Lag On Taxes, Get Appointed to State Commission!

Being a tax-skipping muffler-shop owner doesn't look good on anyone's political résumé—unless you're Miguel Pulido.

Governor Gray Davis on Sept. 10 appointed the longtime Santa Ana mayor to serve on the California State Teachers' Retirement System Board (CalSTRS). The appointment makes Pulido one of eight people overseeing the largest teachers' retirement system in the United States, with investments totaling more than $100 billion.

The powerful position comes to Pulido after almost two years of intense lobbying on his behalf, including a hasty re-drafting of California law. Before 2002, the state education code prohibited elected officials from serving on CalSTRS. Section 22200 of the code, which deals exclusively with CalSTRS, also stated the only people eligible to serve on CalSTRS were school teachers (both current and retired) and individuals with at least five years of professional investing experience.

Pulido is neither a teacher nor an investment banker, but he has friends, including Davis and former state Senator Richard Polanco (D-Los Angeles). Through Polanco, Pulido labored strenuously to change Section 22200 so he'd be eligible for a board post. It worked. Polanco's Senate Bill 1746, which included an amendment allowing elected officials with minimal investment experience to join the CalSTRS board, was approved by the Legislature in August 2002 and ultimately signed into law by Davis.

“To deny elected officials the opportunity to serve simply because of potential incompatibility could result in the loss of valuable expertise and public experience,” argued SB 1746. “To randomly deny elected officials the ability to participate simply because of an unspecified potential of incompatibility could deprive pension funds of some of the public's best money managers.”

Pulido has some experience with the government and finances: he's currently under investigation by the California Fair Political Practices Commission for failing to disclose all of his financial interests in his Statement of Economic Interests filing papers. A current lawsuit by longtime Pulido foe Nativo Lopez alleges that Pulido has been withholding all of his business and investment contracts in Orange County for years. And documents obtained by the Weekly reveal that Ace Muffler Shop, which Pulido says is his primary source of income, went through three tax liens in the past year—$5,788 on Dec. 18, 2002; $8,167 on March 25, 2003; and $731 on May 21, 2003.

Nearly every profile of Pulido notes that he still thinks of himself as a simple grease monkey who ran for a City Council seat in 1986 only because the City Council threatened to impose burdening regulations on his family's business. But such a depiction of humble beginnings no longer tells the full story. Pulido is now one of Orange County's most politically connected public officials, serving on boards for the Orange County Transportation Authority, the Pacific Symphony Orchestra, the Discovery Science Museum, the UC Irvine Foundation, the Bowers Museum, Community Commerce Bank, the Orange County Great Park corporate board—and now CalSTRS. Nice work for a man who still claims changing mufflers to be his calling in life.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *