very familiar with the student records system). I had asked the first person to recheck. They were also blocked and said it was the first time ever that ever happened in their entire long career at Evergreen. Both agreed that it was no exaggeration to say that someone was trying to cover up for Frost; in fact, one of them called it a “cover up” unprompted.

However, I was introduced to yet another senior administrator who was able to review Frost’s records and validated what I had found.

This is a very long-winded way of documenting a simple point: Frost is acting like she has something to hide. That should give even more weight to the information we provided in our original post.

_____

1 Even though the language at the beginning of Form STD 678 gives the impression that the agency has the option of whether or not to fill out the form (“for vacant positions where a department requests an application”), senior individuals at the California Department of Human Resources take the position that all state employees must fill out a Form STD as a condition of employment. That would seem to be consistent with the fact that Frost was required to fill out the form even though CalPERS had already committed to hiring her, via giving her a written job offer on June 22 that she had accepted on June 24, and issuing a press release announcing her hiring on July 14. You can see that the date Frost signed the employment application form is July 26, nearly two weeks after CalPERS told the world she was joining. Clearly someone thought it was important to get this form completed even though it was now appeared to be a mere formality.

2 From the First Amendment Coalition:

Under section 6254(c) of the California Public Records Act, certain personnel files are protected from disclosure under the personal privacy exemption.However, with respect to public employees such as a school district superintendent and assistant superintendent, the kind of information that would be included in a resume, curriculum vitae or job application to demonstrate a person’s fitness for his or her job, in terms of education, training, or work experience, is not a matter of personal privacy.

The California Court of Appeal has held in Eskaton Monterey Hospital v. Myers, 134 Cal. App. 3d 788, 794 (1982) that “information as to the education, training, experience, awards, previous positions and publications of the (employee) . . . is routinely presented in both professional and social settings, is relatively innocuous and implicates no applicable privacy or public policy exemption.”

We considered and regard as extremely implausible the idea that Frost filled out only the first page of the employment application. As discussed in Footnote 1, Frost signed the form on July 26, more than a month after she had accepted CalPERS’ written job offer and almost two weeks after CalPERS had announced her appointment. Having her fill out the form after the decision was made was a mere formality, but one that was seen as important, otherwise it would never have been done in the first place. Doing anything other than fill out the first four pages of the document would not satisfy a perceived need to dot “i”s and cross “t”s. And Frost had no reason to think anyone would do anything other than toss her form in a tightly locked file cabinet. By contrast, refusing to complete the form in full would have raised red flags.

Abubonten employment application
Frost Employment Application
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24 comments

  1. voteforno6

    Who actually approved her hiring? It seems strange that she would be hired, even with her resume being taken at face value. Wouldn’t they have performed some verification of it, as due diligence?

    Also, how could she have that much pull at Evergreen, to have her records there shielded in that manner?

    Thank you, Yves, for making the subject of CalPERS far more interesting to me than I would’ve ever thought possible. Now, if some of the local California newspapers pick up on this thread, things could get a little more interesting.

    Reply
    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Frost was hired by CalPERS’ board.

      Regarding Evergreen, she had worked in state government in Washington since 1997, save her stint at WSECU. So it could have been a function of having influential friends (although it wasn’t all that hard for us to get to someone who could re-check what we had been told) or just being lucky re where the people in her network wound up.

      Reply
  2. The Rev Kev

    Oh god, another bunch of crap from ‘The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight’. I reading both articles I just don’t get it. I understand that Marcie Frost is a high school graduate for which I congratulate her on that. However, by the same token, so am I so would I have ever been in contention as a CEO for CalPERS? No, I don’t think so either.

    No wonder she was defending Asubonten so much as the process that led to him being hired was the same one that enabled her to be hired. The thing is that with this mob, it is not that they are doing all this sort of stuff but they literally can’t be bothered doing a good job of it. It is all being done in such a half-a**** way. Maybe they should set up an executive swap program with, say, Kentucky’s pension scheme to pick up some tips on how to do things properly.

    I am sure that The Evergreen State College is a fine one though it’s motto in English appears to be ‘Let it all hang out’ which does not give me a lot of confidence. The thing that bothers me is that they have been leant on to help cover up Frost’s records and they are two states away.

    I have no idea how things are done in California but if that Form STD 678 is an official requirement by Californian law, then would a copy have not gone to the Californian government itself? Maybe the Employment Development Department? Or do they trust all these companies to keep the paperwork straight for them? Maybe Heidrick & Struggles would be an interested party as if things blow up with Frost, they may be dragged into any ensuing legal courts as to their part in recruitment.

