The State Worker

CalPERS CEO with no college degree: ‘Integrity’ or ‘sad, sad circus?’

CalPERS retiree testifies about losing his CalPERS pension

John Cussins, a Loyalton city councilman and pensioner, addresses a CalPERS panel Sept. 20, 2016. Video courtesy of CalPERS.
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John Cussins, a Loyalton city councilman and pensioner, addresses a CalPERS panel Sept. 20, 2016. Video courtesy of CalPERS.

A coalition of public employee unions is doubling down on its support for CalPERS CEO Marcie Frost, who has been taking heat for several weeks since a financial blogger drew attention to alleged misrepresentations in Frost’s job application and in a press announcement describing her background.

The Labor Coalition on Sept. 5 sent its letter backing Frost to CalPERS Board of Administration President Priya Mathur.

The letter, signed by California School Employees Association President Dave Low, praises Frost’s outreach to unions and public agencies. It criticizes Susan Webber, the corporate management consultant and Naked Capitalism blogger, who wrote the original pieces drawing attention to public announcements that portrayed Frost as enrolled in a college program when in fact Frost was not actively pursuing a degree.

“Our understanding is that the CalPERS board hired Marcie Frost with full knowledge of her resume, experience and education. Whether Frost has, or is currently pursuing a college degree, is therefore immaterial as long as the CalPERS board knew the facts when they made the decision to hire her. For those who believe a college degree is a requisite for a CEO, I have five words, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates,” Low wrote.

He wasn’t the only person likening CalPERS’ decision to hire Frost without a college degree to the Apple CEO Jobs. Guy Kawasaki, an early Apple marketing specialist, made the same connection on Twitter.

He tweeted a headline that began, “CalPERS hired a CEO without a college degree,” and added, “So did Apple.”

The praise does not mean Frost is in the clear. The Sacramento Bee published a story following Webber’s reporting, and many more people learned that Frost did not have a degree when the CalPERS board chose her to lead the nation’s largest public pension fund.

“CalPERS, responsible pension organization, or sad, sad circus?” wrote Lois Henry, a former Bakersfield Californian editor, on Twitter.

The board chose Frost because of her record leading Washington state’s public pension fund. It’s expected to discuss her performance at a regularly scheduled review later this month. Webber on Thursday published a letter from a former deputy state controller urging the CalPERS board to dismiss Frost.

“What message does the retention of the CEO send to all CalPERS active and retired members who have pursued education goals and accurately presented their qualifications for their positions?” Terrence McGuire, the former deputy controller wrote. “The board failed the membership in the CEO hiring process; I hope the board does not fail them again in the termination process.”

Low’s support for Frost is not unexpected. He often speaks for labor to defend the state’s public pension funds and unions have a large voice at CalPERS because they advocate for current employees and retirees.

His letter to Mathur was supported by the California Teachers Association, California Professional Firefighters, SEIU Local 1000, Peace Officers Research Association of California, Professional Engineers in California Government., International Union of Operating Engineers and a number of other state and local unions.