Saturday, January 12, 2008

Retirees getting screwed again

From John Curry, January 12, 2008
Subject: the Retiree Rip-off continues! A greedy MD, a cheap healthcare insurance coverage, or....a little of both?
Got this letter today from an STRS retiree! Have any of you experienced this situation? If so, please write to me. John []
From an anonymous STRS retiree to John Curry, January 12, 2008
Subject: Medical Coverage
Got a letter today from my rheumatologist saying that he will no longer accept Medical Mutual since the reimbursement is so low that it doesn't cover costs. Made me mad because he said that the coverage rates had been reduced since May and that I should consider selecting another insurance when my Open Enrollment period came along. Hmm, a little late for that. Did say I could come as an out-of-network patient and submit my own paperwork.

Shirlee Zerkel to Sandy Knoesel and Gary Russell re: Medicare Part B supplies

From Shirlee Zerkel, January 12, 2008
Subject: (no subject)
Dear Mrs. Knoesel and Mr. Russell:
I want to thank you for finally doing the honest thing about the Medicare B covered medications and supplies. I am not sure what prompted this change! Maybe Express Scripts wouldn't go along with your program, or you may have found out that Advance and Caremark took you for a ride, since those two PBM billed you first and then billed Medicare also. They also may have told you that we were credited on our accounts (never). Whichever way it happened, I am thankful that as of Jan. 11, 2008, it is being handled in the correct manner.
I spoke to the board and you beginning in September of either '03 or '04 about the fraudulent way the Medicare B meds. and supplies were being handled. You hurried to me as soon as my speech was finished to find the name of the retiree to whom I was referring. I told you to work with Advance and fix all of the retiree's purchases of Medicare B meds. and supplies.
We talked back and forth for many months with STRS telling me that you were working on the problem, then the next excuse was that you were too busy on other health matters, and finally you told me that all retirees using Medicare B with Advance/Caremark received their payment back as a credit on their Advance/ Caremark account. I know that was not the truth as I still know of two retirees who, to this day, have never received even a dollar back as a credit on their accounts.
I have records of my email exchanges and excuses for not doing it correctly. It was strictly against the federal Medicare regulations as stated in a ' Medicare and You' booklet: If a doctor, provider or supplier (you and Advance/Caremark) accepted assignment, they agree to the following conditions:
1. To be paid by Medicare;
2. To accept only the amount Medicare approved for their services, and
3. To only charge you ( the patient) or other insurance you have, the Medicare deductible or coinsurance (Medicare's) amount.
The plan as it was until Jan. 11, 2008 was unlawful because you and the PBM charged the retiree more than the Medicare copayment.
I especially enjoyed the statement in you letter that read: " no longer have to wait to receive a refund check because you pay the coordinated amount at the time of purchase" That is what I continually told STRS years ago, but it fell on deaf ears for some reason. Retail stores were using that method then, but Mr. Russell said that could not be done.
1. Why do we have to file another AOB statement, we, who are 65, did that when we first went on Medicare?
2. Why did we not know of this change until 2 weeks into the new year? It will take time for retirees to get this paperwork finished and Express Scripts to process it. In the meantime, we pay the higher cost!
Thank you once again for finally doing the correct thing for both the STRS retirees and the federal Medicare Program.
During these years, the Lima retirees have found a better Medicare B supply solution to our high copays with our STRS PBM.
Shirlee Zerkel

