Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Dennis Leone, Molly Janczyk, John Curry; discussion re: legal fees and STRS Board policies

Dennis Leone to Molly Janczyk, January 1, 2008
Subject: RE: Legal Fees
Very well stated Molly. I just wish my fellow board members would think this through like you have. It is so disappointing that three or four board members fail to understand really what is going on. Naivete at its worse. You are correct – a general policy that Meuser et al want to protect staff CANNOT deal with all of the zillion of scenarios that can occur (some of which can be the result of staff misconduct and/or poor performance). That is why my policy recommendation is worded the way it is – to protect the board and the pension system. As you said: What’s the problem? Of Ohio’s 611 school districts, do you know have many school boards have a policy that Meuser et al. want STRS to have? Zero. Supts and boards won’t let it happen. All teacher unions would love such language – then OEA and OFT would not need as many lawyers.
From Molly Janczyk, January 1, 2008
Subject: Legal Fees
I would rather a Board with many views and perspectives then ONE Exec. Direc. who may or may not like me. Plus it comes with advice of the AG and I am sure Neville and the Legal Team. No one person on the Board can make a decision and it is majority, not individual, which is better, to me.
I am sure many Staff members have been cursed and even threatened as has happened with one former STRS employee who contacted me which I immediately passed to Damon who contacted security and the police even extending it to me for protection since this person is unstable. He was not threatening me but Damon felt it appropriate in case he transferred his anger to me somehow. The former employee issued many threats to me towards Staff even naming them. I always passed it on the Damon. He somehow got my name as communicating with STRS. This has been going on for years now. He contacted me recently again but I ignored him and passed it to Damon. Unfortunately, he lives near me.
The point is while we would never want to take a chance, these threats are just that. There was an incident years ago with a retiree sitting outside of STRS with a gun being denied disability again. It was more suicidal, I believe.
We had threats from parents working in urban areas thick with drugs, weapons and alcohol. Some teachers were hit and off work for weeks. We never had the ability and few even thought of it to seek outside counsel with OEA paying our bills. Frankly, I never even knew anyone who considered it. With low income folks, it would only have resulted in a warning and perhaps restraining order which can be obtained free anyway. Not like money is coming out of it. So, if an employee is threatened, I don't know what outside counsel is going to get them.
This seems only to fight for their jobs if a problem arises and they are fired. And, rarely, if ever, does that result in a retraction of the firing. Look at the principals etc. accused of taking money from their 'general funds' supposedly for use for staff. Still fired. Generally, in this day and age, paper trails are long and detailed for firing someone and good luck getting them reversed because other employees do not stand up for you fearing for their own jobs.
The Laura Ecklars and Sandy Knoesels (sorry both of you-just using you for examples is all since you spoke out on this at meetings) do their jobs well and are protected as a result. There simply is not a chance that either of you or those hundreds like you who are in any danger. If a mess occurs somehow and you are the scapegoat, good luck, however, because there is little likelihood that a Damon or whomever is going to take the fall for a Staff member and supposed facts will line up against you in a flash. We have all seen such in businesses. The same would probably hold true for an educator against OEA. What would happen? The individual would pay for their own counsel.
A general policy simply cannot cover all scenarios in this issue. Some issues, yes, more comprehensively. But ANY policy is going to have exceptions which must come to the Board. This particular issue is as determined by the Attorney General and stated by NEVILLE (though some inexperienced and certainly not legal certified persons seem to think they know better ) to be CASE BY CASE TO BE DETERMINED BY THE BOARD.
Say whatever you like: STRS Legal Staff say policy should read 'Unless otherwise requested by law, no associate legal fees should be paid without Board approval' and the Attorney General Office say it is case by case.
No STRS Staff or Board member or OEA or OEA-R individual has come up with facts to negate these legal statements. It may not be their choice but that doesn't change the legal stand. Let's stop this back and forth with 'wishes vs. legal opinion.' If and when you have a substantially supported legal stand with which Neville and the AG cannot disagree, let's talk. Until then, I go with the legal statements by Neville and AG Patterson.
OEA: OEA-R: OEA BOARD MEMBERS: Give me an approved legal statement not just a phrase from a book interpreted by one person to displace Neville and Patterson and have them both say: Yes, this overrides what I said and then put it in writing as policy to present the Board for consideration.
Until then: enough.
From Dennis Leone, January 1, 2008
Subject: RE: Legal Fees
What I believe you are hearing from Meuser et al. is that THEY, AS TEACHERS, feel their school boards have not done enough to support them. Many of them feel this way. In fact, Laura Ecklar said precisely what they wanted to hear – which was that she does not want her employment dictated by the “whim” of a board member who may not like her. Think about this one: As you know, Sandy Knoesal has had to deal with many disgruntled retirees over the years about health insurance. I suspect that some have cussed at her, while others have yelled at her. Sooooooooo, I wonder if Meuser et al. believe that if SHE feels she is threatened, that it’s okay for her to demand legal advice, and – if she is not satisfied with what staff lawyers tell – she then can go outside and get her own legal advice……..then expect the board to pay for it. As a pension membership organization, the removal of subjective factors HAS to be more strict.
From Molly Janczyk, January 1, 2008
Subject: RE: Legal Fees
I just really don't get this. I cannot fathom why OEA is pressing for this blanket policy to be overseen by an Exec. Direc. we don't even know. Like I said, some OEAers must not have been happy with their representation in this past, it seems to me. But, this is a system for membership, not staff. Staff does a great job working for the membership who are the system and for whom they were hired just as we were hired as public servants for children and community. Now, we expect someone to look out for us.
Dennis Leone to John Curry, December 31, 2007
Subject: RE: Legal Fees
Good point, John…………….and, as you know, NO teacher would go out on their own, pick a law firm, determine an hourly rate, then turn in a bill to OEA after-the- fact. OEA would say “go jump in the lake” and would NOT listen to a teacher saying – “but I was discharging my duties, so you have to pay for my legal representation.” OEA would say no out of principle due to the teacher making a decision that he/she was not empowered to make.
Dennis Leone
From John Curry, December 31, 2007
Subject: Re: Legal Fees
Molly....to expound on what you say below one must also realize that the OEA furnished attorneys to educators who request them is NOT an automatic coverage. The educator has to run his/her account of the incident by the OEA first and then has to "hope" they will receive representation....it's not automatic...IT CAN BE REFUSED! It is determined by others in the hierarchy of the OEA. It is determined on a case by case basis...sound familiar???

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