Opinion

CalPERS big shot says he didn’t proposition the women or smell their hair. How is that a defense?

The women didn’t care about politics. All they wanted, all they asked for, was that an office creep leave them alone so they could do their jobs. Period.

That’s why they complained to their superiors at CalPERS, the Sacramento-based investment fund that boasts of having a “zero tolerance” policy on these matters.

But that policy turned out to be bogus. It turned out, other ranking men at CalPERS had little appetite to deal with him.

This was even though an administrative law judge found that the stories of three women who reported him – J.J. Jelincic, who was a CalPERS big shot – were credible. This was in 2011 with almost no media coverage, almost no consequences. The women felt their stories were discarded.

Oh, but that’s not all: Jelincic is not only unrepentant, he says the women pretty much made up the stories that a judge found credible. Jelincic chalks all up to politics.

Opinion

He said that again on Tuesday at a CalPERS candidates forum.

He said “dark money” is being raised to scuttle his bid to re-join the CalPERS board. As a member before, he harassed three women, State Personnel Board Administrative Law Judge Teri L. Block ruled. On Tuesday, The Bee reported that some unions are raising a lot of money to take out Jelincic.

There are a lot of reasons for this that are of no interest to me.

I first told Jelincic’s story of harassment in July because it had been swept under the rug and because it was not political. He referred to my column Tuesday as “a hit piece and it’s a nine-year-old event.”

“It was not even alleged that I touched anyone, propositioned anyone, smelled anyone’s hair, or even asked them to join me for a cup of coffee,” he said. He complimented a woman’s shoes, he said, he apologized, was reprimanded and the matter was closed.

He said, “I do recognize that times have changed and I’m sorry to have offended.”

That’s his defense?

I heard what the women say he did. I listened to the testimony of the women who spoke of how he objectified them by looking them up and down in the workplace. He’d make juvenile noises when they walked by. He’d arrange for them to come to his work area so he could check them out.

Jelincic was a board member on CalPERS at the time. He had power and he seemed to pick his marks carefully: They were low-level office workers with no power base or fancy titles

I sat with one of the women who, eight years later, is still seething and watching nothing happen to Jelincic even though Block found their claims had merit.

None of Jelincic’s accusers wants to speak publicly, and who could blame them? Let’s look at what happened after they spoke out in 2011.

The woman on the board who did insist that CalPERS do something to Jelincic – Priya Mathur – was later defeated by – wait for it – Jason Perez, a supporter of Jelincic.

Perez, a cop in the city of Corona, supports Jelincic in his current run for the CalPERS board. I’ve tried to talk to Perez about this but he doesn’t return my calls. Perez is the guy who has described himself as “a certified good guy.”

Yeah, what a good guy. What a joke.

CalPERS constantly brags about its “zero tolerance” policy on workplace harassment. CalPERS preaches the same hypocritical line to other companies: You better not have any #MeToo messes or else CalPERS won’t invest in you.

Jelincic is living proof that these claims are worthless. Not only is he unrepentant about what he did, he says the women made most of it up. And now he’s trying to sell CalPERS members that he is a victim of “politics,” that he is a “straight shooter” who speaks out against CalPERS management.

CalPERS retirees have until the end of September to vote on Jelincic or his opponent, Henry Jones.

I would never suggest to people how they should vote but I will say this: I don’t cover state politics for a living. I don’t care about Jelincic’s politics or if statewide unions want to take him out.

I told this story because I believed the women and because I didn’t think they were political at all. Quite the contrary.

“I’ve had women come up to me crying and thanking me for speaking out on this,” said Charity Bowman, a CalPERS employee who challenged the board to do something about Jelincic at last month’s CalPERS board meeting.

I told this story because I hate bullies. I told this story because it was the kind of case that didn’t use to get reported before #MeToo, because Jelincic basically thumbs his nose at #MeToo and because CalPERS could not be more hypocritical about workplace harassment.

If Jelincic wins his race, so be it. But the arguments against his bid aren’t about politics. They’re about right and wrong, they’re about behavior that was ruled unacceptable. If we accept his politics argument, then we don’t grasp why harassed women are reluctant to speak out.

CalPERS sexual harassment complaint

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Marcos Breton writes commentary and opinion columns about the Sacramento region, California and the United States. He’s been a California newspaperman for more than 30 years. He’s a graduate of San Jose State University, a voter for the Baseball Hall of Fame and the proud son of Mexican immigrants.
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