Please, Vote for Somebody in the CalPERS Board Election. Your Money Is at Stake.

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Yves here. It is September, and as in most years, a CalPERS board election is underway. CalPERS has a one-month balloting period and plan participants who are eligible to vote in a particular contest have a month to vote by mail, phone, or Internet (you can guess which method we prefer). This year, the seat up for grabs is chosen by the retirees, which is a large pool among the CalPERS beneficiaries.

Randy Cheek, one of the three candidates, writes below to urge eligible members to vote. Sadly one of the reasons CalPERS gets away with being so badly run is that voter turnout is so terrible that it’s not difficult for staff to make board members think they should worry more about staff than the beneficiaries, even though the board has a fiduciary duty to beneficiaries.

Cheek has the backing of the most public employee retirement groups RPEA, CHP Retirees, CSU-ERFSA, UAPD Retirees, AFSCME retirees, as well as many former board members: JJ Jelensic, Margaret Brown, George Diehr, Michael Flaherman, Richard Costigan and Jason Perez. Another factor in Cheek’s favor is that no current board members support him thanks to his criticism of the board. Needless to say, lot of money is being spent by SEIU as they have done on the past four CalPERS elections to try to make sure the union chiefs and not the beneficiaries call the shots.

By.Randy Cheek, a Carmichael resident, candidate for CalPERS Board, and Legislative Director of the Retired Public Employees Association

Vote (somebody) for CalPERS Board. The California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) is the nation’s largest public-employees pension fund. CalPERS is also the second largest purchaser of healthcare in the country. Only Medicare is larger. The fund manages nearly $500 billion in assets. It serves more than 2 million members and families.

From late August through late September, more than 650,000 retired CalPERS members will have the vitally important chance to vote for the one seat that they can directly elect to the Board. Yet, recent history shows that fewer than 20 percent of those eligible will vote in this election to choose a representative who will help guide a pension system that generates $28 billion in economic activity for California – $2.69 billion in Sacramento County alone!

Without diminishing the importance of the upcoming statewide elections, all CalPERS members and families must realize that the race for this Board seat involves a far larger electorate and has far more economic impacts than many of the offices and ballot measures on the November ballot.

It is vital that you vote for a candidate who shares your values and will fight to protect retiree interests on the Board.

In recent years CalPERS management has cultivated an atmosphere of secrecy and denial of access to information every member needs and deserves. CalPERS mismanagement has lost our pension fund millions through questionable real estate dealings. It spends more on outside private equity managers than on its entire staff.

Additionally, CalPERS has sorely mismanaged the long-term care program, leaving more than 60,000 policyholders wondering whether they will be able to afford long-term care. This is a disgrace, and it must be stopped!

It gets worse: An ex-Board member was indicted for malfeasance. A CEO was jailed for pay-to-play practices. A CIO resigned over conflicts of interest.

How did CalPERS respond? It “circled the wagons,” opting for more secrecy and less transparency. How can these practices protect members? They cannot!

Yet management has been getting bonuses for “almost” doing their job. This is ridiculous. It is the Board’s job to hold its agents accountable. CalPERS retirees must elect a Board member who will fight for ALL CalPERS retirees, who will end secrecy, attack mismanagement, and demand transparency.

There are three candidates running for the CalPERS Board Retired Member seat: Tim Behrens, Retired Program Director from the Department of Developmental Services; Yvonne Walker, recently retired Legal Secretary from the Department of Justice, and me, Randy Cheek, Retired Legislative Liaison with the California State Lottery.

Although I very much would appreciate your vote more important is that you read our statements, Google and research our histories and above all VOTE FOR SOMEBODY.

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11 comments

  1. The Rev Kev

    All I will say about the CalPERS Board election is this. If you live in California, I would definitely vote for one of the better candidates for a simple reason. When CalPERS eventually blows themselves up, Californians will have to depend on Californian politicians to save their pensions. People like Nancy Pelosi and Gavin Newsom. Yeah, right. Their idea would probably involve in a variation of a bail-in. This being the case, it would be better to make sure that it never comes to that and to vote for a solid candidate that will keep the Board in their gunsights and hold them to account.

    Reply
    1. Yves Smith Post author

      CalPERS beneficiaries over-rely on the fact that they have a constitutional guarantee of their benefits. But California puts a ton of stuff in its Constitution that other states don’t. More important, CalPERS was established in the early 1930s and the state backstop was added only in the early 1990s. What the legislature gives, it can take away.

      Reply
      1. hdude

        I don’t know the candidates. I really don’t have the time or capacity to research them. I just need someone I trust to make recommendations on this.

        Reply
          1. Ana

            Thank you. I’m retired from the State and have been hosed by CalPERS over long term care. I plan to vote.
            Ana in Sacramento

            Reply
      2. ChrisPacific

        During the last California budget crisis, there was a good deal of rhetoric targeting public sector guaranteed benefits. If everything else has been sufficiently crapified, an actually-decent pension plan can be portrayed as ‘greedy’ by comparison. The court of public opinion can very easily swing behind legislative action to remove guarantees.

        If CalPERS were to crash and burn and the state government was facing a need to invest huge resources to make good on a guarantee at a time when other constituencies in the state were suffering, I think beneficiaries would find out in a hurry exactly how much the guarantee was worth.

        Reply
  2. George Leddy

    The big issue is divestment of the investment portfolio of fossil fuel and energy companies with big nuclear and coal/gas plants. This is a crucial message and action that will allow those of us who want to retire in the next few years to at least feel assured that our monthly pension checks do not come from profits made by planet-killing companies.

    Reply
  3. flora

    Thanks, Yves. The relative silence in the comments section makes me think the commentariat is considering this very deeply, no easy peasy responses, and not that they are uninterested. imo. I could make a comment about moving public funds under public guidance to private funds under private control, for example, but will refrain.

    Reply
  4. ambrit

    Alas, we live nowhere near California. [Alas!!??]
    The main benefit for those of us not directly affected by this is as a cautionary tale with which to inform our decisions dealing with similar situations closer to home. Local political races and, for we Geezers and Geezettes, the National Social Security System.
    I should add to the above the Coronavirus 2019 responses. For those of us over a “certain age,” Corona-19 is a literal kiss of death. Look at the demographic where the majority of the deaths resulting from corona-19 infection come from. For Phyl and I, we just need to look in the mirror.
    Stay safe, and if you are a CaLPERS member, VOTE!

    Reply
  5. David in Santa Cruz

    Any CalPERS retiree who doesn’t have the stomach for a diet of cat food should vote for Randy Cheek.

    I am a CalPERS retiree and consider Mr. Cheek to be a personal friend. He is a union/labor activist from the Old School, when worker rights trumped sinecures for “leadership.” He understands that strong pension trusts become stable and sustainable by putting their members and beneficiaries first, by being transparent and scrupulously honest, and by demanding excellence from highly-qualified executives and staff — values to which CalPERS pays lip service but has comprehensively abandoned.

    Reply

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