Thursday, December 27, 2007

Dennis Leone on Meuser memos: 'Try it and see how your superintendent and school board members react'

Dennis Leone to Molly Janczyk, December 26, 2007
Subject: Reaction to Meuser Memos
Molly – I have read and re-read what Mark Meuser sent you. He is an example of a board member with no experience in these areas. He pops off with statements as if he knows what he is talking about, and he clearly does not. This is a flashback to what happened with the likes of Hazel Sidaway, Jack Chapman, Eugene Norris, et al.
1. Meuser wrote: “Even with Mr. Neville’s re-statement, the basic problem with the motion is its attempt to vest the board with the authority to determine whether employees are eligible for legal fees.”
Reply: Well, Mark, I guess you fail to realize that the board absolutely needs to have the authority to determine whether employees are eligible for board-paid legal fees, just like your school board needs to have the authority to determine whether YOU are eligible for board-paid legal fees at Gahanna-Lincoln. It is incredible that you simply don’t understand this. I guess it was okay with you, Mark, that 3 employees determined – for themselves – what law firm would be used to represent them and what the hourly rates would be for their attorneys……with no board involvement whatsoever. What you wrote above, Mark, shows that you are not tuned in to what my motion (re-written by Neville) really says – which is THAT UNLESS REQUIRED BY LAW, STAFF MEMBER LEGAL FEES WILL NOT BE PAID WITHOUT BOARD APPROVAL. This is not an attempt to “vest” anything. One does not have to be a rocket scientist to see the simple logic of this motion.
2. Meuser wrote: “The motion in question is a change in board policy.” No it is not. How can it be a change in board policy when no policy exists in the first place? If passed, it definitely will be a change in the practice of the STRS executive director making such decisions (like severance cash and free health insurance for laid off STRS employees) without a formal vote of the board.
3. Meuser wrote: “According to state statute, this falls under the purview of the Attorney General.” No, Mark, you are dead wrong. The ability of the Board (confirmed by John Patterson of the AG Office) to approve my motion and determine when legal fees should be paid is clear and undeniable. The fact that there may be times that the STRS Board legally has to represent its employees (just like there are times your school board HAS to represent you) does not give employees the right to go out and hire their own law firm when THEY feel they need to be represented. This is such common sense that it is embarrassing for me to write about it.
4. Meuser wrote: “It could occur if the AG were unable to represent the employee due to a conflict of interest, rather than a decision based on the merits of the case.” There you go again, Mark – acting like you know what you are talking about. Mark, when a conflict exists with the AG, he appoints someone else. Case closed.
5. Meuser wrote: “The executive director has the responsibility to protect the system from lawsuits, which is a real possibility if the system refused to pay for representation of an employee who did not act outside his or her duties in a wanton manner. “ What you completely fail to understand, Mark, is that employees do not determine on their own if they are acting outside their duties. The board does. You don’t decide whether there will be monitors on Gahanna-Lincoln’s yellow buses, your school board does. You don’t decide, Mark, whether it is okay to let your students leave school early at the end of the day, your school board does. And just because you may feel like you are not acting “outside your duties in a wanton manner,” you have no right to go out on your own, select a law firm, determine hourly rates for lawyers, then expect your school board to pay for everything after-the-fact. Try it and see how your superintendent and school board members react. The greater possibility of lawsuits in the future, in my mind, will be from retirees who see their pension money being spent with complete disregard to ORC 3307.15.
Given Mark’s decision a few months ago to vote no on my motion to require the STRS Board to review summaries of big ticket contracts before the Board votes on them, I really should not be surprised by his opposition to my motion summarized in No. 1 above. It is this kind of attitude that produced the problems that plagued STRS in years past.
Dennis Leone

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