Sunday, January 17, 2010

Tom Curtis: Response to Representative Lynn Wachtmann

From Tom Curtis, January 15, 2010
Subject: 011510 Curtis, Re: 011310 Rep Lynn Wachtmann, Re State Pension Issues
Rep. Wachtmann,
Thank you for taking the time to respond to my email of 1.6.2010.
After reading your response, it would seem that we share many of the same concerns. However, we obviously disagree on the process of solving the many issues surrounding the STRS's huge unfunded liability. That is why I disagree with many of your comments in the newspapers. In my opinion, you are pointing the finger at the wrong people. Few of the stakeholders hold any liability for the unresolved financial situation at the STRS. To the contrary, many of us have been yelling day and night about the situation for nearly a decade.
Please be assured that STRS retirees are highly concerned about the viability of the pension system for those following behind us. Actives constitute members of our families, friends' families and former students. The viability of the STRS has greatly concerned me since early 2003. I have tried to do something about it, by trying to educate people of the impending situation that has now become a reality, but my calls for reform have fallen on deaf ears.
I and many others (ex. CORE) have attempted to raise the awareness of the funding issues at the STRS, actually since as early as 2001. We have contacted anybody in government and law enforcement that would listen to our concerns about the huge misspending and mismanagement at the STRS. Hundreds of newspaper articles have addressed this problem since then. This has not been a secret.
Beyond forcing Herb Dyer to retire, the ORSC has not prudently addressed stakeholders' concerns for nearly 10 years. Now that those concerns have become a reality, and our system is in dire need for a cash infusion, you are one to point the finger at the educators and make it appear that we are simply greedy and undeserving people. In my opinion, that is being very irresponsible, but probably makes good press for your re-election with your constituents.
Rep. Wachtmann, if your concerns are as sincere as mine, then let us start taking responsibility for holding those in charge accountable for their many irresponsible actions and loss of our funds. That is the real problem in this entire country! When is that going to happen? Making statements that cause the working class people to have pension envy and fight amongst themselves is totally irresponsible on your part. Many of your statements in the papers do just that! Here is a bigger concern of mine. How are you going to deal with the anarchy that will soon consume this country? I find your statements fuel that kind of anger. Please think about what you are saying? You are pointing your finger at the wrong people and you know it.
Where were the ORSC and the legislature when the State Inspector General, Thomas Charles was set to complete a forensic audit at the STRS in July 2003? I will tell you, because I was there. All of you failed us and watched Betty Montgomery and Jim Petro lobby Gov. Taft to line item veto the funds for Thomas Charles to perform his audit. Gov. Taft claimed that because the ORSC was the oversight of the 5 pension systems, there was no need for duplication of oversight. Why did all of you continue to allow business as usual to continue at the STRS? I have never received any good reason for this lack of support by the ORSC and our legislature. All of you could have over-ridden the Governors veto, but did not. Three years later, the ORSC finally offered a very expensive and grossly out of date audit by a firm made up of past pension fund directors. It was worthless and very old news when the ORSC released it. It contained no forensic audit issues, as was promised by the ORSC. That sir, was the beginning of the end for the STRS misspending and mismanagement to continue unabated. Why have none of you acted on our cries for help?
I personally have written you and every member of the ORSC many times over the past 7 years, with few responses and absolutely no results. Now, you choose to point your finger at the educators of this state and accuse us of calling for a bailout? As I indicated in my prior email to you, the vast majority of the stakeholders of the STRS are not the ones that have caused this financial crisis, yet your statements in many newspapers would most definitely lead the taxpayer to believe that we are asking for an unjustified bailout.
The STRS and the OEA leadership are responsible for this mess, along with the ORSC's failure to address it adequately. The very people that supposedly were there to represent us, all having been paid handsomely, are the ones that need to be held accountable. The OEA buys the majority of the seats on the board and always has. We managed to get John Lazares and Dennis Leone elected, mainly because the OEA underestimated the resolve we had in bringing about change. They have not permitted any other non-union backed person to be elected since 2005. The OEA/OFT spend $50-100 thousand dollars every year to get their people elected, if another candidate runs against them.
Has the ORSC or the legislature supported the stakeholders and our calls for reform, absolutely not, or we would not be discussing these issues today. Both the STRS and the OEA/OFT leadership have grossly failed their stakeholders! It is always about money and power. Educators are busy teaching over-crowded classrooms and are worn-out at the end of the day. They place their faith and trust in the leadership of these organizations and they have failed us. Together, they have promoted benefits that were not justifiable, but the legislature allowed such. (Ex. the 35-year rule in SB190) The 35-year rule has cost the STRS system one billion to date, according to CFO, Bob Slater. The OEA wants the 35-year rule continued for 5 more years. That is ludicrous! End it at the end of this school year! Every year it continues in force, it will cost the system to go further in debt.
As you might realize, I am very angry about the failure of the system to recognize and deal with the issues concerning the STRS's inability to preserve our pension funds. Having a legislator point the finger at us and make it appear we are just greedy people is uncalled for and you know better then that. The real issue at hand is that our government allowed the oversight of the banking and investment industry to ruin our economy. Please put your efforts in the right place and call for the very people that have created this situation to be held accountable for their actions, and please stop making comments and blaming the hard-working people of this state for a situation that we had nothing to do with.
Thomas Curtis
Larry KehresMount Union Collge
Division III
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