Friday, January 11, 2008

Molly Janczyk re: Baldrige Principles and Random Acts

From Molly Janczyk, January 11, 2008
Subject: Random Acts and Baldrige Behaviors
We can go to sources and nitpick lines forever.
For ex.:
Baldrige: Random Acts
Random acts is within the context of Random Acts of Improvement.
Jim suggests in my opinion that these are here-and-there issues which may or may not stay in effect. For ex., we may again be headed toward an entitled OEA driven STRS Board which may not like Leone's Travel Policy or Lazares' Ethics Policy, both now part of STRS by laws.
Let me quote some common threads on reading various resources for Baldrige Principles. Jim can then take some threads to support his, in my estimation, less favorable take on Leone results.
Behaviors for Baldrige:
1. Be Proactive: take initiative rather than reacting to situations
I feel Leone and Lazares do take this initiative and that Meuser and others react to this initiative negatively
2. Begin with end in mind: long term goals (new policies to correct past abuses: Leone and Lazares) need be a 'true north' principle and formulate personal mission statements that document purpose. Challenging leadership to set clear and compelling vision goals. (Leone and Lazares certainly do this while others are comfortable with status quo regardless of behavior and content saying: "Well the Exec. Direc. now knows what we want so we don't have to write a policy. Pretty sad business procedure).
3. First Things First: prioritize long term goals vs. less important issues. Activate how and what will be implemented. (All Leone and Larares' policies and motions focus on long term corrections of past problems of mismanagement and abuse).
4. Think Win Win: Solutions should benefit staff and sharehlders.
***No organization can be effective without clear approach for identifying and satisfying requirements of its customers/ shareholders: (retirees)
This needs innovative ways to break barriers between the organization and sharereholders and achieve mutually (organ./shareholders) beneficial outcomes.
5. Seek to Understand: build a culture that promotes understanding (that sure didn't happen with OEA bashing Leone for his 2003 Report on spending abuses at STRS by the 5 OEA Board members convicted of ethics violations with a statewide letter impugning his character and questioning his integrity; refusing to retract it when all points were researched, proven and verifiable. Then NEOEA questioned Leone's candidacy when a simple call to STRS verified it hoping, in my opinion, that it would raise doubts and lessen votes. Neither Leone nor Lazares were welcomed to the Board with any friendly gestures but instead greeted with snotty dismissing behavior and remarks such as : "I am not happy to see you here!" Leone has been called names: attack dog, crackpot, etc. and met with automatic opposition without even considering his motions in the minds of many onlookers. OEA is quick to blame all this on Leone who takes their behavior with a grain of salt but refuses to back down from their bravado attempts to dismiss him with false statements such as "Dennis, when this goes down, the motion is killed" when that is not the case. Some Board members speak out of what seems to be ignorance of procedure and policy.
What does Leone do: Speaks with certainly and strength so as to be heard and will not back down when he knows something is right. He refuses to compromise on issues which retirees tell him are important to them because he listens to retirees and bothers to respond which most Board members do not. Lazares and Leone speak always for retirees: "What would retirees think of this?" or "How does this affect retirees?" is a constant from their mouths, always aware of their customers: shareholders: retirees.
OEA calls Leone's and Lazares' motions micromanaging hurling remarks at them month after month at Board meetings trying to suppress their right to deliver their promises to us in accordance to the ORC: act solely on behalf of retirees for their benefit.
Promote understanding with managing by FACT, organization and learning; measurement and analysis and knowledge all requirements for decisions based on systemic process of collecting and analyzing relevant data. (All Leone and Lazares strengths and demands vs. voting on personality and personal feelings).
6. Synergies: methods the organization uses to identify and improve opportunities for teamwork (what does OEA and its Board members along with some other Board members do to promote teamwork vs. antagonism and disapproval directing their remarks of personality style?)
7. Sharpen the Saw: spirit of innovation and renewal promoting open and honest assessment of strengths and opportunities for improvement as a starting point. (clearly Leone and Lazares' style ((and CORE)))
Random Acts of Improvement : personal mission statement documents; this is a relentless stakeholder driver quality effort and not just random acts going in various directions as suggested reliant on today's Board. Any future Board may change any number of issues and policy.
This system may be systemic or planned or be implemented in random acts.
Suggestions for success:
1. Appoint committees to study issues considered 'dead horse' issues.
2. Switch tactics regarding issues which seem 'dead horse' issues. Use new ways and new standards and not what has always been done.
3. Visit sites showing effective efforts
4. Increase standards for 'dead horse' issues
5. Create test to measure efficiency
6. Compare today with 10 yrs ago
7. Tighten reins
8. Stop blame (OEA tactic pointing finger for 5 yrs at Leone)
9. New behavior and skills
11. All this builds toward an effective and efficient organization for shareholders.
The random acts to which Jim refers, (Do you want random acts or long term goals ) by Leone and Lazares ALL were towards long term goals of correcting past abusive behavior of the charged and convicted former OEA Board members, management problems and overspending. These changes were demanded by shareholders (retirees) and Leone and Lazares seem alone in making these policy changes on their behalf.
So, the answer to Jim's question is : YES! We do want these random acts building a better and more efficient and effective STRS as evidenced in the past 5 yrs. Those corrections are solely because of Leone and Lazares and CORE along with some Board members who finally approved (some were solid the whole time) this motions.
There is nothing in Baldrige that does not exemplify Leone and Lazares and they seem to be the members who most clearly and steadfastly adhere to its principles.
We have asked and asked for items to post and circulate in a fair effort to promote these accomplishments but none have come to us.
We have asked time and time again for STRS Board members to take some word or phrase from Leone's legal issue motion or from my attempt at a beginning to resolve this issue and begin dialogue towards solution.
Nothing: True to form.
What does OEA and OEA-R want?
I think they want to misrepresent Leone's motions, raise question to his integrity and continue to throw out remarks to diminish his power base. I think he embarrassed them to the CORE and created internal shock waves from which they have not yet recovered.
I cannot imagine why else 5 years have been spent trying to take this man down with not one recognition of his record and accomplishments:
• Awards for investigating STRS and writing his report
• Awards for educator advocacy
• Continual and constant invitations to speak at RTA and to actives
• Many internal changes in policy at STRS
• Recognition statewide for his accomplishments but never, NEVER from OEA NOR ORTA in any real sense
WHY? Change. People fear it instead of welcoming it for improving matters. WHY? OEA, OEA-R, ORTA NEVER worked to stop the spending abuse of which they were aware, I am sure, and were thrown in the spotlight when Leone and Lazares did.
Their solution was to attack in a mean, vicious and character assassination which some actually try to explain away. Their solution was to try to raise questions about these 2 men and question their motives which have long been proven: To do the right thing.
Must we continue to hear this bashing month after month in what they think is a veiled attempt to control the Board and squelch Leone? Must we hear lines from principles theories now thrown out without context in desperate attempts to continue to excuse their behavior.
What is truth is:
These minds are not going to change nor is their behavior. We are stuck with them until they are gone. A new generation will come but long down the road.
Until then:
• Each new attempt you throw out will be researched and a retort back to show how it also applies to Leone and Lazares' constant quest for a better organization based on retiree requests.
• Each attempt will end with: WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO STOP THE SPENDING ABUSES AND MANAGEMENT PROBLEMS AT STRS (I especially love those who say they were here before Leone: (Tim Myers: also the insults to Leone and Angeletti writer) Well, WHAT DID YOU DO? Turned the other way is my guess.
Each attempt will say: What are your specific steps towards resolution and compromise vs. just saying what you cannot do.
The new Exec. Direc. will hopefully be a man of the future and vision. There are excellent staff members at STRS but none were able to stand up to the entitled alliance culture of Dyer and the OEA-controlled Board. I guess they feared losing their jobs and security. It is hard to say no when your family depends on your salary. Some of them have told us that they wish for STRS to be returned to its former premier status of membership trust. Some have told us things we cannot share. We hope the new Exec. Direc. is a man of strong character who will not be turned by a dollar or questionable incentive offers polluting the staff with exceptions to policy and behaviors in subjective decisions. Only a top notch quality Exec. Direc. can run a top notch pension system posing no questions to its membership.
As Bill L. calls it: 'Molly's Missive'

