J.J. Jelincic is taking a break from the CalPERS Board of Administration but may run for re-election in 2018 or 2019. He’ll be paid by the state while he makes up his mind because he has accumulated thousands of hours of unused vacation time. Autumn Payne Sacramento Bee file photo, 2011
J.J. Jelincic is taking a break from the CalPERS Board of Administration but may run for re-election in 2018 or 2019. He’ll be paid by the state while he makes up his mind because he has accumulated thousands of hours of unused vacation time. Autumn Payne Sacramento Bee file photo, 2011

The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

The State Worker

CalPERS leader will get 18 months of salary to decide what he wants to do next

By Adam Ashton

aashton@sacbee.com

January 03, 2018 11:16 AM

Instead of retiring, a two-term CalPERS member will go on vacation, collect his $122,000 salary and get a raise while he figures out what to do next.

J.J. Jelincic accumulated 18 months worth of paid time off over his 31-year career at the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, he said.

It’s a perquisite he’ll gradually draw down as he considers whether he’d like to run again for election to the CalPERS Board of Administration or return to his staff job there as an investment officer.

Another year on the payroll combined with the raises that investment officers received last year through the latest SEIU Local 1000 contract mean that Jelincic’s pension will increase while he delays a decision on retiring. He said the difference would be about 6 percent.

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“Why would I cash that out (by retiring)?” said Jelincic, 69.

Unlike most private sector workers, California state workers can accumulate hundreds of unused vacation hours and cash them out at a time of their choosing.

Employees are not supposed to carry more than 640 hours of vacation – equivalent to four months of work – but it’s not uncommon for state workers to build larger balances of unused personal time off. In an effort to curtail the practice, new labor contracts the state adopted last year allow public employees to cash out up to 80 hours of unused leave every year.

Jelincic, a longtime state labor leader, over the past eight years was among the biggest voices on the CalPERS Board of Administration. He’s urged the board to take on more risk, disclose more information to the public and to sharply question recommendations from the pension fund’s professional staff.

He surprised his colleagues on the 13-member board when he announced last summer that he would not seek re-election to a third term.

Instead, he backed two outsiders who pledged to shake up the board by scrutinizing staff decisions and speaking up for pensioners. One of them, Margaret Brown, won.

“It is clear to me that this board has abdicated its responsibilities to challenge, monitor and supervise the staff,” Jelincic wrote when he announced his decision not to run for a third term.

Jelincic has been censured twice by his peers as a member of the board. He was rebuked once in 2011 after the State Personnel Board found merit to a complaint that he had harassed three female CalPERS employees, and again in 2014 when he was chided for comments he made criticizing the appointment of a chief investment officer. Jelincic disputed the harassment claim.

In May, board President Rob Feckner also directed Jelincic to attend special training on public records after members of the board alleged that Jelincic had improperly leaked information to news outlets.

Jelincic was elected to the board in 2009 and held both positions as an elected board member and an investment officer until 2011. That year, CalPERS chose to continue paying Jelincic as an investment officer but freed him up to work solely as a board member. He has the right to return to his job as an investment officer now that his term as a board member is coming to an end this month.

“J.J. has return rights as an Investment Officer III, and if there’s an opening in the Investment Office that he’s qualified for, we’ll work with him,” CalPERS spokesman Wayne Davis said.

Jelincic plans to take the next couple of months off. He said he’d call CalPERS executives to see if they have an “interesting” job for him after that break.

“We’ll just sort of see,” he said. “If I could collect my full paycheck, why would I want to do something that’s not interesting?”

CalPERS has elections scheduled for 2018 and 2019. If he keeps his job, Jelincic could challenge board member Theresa Taylor, an SEIU 1000 vice president, this year. If he retires, he could run for the seat held by Henry Jones next year.

Jelincic’s last public meeting as a board member took place in December. Feckner presented him with a plaque and thanked him for his service.

“It has been fun and rewarding. It has been frustrating and aggravating. But I would do it again,” Jelincic said.

Adam Ashton: 916-321-1063, @Adam_Ashton. Sign up for state worker news alerts at sacbee.com/newsletters.