A report by an independent law firm paints a bleak
picture indeed of CalPERS' inner workings, alleging
corruption and insider pressure in which a former top executive pushed subordinates to
approve billions of dollars in loans to politically connected firms.
From the LA Times' Marc Lifsher and Stuart Pfeifer: "A 17-month investigation also found that Federico Buenrostro
Jr. — along with former pension fund board members Charles
Valdes and Kurato Shimada — strong-armed a benefits firm to pay more than $4 million in fees to consultant Alfred J.R. Villalobos,
who later hired Buenrostro."
"The report, prepared for the California Public Employees' Retirement
System by Washington law firm Steptoe & Johnson, comes amid widening attacks on public employee
pension funds in California, Wisconsin, Iowa and other
states for providing lavish benefits that cash-strapped governments can no longer afford."
The usual budget pressures are being complicated by
a new issue -- the Republicans' spring convention in Sacramento. The Chronicle's Marisa Lagos and Wyatt Buchanan tell
"And while no budget deal has been reached, Republican
lawmakers already wary of a compromise are facing a
new pressure: At this
weekend's GOP convention, one group is threatening
to label anyone who supports
the governor's plan a traitor."
"The California Republican Assembly, a hard-line
conservative group, has introduced a resolution for
consideration at the party
convention in Sacramento to censure lawmakers who vote
in favor of putting
additional taxes on a special election ballot."
It's not that budget negotiations were going ahead
smoothly: They hit a wall over the weekend and Monday was a day of confusion in the Capitol.
From the Contra Costa Times' Steve Harmon: "Budget
negotiations descended into name calling and finger-pointing Monday after Gov.
Jerry Brown and five Republican lawmakers broke from
a weekend meeting unable
to bridge differences over GOP demands for pension
reform and spending caps.
But both sides said talks are expected to continue,
notwithstanding Assembly GOP Leader Connie Conway's
declaration they were
"done and over." Brown spoke with Republican legislators through the
said his spokesman, Gil Duran."
Moreover, the continuing delay means the chances of a June 7 special election -- which was Brown's plan -- are getting dimmer and dimmer, notes the Bee's Dan Walters.
"Whatever the case, it appeared that Brown's hopes
placing $10 billion-plus a year in tax extensions on a June 7 special-election
ballot had been dashed. Even if a budget agreement
eventually emerges, the
election will almost certainly be delayed."
"That would seem to be a minor hiccup, but having an
election on June 7 – before the summer doldrums set in – has been one of
several conditions Brown hoped would give his plan
its best chance of winning
The Capitol isn't the only California institution in
turmoil. The California Judicial Council, which administers
the court system, faces an insurrection from many judges,
who believe the entire system is mismanaged. Maura Dolan in the LA Times has the story.
"In 2009, Horan helped found a group of judges to challenge
the power and authority of the state's judicial leadership.
After two years of being marginalized as a fringe clique
of black-robed dissidents, the group of largely anonymous judges
is now making friends in Sacramento and gathering strength."
"The insurrection has sparked new legislation, generated
hostility toward the judicial leadership, inundated
judges' mailboxes with caustic e-mails and threatened to throw the state's new chief
justice off-step just as she assumes the reins of the California
From our "You Can't Win" file is the story of a man who has been imprisoned
for 30 years and saved his meager prison work pay. Now, the
state wants it back. Really.
"Kensley Hawkins is a deadbeat, according to the
state of Illinois."
"He owes $455,203.14 to cover the costs of his stay at the
Stateville Correctional Center in Joliet. Hawkins
has been in prison since Nov. 19, 1982. His jailer is also his debt
"Hawkins is fighting in court to stop the state from
seizing about $11,000 in his bank account to partially satisfy the debt.
60-year-old earned the money by working while he's been behind
about $75 a month."
This is when you need your sense of humor...