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Molly Janczyk: Anonymous writer

From Molly Janczyk, January 10, 2008
Subject: Anonymous writer on Kathie's blog: Jim McGreevy
I did not promise I would not say who the writer was and I felt sure I knew who it was since the beginning it was Jim due to the newly inserted Baldrige language along with many similar things which he had used with me tho not ever name calling that I recall with me.
I know now it was you writing to Kathie (NOT FROM KATHIE) and it has changed things for me. You have been writing things far stronger to others than what you write me about Dennis which I feel are untrue and completely closed minded and clearly a line drawn for me.
Name calling and mean spirited - which is what you have always said you disagreed with. I cannot trust you and think you played me with a different tune using less inflammatory rhetoric.
Do not use anonymous anymore with any thought that it will remain so. Kathie DID NOT tell me. You have burned some bridges.
There is no discussion on this. I thought you were trying to reach out but you were trying to spread venom.
It is hopeless with you people. You will not change and until you are changed from your positions, you hold no credibility with me.
This changes nothing regarding our work for HB315 which is for retirees, not OEA. OEA is just finally taking steps to do something or show something which should have been done long ago.
Molly Janczyk to Jim McGreevy, January 9, 2008
Subject: Jim: AND Date: Wed, 9 Jan 2008 22:04:30 -0500
AND he is not an attack dog, he is frustrated over lack of action and support for all the past approved motions of his and Lazares none of which would have occurred and all of which you said you agree with.
If it is you calling Dennis this, he will never believe me again about trying to establish communication with you. I thought in my heart that you wanted to be able to talk with him and he was going to try soon. If he gets wind this was you calling him an attack dog and a leopard, that is dead and I am a liar. Nothing could be further from the truth-Dennis NEVER changed or will change his spots. He is a true believer in and for retirees.
Please tell me you are not calling Dennis an attack dog and a leopard. I assume it is you (anonymous) writing Kathie due to the Baldrige speak.

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Tim Myers: An apology

From Tim Myers, January 10, 2008
Subject: My Apologies-January CORE meeting
To Members of CORE:
I feel I need to apologize for not being able to be at your January CORE meeting. I called Dave Parshall and asked if I could be moved to your February meeting instead. I understand a number of your members had rearranged their schedules to be able to attend next week. Dave said a request had also been made to tape my remarks and answers. If you will not be able to attend in February, send me your question before the meeting and I will address it to the group. I apologize for any inconvenience this has caused.
Tim Myers

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

An attack dog and a leopard, all in one day

From Kathie Bracy, January 9, 2008
Response from second letter of 1/9/08 from (xxx)

Poor Dennis -- he's labeled an attack dog and a leopard on the same day. Got any others?
OK, perhaps I shouldn't just ask for a list of "accomplishments" of the Board members who have issues with Dennis. Instead, I would like to see a list of accomplishments and/or motions they have presented to the Board. I also need to know which ones (accomplishments and/or motions alike) truly originated with them and which ones were fed to them by Damon or someone else. If I am to gain better insight into how these Board members think and operate, this would help.
Thanks --

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House GPO/WEP Hearing January 16

From Molly Janczyk, January 9, 2008
Subject: House GPO/WEP Hearing January 16

A subcommittee on Soc. Sec. of the House Ways and Means will hold a hearing regarding the Government Pension Offset and Windfall Elimination Provision along with some other Soc. Sec. issues on Wed., Jan. 16. in Washington.

For any who have collected names for the petitions on this issue, PLEASE submit them to :

OEA Governmental Services ASAP so they can be carried to Washington in time for this hearing.

Please let your legislators know that you support this important bill immediately so they can convey your support to those attending the meeting.

And the beat goes on........

From Kathie Bracy, January 9, 2008
Response to 1/9/08 letter from (xxx)
(xxx) --
All I can say at this point is you are entitled to your views, just like anyone else. What are you doing to bring about the changes you would like to see on the Board? And why are you addressing me on all these issues instead of that "attack-dog" (your words), Dr. Leone? You initiated this correspondence; I'm just trying to see your point. If you respond, you might send me a list of accomplishments of other Board members, specifically the ones who have issues with Dennis, as I'd like to give them space on my blog, too.
Thank you.

