Monday, December 31, 2007

Molly Janczyk re: Legal fees at STRS

From Molly Janczyk, December 31, 2007
Subject: Legal Fees
I feel that what is not understood is that a policy saying that STRS “will provide legal representation to employees who need it in connection with the proper executive of their duties” would open the door for employees to ALWAYS argue that they need legal representation (no matter what they did) because they would say that the matter at hand resulted from the “proper execution of their duties.” If a Board member has a parent teacher conference tonight, and he/she feels threatened by a parent, would he/she be allowed to go out and hire a lawyer for advice, then turn in a bill after-the-fact? After all, this in line of duty as a teacher when the parent was viewed as threatening. We could have thousands of teachers submitting such fees. We have union attorneys to give such advice. Is OEA saying that their union attorneys are not good enough?
Employees can always, always, always argue they were doing something associated with their jobs. How about if a teacher/Board member shoves or grabs a high school student discharging the responsibilities to break up a student fight or when being severely badmouthed? We all know at times, educators' tempers are lost as well. Duty or temper? Do we go to a personal attorney for advice or call OEA? Again, is OEA inferior in its support?
What if an STRS employee is fired for making serious calculation errors? The employee, under a policy seemingly currently desired by some board members, then would be able to argue that the board owes him/her legal counsel support to fight the board because the alleged miscalculations occurred when he/she was discharging his/her duties. Is it a good idea to adopt a policy forcing the board to give employees legal counsel to fight the board? Such cases need paid for by the employee.
The reasons are endless as to why it is inadvisable to have a blanket policy that attempts to say WHEN the pension system will pay for employees’ legal counsel support as they can vary in numbers by the number of employees and their individual case.
WHY would an employee want one individual making such a decision. That is a roll of the dice as to whether the current Exec. Direc. holds you in high esteem or not. If you are not a 'politics' player, you may not be in the in circle. I'd sure want an objective Board of individuals coming with experience beyond one person to judge me over one subjective person.
It is a case-by-case matter judged on its merits, and the STRS Board should have to decide in each case as a majority. In the case of the 3 STRS employees who went out and selected lawyers when former STRS Board members were facing charges, the board did not get to vote on any of them. None of them sought board approval in advance. Everything was after-the-fact………..and it happened because the STRS Board majority seemed remiss to do anything about it as they do now.
Proposed policy, as amended by Bill Neville:
“Unless required by law, associate legal fees will not be paid without approval of the board.”
This policy is case by case as stated by the AG Office as well.
This lets the board members, the executive director, and employees know that they are rolling the dice if they are hoping for the board (after the fact) to pay for the legal advice that they have arranged on their own. This whole thing should be so simple to understand, and it is so discouraging that it is not.
Based on history, many members are not trusting of a blanket policy with only the Exec. Direc. determining the scenario. I know I am not.
We have 2 legal opinions on this matter: Neville and the AG: Patterson.
What is the problem?
I see only a control issue here being exercised by OEA and its Board members to ensure that the Exec. Direc. have a blanket policy.
AGAIN: How many such cases are expected?
I assume few to none.
Let's move on. Much ado about nothing, it seems.
Just attempts to control.
STRS is improved by all accounts due to more oversight and policy change.
Why is OEA trying to stop what has made for renewed trust and respect? What is OEA afraid of ?
I hear that some OEA members are not happy with past representation by their union and so are subjectively, it seems to me, placing their mindset onto this issue for STRS.
I understand any employee would be most happy to have guarantees but if one does their job within the objective boundaries, they should be no problems.
You know, folks, if someone wants you gone, ways will be found. And I have found that those who are gotten rid of were with basis. The only guarantees are what YOU provide making sure no one can question your abilities and guidelines. That's reality! We all had iffy principals and administrators. Some like you and others - not so much. Would you really want one of them deciding your future?
Making sure our jobs were done well by all accounts ensured our longevity giving no room for deciding otherwise. I guess I don't see why this fuss is about and I sure didn't have every administrator love me since I ask questions. Some welcome input; others find it horribly offensive but I always got outstanding evaluations because I worked hard and got results and helped other educators get results so their wasn't room for any problems.
Not touting myself, just wondering why the worry.
It is not hard to protect yourself with your own performance.

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