Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Another OEA official artfully dodges the questions!

Debbie asks some very pertinent questions, but Mr. Lavezzi doesn't answer them. WHY? My question: Why are OEA and ORTA so afraid of ONE candidate (Dennis Leone) that they (at least OEA) would be willing to spend an untold amount of money to get him defeated in the upcoming STRS Board election? When Dr. Leone was on the STRS Board previously, he didn't "run" it (how could he?). If he is elected again, the Board can vote down ALL his proposals 10-1 if they wish. Why are they so afraid of him? Why are all these people afraid to tell us exactly which of his proposals and reform measures they object to, and why? Think about it; it isn't hard to figure out. Comments welcome.
Kathie Bracy
"Which of these changes in the system have NOT displayed a 'fiduciary duty of care and loyalty' to the teachers and their pension system? Which of these pension changes upset you and led you to believe that this wasn't in the best interest of our pension system? Which of these changes would be considered 'corrosive' to teachers or to the survival of STRS?"
..........~ Debbie Rudy-Lack to Bill Lavezzi
[Best read from the bottom up.]

Bill Lavezzi to Deborah Rudy-Lack, January 29, 2013
Subject: STRS issues
Ms. Rudy-Lack--Thank you for your reply. I'm sorry that you assumed that you "wouldn't be getting any support or endorsement" from me; I think all of us STRS retirees should be able to have respectful conversations about these important matters. I guess we will have to agree to disagree.--Bill Lavezzi