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.............................Attack Dog?

Molly Janczyk: Candidates for Baldrige Award

From Molly Janczyk, January 9, 2008
Subject: Dennis Leone and John Lazares: Perfect Baldrige Award Candidates
Baldrige Principles:
Look up and you will find multiple sites with these common ideas:
Baldrige Principles: 'Other principles focus on single aspect such as leadership, management, etc. Baldrige interested in ALL aspects that define the organization has adaptable, strategy driven performance focusing on needs of ALL STAKEHOLDERS (RETIREES) and needs, results, requirements rather than procedures.
• Help American businesses and organizations become more competitive resulting in higher performances by playing a vital role in helping U.S. gain edge in fierce competitive market
• For understanding excellence, quality and performance in all they do.
• Flexible
• Creative
• Long term view
• Focus on information analysis
I believe that Dennis Leone and John Lazares exemplify the Baldrige Principles for their innovative and creative long term thinking on behalf of STRS Stakeholders.
They have been 100% focused on shareholders (their customers) since elected. They have attempted to engage other Board members in fierce analysis displaying their excellent understanding of the need of quality performance focusing on the process and results for their customers (retirees) alone pursuant to ORC: 3307.15: act solely on behalf of membership with prudence which is in complete compliance with the Baldrige Principles.
No where did I see silence, make no waves, put on a nice show, present a uniform front (even when you believe something is wrong completely against our Constitution), oppose simply for its own sake, do not argue points (even when you feel it is essential for your shareholders as the ethical and moral thing to do), do not blow whistles (or the organizations will come out against you), be puppets and give in to other Board members and organizational leaders.
I saw spirit and lively interaction solely for the sake of serving stakeholders.

Molly Janczyk: Which ones are random acts?

From Molly Janczyk, January 10, 2008
Subject: 2008 PLEA: STRS Board Members: : Dennis Leone's accomplishments for retirees
It is time to get past personality. It is time to simply address issues without union interference. Please do address which issues below you feel are 'random acts' (Jim McGreevy's seeming summation of accomplishments) vs. effective long term corrections.
I am tired of this tired dialogue about Leone when evidence is evidence just as with his report in 2003. I understand some will never forgive his whistle blowing style.
I ask that each Board member consider all future motions alone regardless of the person delivering them on their merit for retirees solely. This is silly nonsense putting up oppositions due to personality.
If you have opposition:
1. Please let us hear you state what it is with solid foundation and reasoning based on its merit for retirees vs. naysaying.
2. Please come prepared with your own options to solve issues in clear and specific terms to add to the dialogue to prevent frustration on the part of other Board members and retirees
3. Please come prepared to have a working session with the input from each Board member adding to the solution
4. Then ask: 'What can we all agree on here for a timely conclusion to this problem so we can move on because we have far better things to do.' (Based on Mooney thinking)
I respectfully submit this and hope for a response from each Board member on this and my former questions:
1. What will be your legacy on the STRS Board: accomplishments and contributions towards a more effective, efficient and secure STRS for retirees
2. Please consider my simple starting point for correction of legal fees problem of submitting bills to STRS after the fact of billed counsel services. I submitted 3 pts or so to consider. Please start a real dialogue.
Please remember or imagine the frustration of attending meetings monthly as retirees or Board members and hearing no continually to what we feel and have asked Board members to consider as important issues to retirees when all you want is to do is present what retirees ask of you.
Bad relations have resulted. Let us begin anew in 2008 to be earnest in our efforts to work towards solutions with solid reasoning founded on ORC. Disagreeing is not the issue. WHY and WHAT other ways can be found and offered to solutions are the issue. Present your thinking. Value ones who have accomplishments in place.
**EX: I feel this way for these there something here that we can use to move forward.................what parts can we agree upon or where can we start this discussion? Let's find one common thread to move ahead.
Please help get us out of this quagmire and find some common thread to work in a heartfelt manner in the spirit in which you came to the Board when you took your oath. Ask yourself if you are following your promise to retirees. Let your conscience and nothing else be your guide.
Thank you,
Molly J.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

If it weren't for Dennis Leone.....

