The State Worker

In crackdown on leaks, CalPERS board disciplines one of its own

CalPERS Board of Administration member J.J. Jelincic must attend open government training because several of his colleagues believe he has leaked confidential information to the press.
CalPERS Board of Administration member J.J. Jelincic must attend open government training because several of his colleagues believe he has leaked confidential information to the press. Sacramento Bee file

The CalPERS Board of Administration won’t publicly settle an argument about whether one of its members leaked confidential information to the press, but it will compel the suspected source to attend special training on open-government laws.

J.J. Jelincic, a member of the board who is up for re-election this year, must attend the training at UC Berkeley. He disclosed the discipline in a public statement this week and said it was a decision from California Public Employees’ Retirement System Board of Administration President Rob Feckner.

Jelincic disputes that he improperly leaked information to news outlets. He says he wants to defend himself in public.

“I have tried to be cooperative, but recent events have shown that my cooperation has been taken as tacit agreement that the charges are legitimate. They are NOT,” he wrote in a statement.

Feckner told The Sacramento Bee that he considered evidence Jelincic had disclosed information from closed-session meetings and determined that Jelincic had violated that board’s policies. Feckner declined to describe the information, saying that doing so would repeat Jelincic’s error.

“This has been an issue from the beginning. It’s been about trust, trust among the board members,” Feckner said.

Jelincic’s directive to attend training is a step down from accusations he faced at a January CalPERS meeting in Monterey, where fellow board member Bill Slaton called for Jelincic’s resignation.

If Jelincic refused to resign, Slaton suggested that the board censure him and bar him from attending closed-session meetings. Slaton’s request was first reported by the blog Naked Capitalism, which posted a video of the exchange and a transcript.

“You’ve taken unilateral actions that to me are clear violations of fiduciary duty, and by implication placed our fiduciary duty as a board at risk, and the common theme is the disrespect for the governing rules of the organization,” Slaton told Jelincic at the January meeting.

Slaton did not describe what information he suspected that Jelincic had wrongly distributed.

Priya Mathur, another board member, also suggested at the meeting that Jelincic had inappropriately released information. She, too, did not detail what she thought Jelincic had leaked.

Jelincic described two charges he faced in his meeting with Feckner. He said in both instances, information that the board discussed in closed session reached the public through sources other than him. Feckner told The Bee Jelincic was disciplined in part for discussing a lawsuit in public.

Jelincic argues the information he allegedly disclosed had already been made public by others. “Make (the charges) public,” Jelincic said. “Put it out there, what I said. By board policy, if something has been put in the public domain, it’s no longer confidential.”

Feckner on Wednesday said Slaton raised concerns about Jelincic because several board members in anonymous surveys before the January meeting said they believed Jelincic had improperly leaked information. Slaton did not respond to a request for comment from The Bee.

Karl Olson, Jelincic’s attorney, cast the order to attend training as a victory for the board member, saying that CalPERS had backed down from the more serious discipline that was raised at the January meeting.

“In my opinion this is really vindication for him,” Olson said.

Jelincic, a CalPERS investment officer and former state government union leader, was first elected to the CalPERS Board of Administration in late 2009. He has been rebuked by his colleagues twice, once in 2011 after the State Personnel Board found merit to a complaint that he had harassed three female CalPERS employees, and again in 2014 when he was chided for comments he made criticizing the appointment of a chief investment officer. Jelincic disputed the harassment claim.

At board meetings, he’s known for sharp questioning of CalPERS staff rooted in part in his experience working for the pension fund.

“There has been a tendency at CalPERS to take an over-broad view of confidentiality on certain things, and I think that J.J. has been a breath of fresh air on the board,” Olson said.

Feckner said he believed Jelincic was using the dust-up over leaks to further his re-election campaign this year.

“We’d like to have a collegial board again, a board that works together,” Feckner said. “Mr. Jelincic can have great value if he puts his efforts in a positive manner.”

Adam Ashton: 916-321-1063, @Adam_Ashton. Sign up for state worker news alerts at sacbee.com/newsletters.

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