CalPERS board member Priya Mathur is fined $4,000

The state’s political watchdog panel fined public pension board member Priya Mathur $4,000 for not submitting a required statement of economic interests on time, and state Treasurer Bill Lockyer proposed that directors be barred from carrying out their official duties if they fail to file financial disclosure papers.

Mathur, a two-term director of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, missed the deadline on her 2008 statement by nine months — the third time she has been fined for not filing such documents.

But state Fair Political Practices Commission members were particularly upset about reports that she repeatedly evaded service of legal papers and other telephone and mail efforts to reach her. They increased the $3,000 penalty the FPPC staff had recommended.

Mathur was not at the meeting and could not be reached for comment.

Lockyer, who also sits on the 13-person CalPERS board, said Mathur’s lackadaisical attitude toward her reporting requirements “was really the last straw.”

“Ms. Mathur has been an outstanding representative on the CalPERS board, but the FPPC reporting requirements are not options and they can’t be ignored,” he said. “This is negligence pure and simple, and the board must take action to guarantee the highest ethical standards.”

Lockyer’s proposal, which has the support of CalPERS board President Rob Feckner, is expected to be discussed by a governance committee as early as next week and could be considered by the full board at its June meeting.

Feckner said he wants to change board policy to require that all economic-interest filings be sent first to his office to make sure that all members have complied.

“If and when they don’t file, for whatever reason, I am proposing that they be suspended until such time as they are compliant,” Feckner said.

Mathur, 36, is one of about 100,000 state elected, appointed and civil service officials required to submit annual Statements of Economic Interest under California’s 1974 Political Reform Act. The disclosures help public officials steer clear of potential conflicts of interest and make information about any actual conflicts available to the public.

Mathur’s failure to file statements comes at a particularly sensitive time for CalPERS. The $206-billion pension fund is reeling from a scandal involving allegations that some former officials used gifts and personal influence to direct billions of dollars in investments to outside money managers.

Mathur, who works full-time as a financial analyst with the Bay Area Rapid Transit District, also was fined $3,000 last month for not filing her 2007 statement on time. She filed both the 2007 and the 2008 statements in January following newspaper reports about her missing documents.

This year’s statement was filed by the March 3 deadline. Her reports state that she has “no reportable” financial interests.

Four years ago, Mathur paid a $6,000 penalty for problems related to her filings after she was elected to the CalPERS board in 2002.

She is seeking reelection to a third four-year term in October and is being supported by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

In legal documents, commission staff said Mathur “completely failed to cooperate with the investigation or the procedural administration of the case, and caused the enforcement division to expend great effort and resources to serve her with each of the required notifications.”

Mathur’s actions irritated at least one commissioner. Elizabeth Garrett suggested the commission “get her attention” by hiking the fine to $4,000.

“She has for some time and in a serial fashion refused to comply with the requirement to file” the statements, Garrett said, suggesting that fines be “escalated” for repeat offenders.