From Kathie Bracy (response to a letter)
January 8, 2008

(xxx) --
I'm curious. What do the Baldrige Principles say to do if somebody doesn't follow the rules? I'm glad you credit Dennis Leone for blowing the whistle on past mistakes, but what if mistakes are still occurring and nobody else on the Board is calling attention to it? Dennis is still a whistle blower (thank heavens), but he's still getting a lot of flak for it. If he brings up touchy issues in a "polite and civil" manner, he is ignored. If he doesn't turn up the volume in his pleas for oversight and action, nothing gets done about it. Do the Baldrige Principles tell board members what to do if everybody's being polite and civil to each other, but letting a lot of crappy stuff get by at the same time?
If Mark Meuser or any other Board members feel they're being insulted, there are ways to deal with it. If the Baldrige Principles don't address it, Board members themselves can do it, publicly or privately, whatever they wish; they're all adults and don't need intervention.
I believe the King of England and his Parliament would love to have had a good working relationship with the American colonists, too. Why do you think he didn't get it? When the old rules don't work, it's time for new rules. It sounds to me like the Baldrige Principles go only so far, but not far enough. I wholeheartedly agree with you on this point: "If he or she [the executive director] is not following policy, terminate them." And if, as you say, "all sides are to blame," then the spirit of reform is still alive and well. This won't last forever. Either reform will win out or we'll end up with the same kind of rubber-stamping, ethics-out-the-window Board we had before. Either way, the process is not going to be easy or fun.
Whether people like it or not, Dennis has brought about far more change than anyone else on the STRS Board. Had he not spoken up -- many times -- I wonder where we'd be now? How many changes have OTHER Board members initiated? The sounds I keep hearing are those of rubber stamps and Board members objecting to the one who dares to be vocal about wrongdoings. Here's a list I've put together:
Some of the things that would very likely still be going on if it weren't for Dennis Leone:
• Legal expenses paid for by STRS for staff members who hire their own lawyers outside STRS, for whatever purpose, without prior knowledge and consent of the Board
• Huge bonuses for over 300 non-investment staff members/employees who do no more than their day-to-day job (investment staff deserve the bonuses)
• Bonus checks for investment staff members would still be based, at least in part, on subjective factors instead of solely on benchmark factors
• STRS employees who adopt children would still be getting a $5,000 gift from STRS
• Cars for staff members and their families to use at their own discretion, permitted by official Board policy
• As many as seven Board members taking the same expensive trip and to faraway places such as Hawaii, Palm Springs, Anchorage, Kiawah Island, China, Africa; stays at fancy hotels with a minimum of "business" being conducted
• Free lunches/dinners at fancy restaurants; free booze; STRS paying beach bar bills
• Free use of STRS laptop computers in the homes of Board members, with no way of really monitoring whether the use of the laptops was personal -- in violation of Board policy
• Free credit cards for staff and Board members
• Free newspaper subscriptions, personal long distance phone calls, personal fax machines for Board members
• Unitemized lunch and dinner bills paid by STRS
• Thousand dollar plane tickets to New York, paid by STRS, with no requirement that far more economical reservations be made 30 days in advance
• Broadway shows, baseball games, concerts, trips to Kings Island and Columbus Zoo Light Show, etc., either at STRS expense or as gifts from companies doing business with STRS
• State Attorney General and State Auditor would still be on the Board
• Executive director would still be advising the Board to approve big money contracts without documentation, and most of them would be dumb enough (call it "trusting") to do it
• Lawyers would still be inserting language in such contracts after the Board approves it (thanks to the "trustworthy" executive director/staff)
• Free second night stays in Columbus and elsewhere (Orlando, etc.) for Board members, following meetings, for no legitimate reason
• Free hotel stays and meals for spouse/partner of Board member
• There would still be nine members on the Board, with no investment experts whatsoever
• Herb Dyer would still be there, along with a number of other Board members whose ethics prevented them from following the spirit and the letter of ORC 3307.15
• Child care services for STRS employees would not come close to covering the operating costs of the center; cafeteria services would not be cost neutral
• STRS would still be spending $5,000 a year to beautify the front lobby at Christmas time (remember all the poinsettias?)
• There would be no policy requiring that the Board receive copies of big ticket contracts before voting on them
• Free college education would still be offered/provided for employees, regardless of whether the employee gets a "C" or a "D" in the course
• STRS would still be buying tickets to the zoo for employees' families, then appropriating them for themselves so that somebody else would have to pay for the children to go, or they wouldn't get to go at all (talk about Grinches)
• Reimbursements for unused sick leave/vacation leave for employees who don't qualify
• There would be no policy prohibiting the awarding of sick leave accumulation to rehired retirees who were already paid for their accumulated sick leave at their previous public employer
• Escalating, unchecked administrative expenses; unchecked hiring of staff and employees
• Waterfalls would still grace the main lobby
• The Board still would be allowing the executive director to give severance cash and free health insurance to laid off STRS employees without formal board approval
• The Board still would be going into executive session, illegally, to discuss proposed policies
• The Express Scripts contract would not have several provisions that it currently does regarding the company’s fiduciary obligations with the board
• There would still be secret balloting by the Board
• There would be no statutory provision in Senate Bill 133 in 2004 that prohibited the likes of Jack Chapman, Hazel Sidaway, Eugene Norris, and Debbie Scott from ever serving on the board again because of their STRS spending habits
• There would be no language in Senate Bill 133 stipulating that future dishonesty on STRS Board election materials (such as saying that you are teaching social studies at Perry High School when you’re really not) will knock you off the board
• Mike Billirakis, Jack Chapman, Hazel Sidaway, Eugene Norris, Debbie Scott, Joe Endry and Herb Dyer would not have been convicted in court. Say what you want about it being an Ethics Commission investigation, but it was the Commission's head, David Freel himself, who said that Dennis Leone’s 2003 findings triggered the whole thing (along with Sondra Stratton pushing the Commission relentlessly in 2004).
It's been almost two years since those legal fees were paid by STRS. How come Dennis is the ONLY Board member (along with John Lazares) who sees this as WRONG and is trying to do something about it? How come NO OTHER Board members have brought it up? And WHY are they disturbed when Dennis brings it up (other than the fact that they don't like his behavior)? What else is going on that isn't reaching the surface here? What or who are they afraid of? I'd like to know, and so would a lot of other people. At the moment, we can only guess.
Kathie Bracy

