Jones defeats PE critic Jelincic to stay on CalPERS Board

Henry Jones defeated challenger J.J. Jelincic, a critic of the system’s private equity efforts, to hold onto his seat on the Board of Administration for California Public Employees Retirement System, CalPERS announced Friday.

According to a CalPERS press release, Jones received 76,570 votes, or 65.82 percent of the vote, while Jelincic received 39,495 votes or 34.18 percent of the vote. Results are unofficial until formal certification by the California Secretary of State.

Jones’ victory comes after an acrimonious race that involved allegations of dirty tricks and incompetence against the backdrop of deep disagreements about the future of CalPERS’ private equity program.

“I am honored that the CalPERS retirees have once again put their confidence in me to represent them on the board,” Jones told Buyouts Friday. “I have learned a lot from speaking to and hearing from retirees throughout the state, and will use that information to help protect the promise of retirement security.”

Jones also told Buyouts he plans to run for board president again, saying there are several initiatives that he would like to see through until the end, specifically a board self-evaluation process that included a controversial code of conduct.

“I’m disappointed,” Jelincic told Buyouts Friday. “But they print ballots for a reason.”

Jelincic has long been known as a gadfly in CalPERS affairs, and a vocal critic of the plan to overhaul CalPERS’ private equity program. CalPERS is considering creating its own private equity funds and hiring external managers to run them. Details of the plan are not clear and the process appears to have stalled for most of this year.

Jelincic previously served on the CalPERS board from 2009 to 2017, and before that worked as an investment officer for the $379.94 billion pension. He declined to run for re-election and said the board had become a rubber stamp for staff.

But in April, Jelincic told Buyouts that several new board members may have changed that situation. Recent additions included Corona Police Sergeant Jason Perez, California state treasurer Fiona Ma, Stacie Olivares and Margaret Brown, who has taken on Jelincic’s mantle of board contrarian. Brown and Perez recently voiced their opposition to the PE plan in its current form.

JJ Jelincic, CalPERS, private equity, pension fund, BlackRock

“The current CalPERS ‘model’ is a desperate plan to have a plan,” Jelincic told Buyouts in a statement in April. “That is why it changes every time it is discussed. I would have more confidence if staff would say, ‘We have made this change and here is why.’ Instead, staff just describes it differently without even acknowledging a change.”

Jones recently made news when he told the Retired Public Employees Association of California at a picnic that potential PE managers had walked from talks with CalPERS due to press leaks. He has been board president this year while it has considered the code of conduct, which Brown told Buyouts would lessen the board’s ability to question staff.

During the election, a mailer went out to voters designed to look like a letter from Ma, though she denied any role in it. The group that sent the mailer was linked to the Service Employees International Union by the Sacramento Bee. Jelincic’s previous discipline at CalPERS over charges of sexual harassment were highlighted in the mailer, and were an issue in general during the election.

CalPERS did not discuss the PE overhaul or the code of conduct at its most recent meeting. Earlier this year, it hired Altamont’s Greg Ruiz to run its private equity program.

Jones’ new term begins Jan. 16, 2020 and runs until Jan. 15, 2024.

Jelincic told Buyouts he expected he will continue to be engaged with CalPERS affairs.

“I’ve got 35 years in, so I’m unlikely to go away, though I think some of the management would prefer that I do so,” he said.

Action Item: Read CalPERS’ most recent meeting materials here.