    Based on the lack of credible educational records and the non-completion of what she stated that she was studying, I would be checking her statement on her application where she said “I will have a California drivers licence once I relocate in October” as well. You know, just in case she forgot. God, they could have paid someone to do her work to get her a degree but they couldn’t be bothered. There is no shame in not getting her “Sheepskin” yet but there is when she claims that she has almost got it.

    Maybe someone should sent Trump a tweet about all this. California’s not in his good books and this would be a great opportunity for him to embarrass the setup there.

    Reply
  3. Clive

    What I didn’t understand was, why didn’t Frost just stand by her unadorned academic record? Okay, Frost never got a college degree. But there’s plenty of tropes you could play out to not only try to mitigate this, but maybe even come out ahead.

    There’s the disadvantaged-but-honest hard worker who didn’t have the best start in life perhaps, yet did their best and proved the US of good ole’ A really is a meritocracy and made a success of herself. Alluding to and drawing out the American Dream as a tableau vivant with Frost acting as the centrepiece would bring the house down — you guys never seem to get tired of that old cliche.

    Slightly less palatable maybe to some, but sadly usually equally if not more appealing, there’s the “poor little woman in a man’s world” — denied the same opportunities as a male might have had growing up in the 1970’s and 80’s. Whether true or not, it gets an almost certain sympathetic hearing.

    But obviously embellishing your resume and not even being especially clever about it — that’s merely dumb. And such obvious, easily-discovered falsehoods? If you’re going to be dishonest, which, I suppose, we should expect in our prevailing culture, please, at least take the trouble to do it with a little panache.

    Frost is shown to be merely arrogant (believing no-one would ever bother to check) and stupid.

    Reply
      1. mle detroit

        John Major, for instance. The anecdote about how he, as a junior, came to Mrs. T’s attention has always seemed like a 1930s movie to me.

        Reply
  4. KYrocky

    The broad point is that Frost has been a liar since before day one. It means the staff at CalPERS failed to do even the most rudimentary background/credential check before hiring their CEO, which strains credulity. This was likewise done with Asubonten, and having it happen twice for these senior positions screams that this was no error: it is deliberate.

    Frost having worked in state government and having friends does not explain these occurrences. There is a very significant power at work in the background, and that power is likely feasting off the pension funds in a big way. Hedge fund owners perhaps.

    As she has been living lies, and clearly others have been aware of her lies, Frost has been, at a minimum, compromised from before day one, and at most, she was installed in her position with criminal intent by others and herself.

    Reply
        1. flora

          Thanks for the link.

          Still, it was a productive relationship. By 2005, [Fancher’s company] Stockbridge had received more than $300 million to invest from CalSTRS and CalPERS, the giant funds that secure pensions for teachers and state government employees.

          At least $5 million has been redeployed since 2005 as political contributions by Stockbridge to California lawmakers, political parties and ballot initiative campaigns.

          Reply
    1. XXYY

      Frost having worked in state government and having friends does not explain these occurrences. There is a very significant power at work in the background, and that power is likely feasting off the pension funds in a big way. Hedge fund owners perhaps.

      +1

      This is a good conspiracy theory. And I mean that in a positive way.

      Reply
  5. flora

    “That individual found that access to it was limited, and said that was the first time that had ever happened (this officer was very familiar with the student records system). I had asked the first person to recheck. They were also blocked and said it was the first time ever that ever happened in their entire long career at Evergreen. Both agreed that it was no exaggeration to say that someone was trying to cover up for Frost; in fact, one of them called it a “cover up” unprompted. “

    This story gets better and better.

    Thanks for your continued reporting on CalPERS, PE, and pensions.

    Reply
  6. Watt4Bob

    I’d advise Marcie Frost not to travel on any small airplanes.

    In anything remotely resembling the real world, you don’t get put in charge of managing the investment of hundreds of billions of dollars on the strength of lies, without help, really powerful help.

    I mean, very soon, somebody is likely to ask her, under oath, who the hell she really works for.

    Reply
    1. ex-PFC Chuck

      Perhaps it’s time to start taking a hard look at what occurred during her watch at the Washington state pension fund she managed. Was there a similarly cozy relationship with private equity firms there?

      Reply
      1. Watt4Bob

        That’s probably where she met her real boss.

        Or possibly that’s the first place she was ‘installed‘ for this bosses benefit.

        Reply
  7. charlie sheldon

    I would do a cross check link between CalPERS Board members, especially those who were involved in her interview and selection, and their links to PE forms – themselves, family members or companies they work for if they are not PE people themselves.

    I betcha….then….BINGO

    Reply
  8. The Rev Kev

    When CalPERS advertised the job that Frost took, I wonder what that advert looked like on paper and how many of those job requirements she could actually tick off? Come to think of it, I wonder how Frost came to hear of that job as I believe that she was in Washington state at the time? Or was she privately approached and promised a clear track to the job.

    Reply

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