Your humble blogger has gotten many agitated e-mails from CalPERS beneficiaries who’ve never before written to me about a hit piece targeting the pro-transparency, pro-accountability board candidates, Margaret Brown and Tiffany Emon-Moran, who are running in the election now underway. These voters are upset about the false content, the misrepresentation of its sponsors, and the fact that a third party somehow got their names and addresses.1
It is bizarre that SEIU, which is behind the mailers, would oppose protecting worker pensions by having a strong and effective board, as CalPERS’ Sacramento sister CalSTRS does. And CalSTRS beneficiaries have been rewarded with better financial returns and a curious absence of scandals.
It also seems even odder that SEIU2 would be threatened by the prospect of a labor negotiator and financial fraud investigator like Emon-Moran on the board. But the mailer focuses on Margaret Brown, who as a current board member, has gotten under the skin of the staff and the power faction on the board by opposing misconduct small and large, ranging from board members pre-signing blank expense reimbursement forms to opposing large and indefensible increases in health and long-term health care premiums, as well as CalPERS hare-brained “private equity new business model” which fortunately collapsed under its own contradictions.
SEIU’s hammer Terry Brennand has tried to dirty up Brown for acting as a safety harasser. Oh, and acting like a boss when she actually was the boss. No, I am not making that up.
Brown was a senior manager of school construction programs, which included everything from plan approvals, obtaining financing, and overseeing construction sites. She had an impeccable record for on time and on budget completion.3
On one project in the Dougherty Valley, some of the men sported roomy clothes, including baggy pants. That’s a safety hazard because loose-fitting garments can get caught in equipment and have caused severe injury and even death. Brown used an accident on another site to remind the hip-hop-falling-off-pants fashionistas to wear something more workplace-suitable, calling their attention to one workman present for wearing jeans that actually fit.
This employee happened to be one of ten who were later laid off in a downsizing. He joined with two others who had warned up repeatedly for other infractions like regularly showing up late. They tried unsuccessfully to get their jobs back by accusing the school district and Brown of being not a safety harasser but a s** harasser, even though the filing contained no s** allegations, just Brown supposedly being mean by doing things like not buying them cameras. Only employees in lower-level jobs photographed work progress and were therefore entitled to have their own equipment, which was expensive in 2004. Oddly none of these plaintiffs had volunteered to be demoted to get their keenly-desired photo devices.
Needless to say, Brown was removed from the case as a defendant because there was no there there.4
It’s funny that the flier failed to mention other things Brown did to promote workplace safety like insisting on wearing steel-toed boots on site (one manager kept trying to get away with loafers without having them be custom made steel-toed loafers) and having an escort walking next to vehicles driven on school property during school hours, as required for student safety. And if she caught anyone on the site not wearing a hard hat, she’d hand them jer stylish pink construction hat to wear. They’d quickly go and replace it with their issued equipment. But the tar and feathers brigade doesn’t want voters to understand what really happened.5
It’s also funny that this shadowy, nameless astroturf groups would smear Brown for safety enforcement in the construction industry, when thanks to the prevalence of overconfidence, workers can and too often do wind up maimed, paralyzed, or dead when they cut corners. But misrepresenting a good managerial trait is more useful to them than going after actual s** harassment right under their noses. From a 2019 post:
As much as we enjoy mining the seemingly bottomless vein of misconduct at CalPERS, we feel compelled to commemorate an incident from last week’s offsite because it so deeply offended the people who saw it live — many of them CalPERS beneficiaries who are retired after decades of honorable government service.
This incident, of General Counsel Matt Jacobs literally draping himself over CEO Marcie Frost’s shoulders for a long tete-a-tete, was a cut-and-dried violation of CalPERS’ Harassment, Discrimination, and Retaliation Prevention Policy. It epitomizes CalPERS’ hypocritical and two-faced posture toward board members and senior staff, by which members of the power faction are never held to account or even criticized. By contrast, those who are seeking to clean up CalPERS’ misconduct and incompetence are often severely sanctioned, in ways designed to interfere with the performance of their fiduciary duties.
This misconduct was highly visible to everyone at the offsite on the Monday of the offsite, July 15. If you look at the YouTube videos of the event, the “grownup” tables were arrayed in a U shape, with the screen and the guest speakers seated on the open portion of the U. Frost and Board President Henry Jones were seated opposite the screen and speakers, with the audience seated in rows behind them. So an estimated 20 CalPERS employees plus beneficiaries and other participants were staring straight at this display.
Reports from a half dozen independent sources show that these witnesses were appalled. In fact, the degree of upset was what led one observer to take the pictures above, noting:
Matt ❤️ Marcie. CalPERS Santa Rosa off-site. I was a little slow with my camera, so I missed the minutes-long embrace from the other side — because I couldn’t believe that this was actually happening.
I was sitting with a woman from XXX and a woman from YYY who both attend SCORE. There was a third woman who I had just met that day who was a [former government job]. They were freaking-out.
