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Two weeks ago, the county’s retirement board was poised to outsource its investment staff and hand $10.6 million of investment work to Lee Partridge, a newly hired investment consultant, based on his recommendation. That raised questions about the potential conflict of interest his involvement posed.

Fast forward to this morning: The pension board is still moving toward outsourcing the investment staff after a board meeting. But Partridge will be forced to submit a competitive bid and stay out of the process of reviewing them.

The pension board voted today to solicit bids from an unspecified number of invited companies to oversee its $7.2 billion pension fund, a decision that will allow outside companies to compete for work the county does in-house today.

Partridge said he’d submit a bid but wouldn’t have a role in the review process. “They need to keep me out of it,” he said in an interview.

Steven Rice, the pension board’s attorney, said Partridge’s involvement wasn’t an illegal conflict, but did create the appearance of a conflict. “Perception is very, very important,” he said.

Treasurer-Tax Collector Dan McAllister and county Supervisor Dianne Jacob, pension board members who’d questioned earlier plans to give work to Partridge, supported the bid solicitation. But their support for hiring a winning bidder later this spring isn’t a given — they both expressed continued concerns about the outsourcing plan.

Those questions left Partridge, who was hired as a consultant last year for a position that was never advertised, defending himself without being called to do so. He read from a lengthy statement at the outset of the discussion, quoting Colossians and Robert Frost, citing the sovereignty of Jesus Christ and referring to himself in the third person. He told the board he supported soliciting bids from others for the work he wants.

“This board owes Lee Partridge nothing,” Partridge said.

— ROB DAVIS

Dagny Salas

Dagny Salas was web editor at Voice of San Diego from 2010 to 2013. She was an investigative fellow at VOSD from 2009 to 2010.

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