STRS Flashback - 10 Years Ago - Hazel's party on YOUR dime!
Thanks to Dr. Dennis Leone this coverage, by Paul Kostyu, would never have been initiated. Thank goodness for both! Please vote for Dr. Dennis Leone when your STRS ballot arrives! Please share this email with other STRS benefits recipients. Thank you,
Copley Columbus Bureau chief
June 25, 2003
COLUMBUS — $4,100.
That was the food tab for a three-hour, invitation-only party Thursday evening at the State Teachers Retirement System for Hazel A. Sidaway, a Canton teacher who is leaving the pension board.
Twelve hours later and just feet away from where the party was held on the sixth floor of the pension board’s headquarters, Chairwoman Deborah Scott of Cincinnati publicly chastised STRS Executive Director Herbert L. Dyer for excessive spending, particularly on staff bonuses and travel.
Scott attended the buffet dinner with 60 retirement system officials, former and current board members and staff, their spouses and guests. They dined on beef, fish, potatoes, salad and dessert prepared by Michael Jones Personal Chef Services, a Columbus caterer.
The retirement system is paying for the meal.
“That’s outrageous. It’s unbelievable,” said Rep. Michelle G. Schneider, R-Cincinnati. “They have built their own little fiefdom and it’s out of control. That aggravates me.”
“That is entirely too much money,” agreed Sen. Kirk Schuring, R-Jackson Township, when he heard about the cost of the dinner.
Damon Asbury, deputy director for administration, said retirement system executives personally covered the $110 tab for the wine served with the meal and an open bar, with more than 20 bottles of whiskey, vodka and other spirits, proceeding the dinner. They also paid for a $129 wall mirror as a gift for Sidaway, and board members split the cost of a $310 bracelet with an STRS charm attached to it.
Sidaway attended her last retirement system meeting last week after 17 years on the board. She’ll retire Monday from her Canton City Schools teaching position; that makes her ineligible continue to serve as a teacher representative on the STRS board.
Schuring and other lawmakers, teachers and retirees have been calling for Dyer’s resignation ever since news reports revealed millions of dollars have been spent on bonuses, artwork, travel and subsidized child care.
Sidaway spent the most on travel of all board members, $54,217 in the last three years.
The retirement party is “another reflection of the posh, opulent behavior of the board,” Schuring said. “It’s a culture created by the director. It’s a culture so deeply embedded that they’re oblivious to the real world.”
Representatives of Ohio Auditor Betty Montgomery and State Superintendent of Schools Susan Tave Zelman, who are members of the STRS board, attended the party and then criticized Dyer on Friday at the board meeting.
“The department thought it was proper to attend the retirement event for a fellow board member,” said J.C. Benton, a spokesman for the Department of Education. “But Steve (Puckett) stands by his comments to the board (on Friday).”
Joe Case, a spokesman for Montgomery, said the dinner was not something the board voted on. He said Mary Beth Foley, Montgomery’s representative, told STRS staff that she would not attend if the dinner was “champagne and lobster.”
Foley was assured it wasn’t extravagant, but wasn’t told of the cost. Case said Foley questioned whether she should go because of the issues raised about STRS spending. She went as a “professional courtesy” after Sidaway personally invited her.
Case said Foley’s attendance did not change Montgomery’s view that “everything needs to be subject to close scrutiny. The administration and the board need to be looking at expenses like this. They need to be sensitive in these hard economic times on where pensioners’ money is spent.”
Attempts to reach Scott for comment were unsuccessful.