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CalPERS board member to defend allegations he revealed closed session information

CalPERS board member J.J. Jelincic has hired a lawyer known for specializing in First Amendment cases as he fights charges that he disclosed information from closed session.

The charges could lead to him being disciplined by the board.

Brad Pacheco, a spokesman for the $308 billion Sacramento-based pension fund, confirmed in an email that board President Rob Feckner authorized Mr. Jelincic to hire a CalPERS-paid lawyer of his choosing. Mr. Jelincic, who denies disclosing closed session board information, said in an interview that he has hired Karl Olson, a San Francisco lawyer known for defending media organizations in First Amendment cases.

Board member Bill Slaton publicly accused Mr. Jelincic at a board meeting on Jan. 19 of disclosing closed session board information and asked for Mr. Jelincic's resignation. Mr. Slaton did not go into specifics in terms of the alleged disclosures made by Mr. Jelincic.Mr. Jelincic, known for his aggressive questioning of the California Public Employees' Public Retirement System's investment policies, said he can't respond to Mr. Slaton's charges without knowing the accusations. He said he is unaware of disclosing any confidential information.

“I take great care to keep closed session information private,” he said.

Mr. Slaton said at the Jan. 19 meeting: “If he chooses to remain on the board, I ask the board president to place on the board agenda as soon as possible an action item regarding a sanction or sanctions to be imposed by this board. And one sanction I ask to be considered would prohibit Mr. Jelincic from attending any closed sessions conducted by any committee or the full board while he remains a member of this board due to his repeated unauthorized disclosure of confidential material.”

Mr. Pacheco said Mr. Feckner has decided to have a joint private meeting with Mr. Slaton and Mr. Jelincic “so that Bill can share his concerns with J.J., and JJ can have an opportunity to consider the information. After that meeting, Rob will decide next steps.”

In an emailed statement to Pensions & Investments, Mr. Slaton said:

“Mr. Jelincic often raises good points about many important issues that come before the board. But as board members, we have to take great care to think through what we say and when we say it. We have to trust that what we discuss in closed session, like investment strategies that could move markets, will stay in closed session until it's appropriate to talk about them publicly, and that confidential attorney-client privilege, litigation strategy, and other information we obtain and that we need to do our jobs effectively, will remain confidential.”

Mr. Jelincic said the meeting has been proposed for early March.