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Shirlee Zerkel: A comparison of OPERS and STRS Rx co-pays

A big Thank You goes to CORE's Shirlee Zerkel for issuing this comparisons page. John
Shirlee Zerkel to John Curry, January 6, 2008
Subject: My brief comparison of OPERS and STRS drug co-pays
John, I think we may be better than OPERS -- what a surprise! I talked to my friend whose husband just this year moved her to OPERS. She knew very few details, and said she would ask him. I have not heard from them yet, so I went by the chart you sent me. It appears that OPERS has three levels of costs, evidently for the different levels of health coverage, but am not sure. They have Enhanced, Intermediate and Basic with different Rx charges in each area. We have Plus and Basic with the same co-pays for drugs for either plan. Here goes: I will only put in two of the OPERS ones to compare.
(Click image to enlarge)
OPERS has us beat on the retail tier 2 in one of their plans. Theirs is $15 a month where ours is $30 a month. But STRS is the better on all the mail in prices.

A special tribute to The King.....

In honor of Elvis's 75th birthday on January 8th, STRS is holding a series of three special rock concerts in the STRS concert hall, featuring Elvis impersonators singing some of Elvis's finest hits. By popular vote, in concert one of three, his top ten songs are:
[Click images to enlarge]
10. All I Can Afford Are These Lousy Blue Suede Shoes
..9. My Pension Leaves Me Crying In The Chapel
..8. Don't Be Cruel; All I Can Afford Is Gruel
..7. She Said Don't Think Twice, It's Only Thirty Billion

..6. Earth Angel, Outerspace Losses
..5. A Big Hunk O'Burnin' Losses
..4. Debt Is Always On My Mind
..3. STR
S The Beautiful
..2. The IAs Are All Shook Up
..1. Aloha Health Care

In the second concert, most popular songs were identified as:

10. Are You Losing Money Tonight
..9. Baby, Let's Pretend It's Just Monopoly Money
..8. My Profits Are Blowin' In The Wind
..7. Fools Rush In But, Heck, It's Not My Money
..6. IA Fun In Acapulco, Retirees Shoveling Snow In Ohio
..5. Gentle On My Mind, Hard On My Budget

..4. Our Profit Statements Are Like Ghost Riders In The Sky
..3. Red, Red, Red Ink Over the Green, Green, Green Grass Of Home
..2. Have I Told You Lately That I Love Your COLA?
..1. Hey Jude, Can I Borrow Fifty?

The third and final concert features these hits:

10. Are Hi-Heel Sneakers Shoes Or STRS Employees?
..9. Where's STRS, Down At The End Of Lonely Street, That's Heartbreak Hotel
..8. Help Me Make It Through The Rest Of My Life
..7. My Bank Account Is So Lonesome It Could Cry
..6. I'll Be
Home For Christmas 'Cuz I Can't Afford To Be Anyplace Else
..5. It's No
w Or Never Said The Investor And It Should Have Been Never
..4. Dream The Impossible Dream 80 Billion Times
..3. I Shook, Rattled and Rolled My Christmas Present From STRS But It S
till Kept Ticking
..2. Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head 'Cuz I Can't Fix The Roof

..1. All My Questions Are Marked Return To Sender

Hope You Enjoy The Show Folks; Now If I Could Only Stop Typing Every Word With A Capital Letter.
Rich DeColibus, January 8, 2010

Special thanks (and a pair of blue suede shoes) to Rich DeColibus for this one. Originally posted 1/8/10, till Mike Nehf complained about it.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Dispatch: Ohio's ERs see rise in patients; uninsured have nowhere else to turn, experts say

Columbus Dispatch, January 7, 2008
By Suzanne Hoholik
[Click image to enlarge]
Emergency-room visits across the state continue to rise, with the largest increase among the uninsured.
From 2003 to 2006, uninsured patients seeking emergency care increased by nearly 20 percent, the Ohio Hospital Association says. In the same period, emergency-room use by all patients increased by about 9.5 percent.
Why the continued increase? In part because a growing number of people don't have insurance or access to a family doctor.
About 46.5 million Americans are uninsured, including about 1.2 million Ohioans.
"The emergency department is their safety net for care," said Marci Ladue, a nurse and director of emergency trauma and ambulatory services at Mount Carmel West hospital.
"People who don't get routine care from a primary care provider and put off treatment, when they go to an emergency department, they're very, very sick."
Last year, the Mount Carmel West emergency department had 61,325 visits, a 16 percent increase from 2003.
Most other central Ohio hospitals have seen the same.
Last year, Mount Carmel East and Riverside Methodist hospitals recorded about 90,000 emergency department visits, an increase of more than 20 percent for both hospitals from 2003.
More than 71,000 children were taken to Nationwide Children's Hospital in 2006, up 8 percent from 2003.
Ohio State University Medical Center had nearly 61,000 patients go to its emergency department last year, up 8 percent from 2005.
If uninsured patients don't pay for emergency care, someone else will.
"It's not a secret that hospitals need to maintain a decent bottom line to stay in business," said Tiffany Himmelreich, spokeswoman for the hospital association.
"Unpaid care could (result in) an increase in costs for people with insurance."
Something has to change, said Cathy Levine, executive director of Universal Health Care Action Network of Ohio, a patient-advocacy group.
She said state leaders need to come up with a plan. "What we're doing now isn't working."

