By Randy Cheek
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—$470 million in San Luis Obispo 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, research our histories and above all VOTE FOR SOMEBODY.
Randy Cheek is Legislative Director of the Retired Public Employees Association and a
candidate for CalPERS Board.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of Citizens Journal