CalPERS Web Site Comes Under Scrutiny from State Assemblyman

January 20, 2005 ( - Californian GOP assemblyman Keith Richman is accusing the state's pension fund of breaking state law in posting information regarding the ongoing pension debate in the Golden State.

In a letter to the acting head of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS), Richman called for the site’s closing and for it to be redesigned to satisfy state law governing the use of public resources for campaign issues, according to the Sacramento Bee. The information in question was posted on Tuesday (See CalPERS Adds Pension Proposal Section to Web Site ).Saying the information posted in the “Pension Debate Information Center” was unbalanced and contained inflammatory language, Richman has told President Rob Feckner that he will ask for an investigation from Attorney General Bill Lockyer if no immediate action is taken.

Richman took offense most particularly to four links to material provided by the state’s firefighter’s union that are designed to defeat any measure proposing change, according to the Bee.

“There is not a comprehensive document that described the widely acknowledged benefits of defined contribution plans for some types of employees,” Richman wrote, the Bee said. He has suggested adding information sheets that compare the two types of plans.

CalPERS claims that attorneys approved the site, which was developed to respond to large amounts of inquiries on the potential for alterations to the existing benefits situation in the state.

“We’re aware of the (legal) restrictions. We’re intending this to educate our members. Our goal is to present a balanced view and add to the marketplace of ideas,” said Pat Macht, spokeswoman for CalPERS, the nation’s largest public pension fund with more than $180 billion in assets, according to the Bee. “As far as arguing the pros and cons of any specific legislative proposals, we’ve steered clear of that.” Macht has said that CalPERS would be willing to add more information to the site.

The quarrel over the Web site is embedded in a larger one regarding the future of the Golden State’s pension system. Richman has proposed altering the massive defined benefit system into one comprised of defined contribution plans, at least for new employees (See Assemblyman Floats DC Plan for Golden State Employees ). Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has said he will back up any move to alter the pension system that would make it more economically viable over the long run (See Schwarzenegger Supports CalPERS Overhaul Efforts ).