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Molly Janczyk: A question for STRS Board members

From Molly Janczyk, January 6, 2008
Subject: Ques. for STRS Board Members
I keep asking: What is the record for any of the Board members who oppose continually the motions of Leone and Lazares. Who cares about polite niceties when lives have been untenably devastated for retirees today and for those facing retirement or thought they were.
So much time is wasted trying to control Leone instead of coming forth with input for solutions. None of them ever answer me with their suggestions for real work and resolution. None answer when I ask them what is the legacy facing them and then list the many, many accomplishments of Lazares and Leone.
I say create of place of serious work without ever present opposition towards change because all things chance and the choice is: stay 'part of the problem or part of the solution.'
What ARE the positions of each Board member as all I hear is what they are NOT going to do. That answer is always the same: TO NOT support Leone and Lazares: Lazares, whom all feel comfortable with and still vote against him as well. So, it is obviously just not because Dennis is overly passionate at times, is it? It is against change - it is fear of new and more transparent policies which may continue to erode control of the Board.
I ask each Board member WHAT CAN YOU OFFER towards this solution? I presented a policy for a beginning point:
So few instances are expected of Staff legal fees. Please consider and respond:
1. No STRS staff can present a legal bill to STRS for payment after the fact.
2. The Exec. Direc. can make legal fee decisions dependent on the advice of the STRS Legal Team and AG within the policy guidelines.
3. Should a case be unusual or questionable, the Board can be approached for advice by the majority.
4. Should the Exec. Direc. not act within the policy guidelines, his decision in the matter is to be superceded by the majority of the STRS Board asking advice from the STRS Legal Team and AG recommendations..
STRS Board members:
Add, delete, write your take on an approp. policy and then sit and take the points that all can agree on to write a policy that corrects the problem of STRS associates racking up legal counsel bills and then submitting them to STRS for payment AFTER THE FACT!

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Letter from a blogger

From Kathie Bracy, January 6, 2008
Hi (xxx) --
Hope you had a good holiday; this was one of the busier ones for me, and I'm ready to put it behind me and start getting caught up with things.
I hear what you're saying about ground rules and mutual respect, regarding the STRS Board, but the drum I hear even more loudly is the one that calls for a little more forceful action in the name of reform. Had the king of England and Parliament listened to the American colonists 200+ years ago, they might not have had a Revolutionary War on their hands. When serious issues continue to be glossed over instead of dealt with in a proper manner, those who are trying to put an end to all policies and decisions that run contrary to ORC 3307.15 are going to be less and less concerned with ground rules and mutual respect and more interested in Reform -- whatever it takes to accomplish it.
I know you aren't exactly thrilled with Dennis' style, but as I see it, it's the ONLY style that is getting a lot of things done on that Board. Had it not been for Dennis, you and I both know the corruption that was going on before (thanks to OEA "pillars" such as Mike Billirakis, Jack Chapman, Hazel Sidaway, Debbie Scott and Eugene Norris -- and one ORTA "pillar," Joe Endry -- and their good buddy Herb Dyer) would still be going on today. Yes -- fancy trips, dinners in fancy restaurants, free booze, cars, credit cards, baseball games, Broadway shows, and on and on. Free money for all -- hey, STRS is RICH -- let's just forget about those poor, sick retirees living on pensions less than $20,000 a year!
I know you and some others don't like to see the past dredged up time after time, and I get very sick of dredging it up myself. The big issue I see is this: the issues Dennis Leone brought to light should never have happened in the first place, as they ran totally counter to ORC 3307.15 -- and today's Board is STILL trying to do the same thing. Is it RIGHT to allow those legal fees to be paid? Is it WRONG for the Board to be aware of decisions the executive director is making and to intervene when it gets out of hand? Are we supposed to TRUST an executive director who slips credit cards to Board members without other Board members or the membership knowing about it? Or who expects the Board to approve big spending contracts with NO DOCUMENTS in hand, and allowing some willing lawyer to insert FURTHER language into it, AFTER it is approved? You know, it's been a LONG time since we've had an executive director we could trust.
I'm sure the "old Board" adhered nicely to the "Baldrige Principles." No doubt they had very civil, politely run meetings -- hey, they were all on the SAME SIDE -- greedy money grabbers; no need for uncivil behavior or attention to "ground rules." (xxx), you can criticize style all you want; it's the substance of the decisions of this Board that I and many others are continually eyeing -- we couldn't care less about "style." I'm sure there are Board members who hate the microscope we have put them under, but WE are the membership -- it's OUR money; and based on past history (much of which is still festering), how else are we going to get them to wake up and make ALL their decisions based on what is RIGHT and in accordance with ORC 3307.15? We'd ALL like to get the job done in a "civil" and "polite" manner, but when such approaches are not effective, what other choices are there? Hopefully the day will come when we CAN feel we can trust the staff to follow policy and make good decisions. We're not there yet.
If Mark Meuser is concerned about legal issues involved in having the Board be the only decision-maker, no problem -- that's why we have Neville and Patterson around. We don't want laws broken, either.
I, too, would like to see a more cooperative atmosphere on the Board, but that's not going to happen as long as they continue to rubber-stamp issues that are totally contrary to 3307.15 with only one or two Board members raising objections. Gee, if we didn't have those dissenters, they could operate very smoothly and in accordance with the Baldrige Principles -- wouldn't THAT be nice! And in no time we'd be right back where we started, with this nice little love affair between staff and Board. I'm not for it, (xxx). I'm for making right decisions and following existing policy, which doesn't say staff members should go out and hire their own lawyers without proper authorization, then expect the Board to pay those lawyers out of retiree funds. If we could TRUST staff and management, this kind of thing would never have happened in the first place. It would and should never have become an issue. Tell me something: if Dennis had not spoken up about this issue, who do you think would have? I don't see people like Mark Meuser bringing up things like this. It's a lot easier just to let them slip by, unnoticed by many. You don't look like a good little Board member to certain factions if you bring up stuff like this.
I'm sorry the fear of being "bashed" is keeping you from allowing me to post your comments on my blog. If you truly believe all that you are saying, then there is absolutely nothing to fear. Dennis has been bashed mercilessly and repeatedly since he exposed STRS management and Board in 2003, but he doesn't allow it to faze him because he and thousands of STRS members know he is right. Yes, there are those who would like very much to shut him up in the name of civility and politeness. But I say more power to him, because his way is the ONLY way that is bringing about change on that Board. (Notice he's always very polite when the Board is making the right decisions.) The "bad environment" has nothing to do with demeanor, but everything to do with Board decisions. Once that gets straightened out, I guarantee you will see more civility and politeness than you've ever seen anywhere, because there won't be any reason for anything less.
Thank you for writing, and Happy New Year. Let's hope the coming year will bring about what you want -- more politeness and civility on the STRS Board; and what I want -- good reason for more politeness and civility on the Board.
Kathie Bracy
Dennis Leone's INVESTIGATIVE REPORT on STRS: May 16, 2003

