We have been told privately that CalPERS beneficiaries, many of whom had to obtain degrees and other certifications as a condition of their employment, are deeply disturbed about the misrepresentations made by CalPERS CEO Marcie Frost during and after her hiring. Recall that this sort of conduct predates Frost joining CalPERS, since her responses on a gubernatorial questionnaire in Washington in 2013 showed her making demonstrably false statements on a document sworn under penalty of perjury.
Some influential beneficiaries have started challenging CalPERS’ dogged defense of Frost. We are reproducing an e-mail that Tony Butka sent to the head of the California State Personnel Board challenging whether its representative on the CalPERS board, Richard Costigan, is serving the SPB and by extension California well with his rejection of an investigation of Frost.
By way of background, the Financial Times’ FundFire cited Costigan claiming that the board was not going to look into the evidence documenting Frost’s misrepresentations. As we noted earlier, that claim alone should raise eyebrows, since it would be a violation of the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act for the board to deliberate between board meetings.1 From an August 30 FundFire story:
The CalPERS board has no plans to further investigate or take any action regarding the misrepresentations, says board member Richard Costigan. Costigan says Frost’s educational background had no bearing on the board’s decision to hire her.
“I knew at the time we interviewed her she didn’t have a college degree,” says Costigan. “I looked at her whole body of work. Those were the issues that were important to me.”
Needless to say, this is more than a bit of a dodge. First, as our posts documented, Frost did not merely lie during the hiring process by, for instance, telling Heidrick & Struggles that she was currently enrolled in a bachelor’s/master’s program at The Evergreen State College. Recall that the school never has any program of the kind, and that Frost was never enrolled in any degree program there, but merely took some writing courses for two quarters in 2010 as a “special student”. She allowed that lie to stand in the press release announcing her hiring and in her bio on the CalPERS website…until shortly after CalPERS dismissed CFO Charles Asubonten for misrepresentations during the hiring process. In addition, Frost made a false statement under penalty of perjury on a Washington state form she filed as part of being approved to head the Department of Retirement Services, as well as other misrepresentations and omissions on her resume.
Second, at least one board member who voted for Frost thought she was on the verge of getting a college degree. As we reported, board member said as much before a group of retirees. There is a world of difference from being a high school graduate who has never even applied to go to college versus one who is very close to getting a college degree. Costigan is being disingenuous at best to claim otherwise.
Third, and the elephant in the room, is that a CEO who would tell such a big and verifiable lie on a long-running basis cannot be considered to be fit to lead any organization.
Now to Butka’s e-mail:
Subject: Letter to Suzanne Ambrose
Date: Sun, 9 Sep 2018 18:25:54 -0700
From: Tony Butka
CC: Marcie.Frost@calpers.ca.gov, firstname.lastname@example.org
I am writing this missive to Suzanne Ambrose via this email address because I couldn’t find a direct email address, and trust that you can get the message to her, or if not, let me know how I can.
Dear Ms Ambrose,
I am writing this message to you because I believe that in recent hiring decisions, CalPERS has utterly failed to follow sound merit system principles. Further, I am writing because you appointed Richard Costigan as the CalPERS Board member representing your agency, and I believe he is doing a very poor job of representing the SPB.
I have taken the liberty of attaching a pdf copy of my recent post to CityWatch, covering the hiring of CalPERS CEO Marcie Frost, as well as other troublesome hiring decisions made by the Board. The online link
to the article is
I do not take this step lightly, and I do so as a former Executive Officer for the Los Angeles County Civil Service Commission for over a decade back in the 90’s. The civil service system deserves better. If your office wants, there are some 70 plus pages of documents publicly available regarding the hiring process for Ms Frost, or I’m sure you can obtain the information from Mr. Costigan, who after all is a Board member as well as your agent.
I only ask that you look, obtain the information, evaluate, and determine if this result is good for CalPERS and why Mr. Costigan should continue to represent the California State Personnel Board, an agency I have respected and worked with intermittently for years.
4286 Verdugo View Dr
Los Angeles CA 90065
PS- I would appreciate it if Board Chair Priya Mathur copies all of the
Board members on this missive, rather than treating it as private.
1 This is a bit of a simplification, since there is a process by which the board could arrange an emergency meeting, but that has not happened either.