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Another member of L.A. pension board resigns

Moctesuma Esparza leaves the board amid more state scrutiny of public employee retirement systems. He is the seventh Mayor Villaraigosa appointee to quit a pension post in the past 6 months.

October 28, 2009|David Zahniser

Another pension appointee of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa resigned Tuesday, the seventh to depart in the last six months amid increased scrutiny of the state's public employee retirement systems.

Board member Moctesuma Esparza said in a letter that he was stepping down from the City Employees' Retirement System because of a new law barring pension board members from selling investment products to other public retirement systems.

Assembly Bill 1584, signed earlier this month, is intended "to draw a bright line" between those serving on a board as a public service and those who have private business to promote, said Karon Green, chief consultant to the state Assembly committee that reviewed the bill.

Esparza, 60, said he believes the new law does not preclude his service but stepped down anyway "out of an abundance of caution."

Over the last three years, Esparza has served on the pension board as a volunteer city commissioner while earning $25,000 annually as a consultant to Palladium Equity Partners, according to his financial disclosure forms.

The City Employees' Retirement System board voted to invest up to $10 million in Palladium in 2005, seven months before Esparza was picked by Villaraigosa to serve on the board.

Earlier this year, Palladium had delivered a loss of 12.1% to the City Employees' Retirement System, according to city officials. Overall, the fund lost nearly 20% of its value last year.

Esparza, a film producer, also earns $55,000 annually as a consultant to WalMart.

He is the latest mayoral appointee to step down from two city pension systems.

Two left in May after receiving inquiry letters from the Securities and Exchange Commission.

A third resigned after violating a city campaign finance law. A fourth stepped down because of the new state pension law. Two others cited time constraints.

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david.zahniser@latimes.com

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