Safety forces defend their pension
The Columbus Dispatch
Wednesday September 11, 2013 3:25 PM
First responder union representatives came to the defense of their
pension fund leaders today, returning the fire of a state representative
accusing those running the retirement system of deception.
“Firefighters are not willing to stand by while the board and executive
staff are subjected to unfounded, irresponsible attacks,” said Mark Saunders,
Ohio Association of Professional Fire Fighters president, in a statement.
Jay McDonald, president of the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police, said, “This
board has made tough decisions in recommending the changes contained in Senate
Bill 340 last (legislative) session and in adjusting the health-care
stabilization fund to move our system closer to the 30-year funding requirement.
They have never misled our membership, or the public, or Ohio public officials
on the financial condition of the system.”
Their remarks came in response to strongly worded comments from Rep. Lynn
Wachtmann, head of the Ohio Retirement Study Council, who called the Ohio Police
& Fire Pension Fund’s leadership “ incompetent or willing to lie to their
membership” and said they are “openly deceiving” the public as well as their
members and retirees.
The Republican from Napolean in northwest Ohio said he is considering an
attempt to remove the fund’s executive director and put the first responders’
retirement system under the law enforcement branch of the Public Employees
Retirement System, already the state’s biggest.
Gary Monto, president of Police and Fire Retirees of Ohio, called
Wachtmann’s comments unfounded and “reprehensible” at best, saying that labeling
board members as liars and incompetent is totally irresponsible.
“We stand behind our board and our executive director and have confidence
in them to insure that our fund is on sound fiscal ground in the years to come,”
Monto said in the release. “ Knee-jerk reactions have no place in this
operation. The new law that Wachtmann sponsored and voted for has been in effect
two months. Let it work.”
At issue is whether Police & Fire is meeting state minimums for fiscal
health, which require enough resources to pay liabilities in 30 years at most.
Earlier this year, leaders of the pension system said that standard was
being met under the assumption that current robust returns on the fund’s
billions in investments would continue. However, under the widely accepted
method of making projections based on a longer period of returns, the fund would
not meet the minimum requirement.
An independent report this week confirmed those facts, which prompted a
celebratory press release from the Police & Fire Fund – and the harsh
condemnation from Wachtmann.
The report also shows that police and firefighters should be contributing
15 percent of their pay to achieve the 30-year maximum. The figure will be only
12.25 percent even when changes from the Senate bill approved a year ago are all
in place in 2015. But the head of the pension fund says he won’t ask police and
firefighters to pay more even if the minimum legal requirement is not being
The next round in this ongoing confrontation likely will become face to
face at Thursday’s Retirement Study Council meeting.