It started looking like a casual huddle to whisper, but it lingered on-and-on to the point that the women were saying, “Somebody take a picture, this is completely inappropriate!” Jacobs had draped himself over both of Frost’s shoulders with his left arm, his hand casually cupping one of them. I couldn’t tell if it was a “power move” to dominate her or if there was some sort of creepy mutual cuddle-thing going on, because I couldn’t see their faces.
He’s huge and she’s tiny; which made the whole incident even creepier from the peanut gallery. Just a horrible “look” smack in front of a group of retired female shop-stewards. There’s also still a soupçon of salaciousness.
The original post included reactions from other women at the offsite, which you can find at the end of this post.6
So perhaps instead of Matt Jacobs focusing on his own safety by keeping Marcie Frost and the board under his arm, um, thumb, a win by Brown and Emon-Moran would help put the board back in charge. It might even lead Jacobs to focus on what should be his sole concern, the safety of your pensions:
In case you wondered, that’s not a school bus but the cab of a construction crane, the type that has become famous for falling over in high winds or collapsing because they were not erected correctly.
1 For example, this is the first paragraph of a message one recipient sent to the entire board and forwarded to me. Bear in mind that it is a violation of election laws for anyone at CalPERS to provide confidential beneficiary information to outsiders for the purpose of influencing an election:
Aside from the ethical questions this document raises, 1. the group is ANONYMOUS. 2. There is NO reference to any group like this online and NO ONE ATTACHED A NAME TO THESE DOCUMENTS. 3. WHO AUTHORIZED THE RELEASE OF OUR PRIVATE INFORMATION?? THIS IS A HATCHET JOB and I am LIVID that someone INSIDE CALPERS allowed our mailing addresses to be used in this way! THIS ELECTION IS IMPORTANT and I don’t want ANONYMOUS people or groups trying to influence me or anyone else in this TERRIBLE manner.
2 The letter claims to be from concerned retirees but it is an astroturf group financed by the SEIU State Council. The return address on the envelope is 555 Capitol Mall, Suite 400, the address of one of the attorneys to the SEIU State Council. During the last CalPERS board election the same old boy network sent out a phony but official-looking mailer from State Treasurer Fiona Ma. Ma denied authorizing the mailer but not in any venue that mattered, so the damage was done.
3 Only one was completed after the original schedule, due to factors not under Brown’s control. The San Ramon High School seismic gym replacement was considered completed on time, but it had been delayed due to the discovery of native Native American remains during grading.
4 The administrators fought the plaintiffs and were confident they would prevail. But the superintendent retired and his successor, who didn’t want to be bothered, settled since he could blame the old regime while getting the suit off his desk (never mind the avoidable expense, which fell on taxpayers).
5For the sake of completeness, here are the other fabrications in the hit piece:
Candidate Emon-Moran was “hand picked” by Brown. Brown had never heard of Emon-Moran until she filed her papers with CalPERS to challenge incumbent David Miller. Perhaps this line of attack is to try to neutralize the fact that Brown’s opponent, Jose Luis Pacheco, actually was hand picked by the union bosses behind the hit pieces.
For those of you new to this site, any search of our posts will find that we are strongly pro-union, but also oppose union leadership pursuing strategies that hurt their members, as has been glaringly the case at CalPERS.
Brown is getting a kickback at her current job. Huh? For a minimum wage part time position? Oh, and when Brown is in no position to do favors?
CalPERS spent a lot of money in a suit by Brown. Maybe CalPERS should stop running kangaroo courts by denying due process, specifically by imposing a sanction without even informing Brown what she’d supposedly done, let alone allowing her to make a defense. And it’s not Brown’s fault that CalPERS’ CalPERS San Francisco-based outside lawyers managed to run up an $80,000 bill when Brown spent less than $10,000. I thought the reason CalPERS hired Matt Jacobs was to keep a tighter rein on outside counsel costs in litigation. That certainly hasn’t happened.
6Continuing from the 2019 post:
Audience Member 1: Attorney Mr Jacobs went to CEO Ms. Marcie Frost and proceeded to put his arm around her shoulders to have a private conversation, he then went to board President Mr. Jones and CEO Ms. Frost and repeated this act from the other side. During this interaction the previously mentioned board member [Theresa Taylor] glanced at this interaction and said nothing.
I found the interaction as unacceptable staff interaction and the non action of the board member as conflicting…Persons seated near me commented that the interaction appeared to be inappropriate contact between supervisor and subordinate.
Audience Member 2: His behavior was unsettling. I don’t know if he was being controlling or sexual towards little Marcie but it was unprofessional at best and sexual at worst.
Audience Member 3: It wasn’t appropriate For a staff member and his boss. It was sexual harassment.
Audience Member 4: It was gross. It looked like it could have been sexual but I doubt that. It reminded me more of a big dog we had. He’d put his paw on other dogs to show he was the boss.
It is noteworthy that most of the individuals above were older women. Generally speaking, older women grew up in an era where sexual banter and flirting in the workplace were seen as acceptable within bounds. The fact that women of this age group were deeply disturbed suggests that young women would have been even more upset. But as the last comment made explicit, they were disturbed by the power dynamic. By putting his hands on Frost and keeping them there, Jacobs was making a big and very public display of his dominance.