Debbie Rudy-Lack to Bill Lavezzi, January 28, 2013
Subject: STRS issues
Mr. Lavezzi,
Normally, I wouldn't have responded to an email that was unsolicited, but I felt the need to clarify my communication with Mr. Mancine and address some of your comments about Dr. Leone.
First, let me say that a response from you wasn't necessary. When I contacted Mr. Mancine, whose name was given to me by a mutual friend, he asked me to call you to discuss the possibility of addressing a group of retirees about the petition. As soon as I heard your name, I knew that I wouldn't be getting any support or endorsement from you for Dr. Leone. Thus, I chose NOT to contact you. And given that Mr. Mancine felt the need to "get your opinion" before signing the petition, I never contacted him again either.
In my opinion, Dr. Leone's motives are beyond reproach. The initiatives that were proposed and eventually put into place while he was a member of the STRS Board stopped the financial abuses that were occurring at STRS at that time. Senate Bill 133, which was signed into law by Governor Taft in 2004, put into place a number of oversight regulations at STRS. They are numerous, but let me mention a few to refresh your memory:
1) changes in the Board's travel and expenditure policies
2) the prohibition of bonuses for invest staff when returns are negative
3) new policies which prohibited Board members from using pension monies for alcohol, parties, movies, concerts, baseball games and amusement parks
4) bonus checks for non-investment staff have been eliminated
5) the cost of providing day care for the children of STRS employees was reduced
6) terminating the use of STRS owned cars for personal use
7) terminating the use of credit cards and gas credit cards which were held by staff and STRS Board members
8) the addition of another retiree seat on the STRS Board
Of course, Mr Lavezzi, I could go on, but I believe you now understand why I am endorsing Dr. Leone and circulating petitions to get his name on the ballot this spring. Which of these changes in the system have NOT displayed a "fiduciary duty of care and loyalty" to the teachers and their pension system? Which of these pension changes upsets you and led you to believe that this wasn't in the best interest of our pension system? Which of these changes would be considered "corrosive" to teachers or to the survival of STRS? In my opinion, he has more than displayed a "fiduciary duty of care and loyalty." He has been proactive in protecting the pension system that belongs to the teachers, not the STRS Board or OEA. When one individual is standing alone and fighting the majority, it's not always an easy task.
And finally, of utmost importance is the recent pension solvency law which was adopted this past fall, which gives the STRS Board the legal authority to make major financial decisions without legislative approval. That's rather like "the fox guarding the hen house," and we all know how well that worked out under a past STRS Board. There are other concerns that need to be addressed as well, but I won't take the time to discuss those here.
As a retiree, I believe we need someone like Dr. Leone to represent us. OEA and ORTA didn't do anything to stop what was happening at STRS, nor did they call for reforms or support Dr. Leone and Mr. Lazares in their quest for transparency. Rather, they maligned Dr. Leone through emails to local presidents, calling his findings "misrepresentations." Funny, those supposed "misrepresentations" resulted in more than 100 state legislators calling for the resignation of Herb Dyer and STRS Board members were brought up on ethics violation charges. We need someone on the Board who questions, debates and and makes recommendations based on facts. Simply because the majority of the Board votes unanimously on a regular basis, doesn't mean that the board is representing its members or doing what is best for the pension system.
Your comment about superintendents and retire-rehire have no bearing on Dr. Leone's candidacy. He is a retired superintendent. Fact of the matter is, even OEA is against legislation that would eliminate the retire-rehire option. From my understanding, OEA would rather allow local school boards to make decisions based on what is best for their district. If retire-rehire is perceived as such a negative move on the part of local boards of education, why hasn't OEA come out against the practice?
Since my retirement in 2010, I have been disappointed by what I see happening to retirees. I have also been very disappointed in the low profile that OEA and ORTA have taken when it comes to representing its retirees at the state level. Retiree benefits get cut immediately, while pension changes for actives are "phased in." And neither organization spoke in support of retirees during the recent ORSC hearings. Dr. Leone provided testimony in support of our older retirees at those hearings in September. In my opinion, there isn't anyone other than Dr. Leone who is fighting for us. The truth about what was happening at STRS is documented; it is fact. Your opinion of his leadership is just that - your opinion. As retirees, we must never let those kinds of abuses of power occur to our pension system again!
It will then come as no surprise to you, that I will continue to gather signatures for Dr. Leone's petitions and I will continue to endorse his candidacy to any retired teachers with whom I come in contact.
Deborah Rudy-Lack
Bill Lavezzi to Debbie Rudy-Lack, January 26, 2013
Subject: STRS elections
Dear Ms. Rudy-Lack:
My friend and retired Aurora colleague Lou Mancine forwarded to me the information you provided about Dr. Leone's candidacy for STRS Board. I told him that I would examine the materials you sent and would reply.
In the interest of full disclosure, I should acknowledge that I am the Executive Director of NEOEA; however, this is not an official response from NEOEA, which has not made an endorsement in this contest. Lou's request came to me at home and not at work, and I am replying from my personal email account and not my NEOEA email account.
Unless I've missed something, I agree with everything expressed in the article "You Asked the Wrong Question!" reprinted from CORE. All of us share frustration and anger with the virtual war on public employees that we have seen in politics and in the press over recent years. (1) The question, I think, is whether Dr. Leone is the person to represent teachers in that battle.
I have some familiarity with Dr. Leone from his former tenure on the Board. Although I have no reason to question his integrity or his desire to do right by Ohio's retirees, he is a retired superintendent, and I have noted that the interests of school administrators--especially superintendents--are not always consistent with the interests of teachers. Nowhere is this more evident than in (2) the rehiring of retirees: many boards of education have made what I regard as unwise and overly generous arrangements with their retiring superintendents--arrangements which they would never consider offering to their teachers.
With regard to general STRS policy, I have observed that Dr. Leone tends to believe that only he has the right answers; he has a devoted following which seems to share that belief. I have seen him play to the beliefs of that following, and (3) I have seen both him and them ignore the observations of any who disagree with his opinions.
I have spoken with members of the STRS Board--not just OEA members--who have told me of his (4) corrosive effect on Board deliberations, and when he was previously a member of the Board I witnessed his (5) behavior firsthand.
Board members have a fiduciary "duty of care" which requires them to use their independent judgment on issues. They also have a fiduciary (6) "duty of loyalty" which requires them to put the organization's needs above their own and those of their constituency.(7) These can be delicate matters to negotiate, and I have little reason to trust in Dr. Leone's ability to do so. What boards need--whether STRS's or OEA's or NEOEA's--are members with the courtesy to listen to the proposals of others, the curiosity to seek answers, and the courage to speak up when necessary. But they also need the (8) humility to understand that sometimes answers are more complicated than we would wish and sometimes our preconceived notions might be incorrect.
It will come to you as no surprise, then, that I will not recommend that my Aurora colleagues sign Dr. Leone's candidacy petition. (9) I see no reason to disagree with OEA's recommendation of Jim McGreevy and Bob Stein for re-election.

Bill Lavezzi
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