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DDN: Energy, voting overhaul top items as Ohio legislators return from break

"I'll be honest with you. It will be very difficult to accomplish this (health care) ...a major reform in the time frame we have," he said. Jon Husted
Well, Jon, the 2007 Ohio Legislature met in the fewest sessions in the past decade, a record which certainly was not one to brag about! Is too much to ask for you to try not to break this record in 2008? Maybe, with a few more scheduled sessions, healthcare could be put on the front burner for a change?
Americans and Ohioans have lately been hit with the request to "work a little harder" and "accomplish the impossible." Ohio's retired educators are and have been suffering for years and will stand for no more "back burner time" with House Bill 315. Unlike your contemplating running for the Ohio Senate we retirees are busy running from debt collectors thanks to the Ohio House's failure to put a priority on this House Bill. We will remember at election time!
John Curry
Senate has already approved a package intended to stabilize rates and increase use of renewable energy.
Dayton Daily News, January 6, 2008
By William Hershey and Laura A. Bischoff
Staff Writers
COLUMBUS Until Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner jumped in with her sweeping proposal to overhaul the state's election system, one word summed up the legislature's priorities for this year:
Finishing up work on comprehensive legislation to return Ohio's electric utilities to a regulated system still is a top priority when lawmakers return Wednesday. The package is intended to stabilize rates and increase the use of renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and fuel cells.
Ohio deregulated the electricity market in 1999 with the idea that competition would bring lower rates. But the market didn't blossom and without new legislation the state's 5.4 million electricity customers could face price spikes in January 2009. That's when rate stabilization plans approved by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio begin expiring.
The energy bill now may share top billing with Brunner's plan — which calls for scrapping electronic voting machines and replacing them with paper ballots tabulated by optical scanners.
With two such time-consuming proposals before them, lawmakers likely won't have time to tackle other major issues such as health care reform this year, said House Speaker Jon Husted, R-Kettering.
"I'll be honest with you. It will be very difficult to accomplish this (health care) ...a major reform in the time frame we have," he said.
The Senate already has approved the energy legislation, sticking mainly to Gov. Ted Strickland's original proposal. It's now before the House where Husted wants to add a tax-funded program to encourage renewable technology companies to locate in Ohio and create good jobs.
Income taxes paid on new jobs within the renewable energy industry would be funneled into a program that gives research grants to that industry.
Legislators are expected to get more proposals to consider when Strickland delivers his second State of the State Speech on Feb. 6.
Until then, here are the issues that may make headlines during the legislative session:
Sick leave
Brunner ruled last week that backers of a plan to require businesses with 25 or more employees to provide their employees with seven paid sick days a year gathered enough valid signatures on petitions calling for the legislation. That means the legislature has four months to act on their proposal. If it doesn't, backers of the plan can put the issue on the November ballot by gathering an additional 120,863 valid signatures on new petitions.
Two constitutional amendments targeted for the November ballot are before the Senate, including one that involves providing one-time cash bonuses to veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Even if it gets Senate approval, however, the amendment faces an uncertain fate in the Senate.
Lottery profits
The other proposed constitutional amendment up for Senate approval calls for requiring all lottery profits and a percentage of revenue from certain taxes go for funding primary and secondary schools. That, too, could encounter opposition in either the House or the Senate.
Finally, Ohio voters could once again be asked for their views in the fall on whether to permit casino gambling. Backers of a proposed $600 million casino in Clinton County are collecting signatures to put a constitutional amendment on the November ballot asking for citizen approval.
Larry KehresMount Union Collge
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