Friday, March 01, 2013

STRS Board to meet March 13-14, 2013

From STRS, March 6, 2013
The State Teachers Retirement Board and Committee meetings currently scheduled at the STRS Ohio offices, 275 East Broad Street, Columbus, Ohio 43215, are as follows:
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
...Noon Disability Review Panel (Disability Reviews will be conducted in Executive Session) 
Thursday, March 14, 2013
...9 a.m. Ad Hoc Actuarial Search Committee
...Noon Retirement Board Meeting 
The Ad Hoc Actuarial Search Committee will begin at 9 a.m. on Thursday, March 14, 2013.  The Retirement Board meeting will come to order at noon on Thursday and is expected to enter executive session.  The Executive Director's Report is expected to begin at 1:30 p.m., followed by public participation, a Report From the Investment Department a Report From the Member Benefits Department - Health Care, a Report From the Member Benefits Department - Pension Benefits, Enterprise Risk Management - Legal Department, Enterprise Risk Management - Human Resource Services Department, routine matters, old business, new business and any other matters requiring attention.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

STRS to hold special board meeting March 7-8, 2013

From STRS, February 27, 2013
March 7 and 8, 2013
A special meeting of the State Teachers Retirement Board will be held on Thurs., March 7 and Fri., March 8, 2013.  The meeting will be held at the STRS Ohio offices in Columbus, Ohio.  The business agenda will begin at 9 a.m. on both days.  The primary purpose of the meeting is a general educational program focusing on investments and financial matters with the Retirement Board's independent investment advisors (Callan Associates and Cliffwater) and any other matters that may require attention.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Current STRS Asset Value

From Mario Iacone, February 27, 2013
CURRENT ASSET VALUE as of 1/31/2013
67.3  Billion
UP 1.1  Billion ( 2%)
Current Fiscal Year
ASSET VALUE as of  12/31/2012 .....65  Billion
approx 66.2 Billion
.....approx 80 Billion
LOW ASSET VALUE...early 2009
.....approx 47 Billion
approx 13 Billion BELOW 2007 HIGH and
approx 20  Billion ABOVE 2009 LOW
STRS to hold special board meeting March 7-8, 2013. Details here.

Monday, February 25, 2013

STRS Flashback - 10 Years Ago - Hazel's party on YOUR dime!

From John Curry, February 24, 2013

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,

STRS board wines, dines
Canton Repository, June 25, 2003
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.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Flashback: 2005 campaign flyer for Dennis Leone


Dr. Dennis Leone is a thirty year educator and administrator who retired in 2004.  He is the recipient of the First Amendment Award, received in 2004 from the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, for uncovering in 2003 the inappropriate spending practices at STRS (State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio). 
  • He received the Ohio Senate’s Outstanding Educational Service Award in 1999.
  • He was the only superintendent to receive an award in 2002 from the Ohio Association of Public School Employees for collaborative labor/management relations.
  • Dennis Leone, along with John Lazares, was solely responsible for the exposure of the waste and mismanagement at STRS Ohio.  He has worked with retirees to effect change at STRS Ohio.
Ohio’s retired educators need Dennis Leone to represent them on the STRS Board:
  • He addresses the monthly STRS Ohio Board meetings with the concerns of retired educators.
  • He is constantly fighting behind the scenes for retired educator causes.
  • He testified on the proposed pension legislation and lobbied for changes in Senate Bill 133.
  • He travels extensively in Ohio, speaking to active and retired teacher associations concerning the problems at STRS Ohio.
  • He has met face-to-face with the Auditor of State concerning the spending practices at STRS Ohio.
  • He has addressed the ORSC (Ohio Retirement Studies Council, which oversees Ohio’s five pension funds)
  • Since his landmark paper of May, 2003 which uncovered the misconduct at STRS, he has been tirelessly working for retired educators at his own expense.
  • Dr. Leone’s efforts have saved Ohio’s educators millions of dollars.
  • No one else has earned the right to represent Ohio’s retired educators more than Dr. Dennis Leone.  This is why CORE encourages you to vote when you receive your ballot in April for Dr. Leone for retired educator seat on the STRS Ohio Board.
Facts Regarding Spending Abuses at STRS Since 1995

The following represent a number of spending abuses discovered by Dennis Leone that occurred at STRS since 1995.  The abuses occurred even though assets at STRS dropped $12 billion, retirees lost their 13th check, health insurance premiums for retirees significantly increased, active members of STRS saw their STRS contribution rate increased from 9.3% to 10.0%, and school districts were implementing budget reduction plans to make ends meet.  STRS expenditures included:

 1.  $94.2 million on the new STRS headquarters.
 2.  $869,235 on artwork, sculptures and polished stones for the new STRS building.
 3.  $818,000 on a child care services center for the children of STRS employees.
 4.  $500,000 per year to run the child care services center.
 5.  $426,000 on a fitness center in the STRS building.
 6.  $88,397 per year to provide food services for STRS employees.
 7.  $428,056 on 16 cars, vans, and SUV's.
 8.  STRS Board policy that permitted staff members to drive STRS vehicles for personal use, and the family members of said employees to drive said vehicles.
 9.  52 American Express Credit Cards and 20 BP gas cards used by Board members and STRS staff members.
10.  Alcohol purchases incurred by staff members and Board members attending conferences -- using STRS credit cards.
11.  $18,810 on "Discovery Park" gala event, including the purchase of Instamatic cameras for attendees.
12.  $15,100 on new STRS building dedication, including alcohol and gifts for attendees, as well as airfare and lodging for out-of-town STRS visitors.
13.  $4,100 on a private retirement party for an STRS Board member.
14.  $5,594 on poinsettias to decorate STRS during the holiday season in 2002.
15.  $1,000 dinners for 12 board members/staff members on 2 occasions, again with alcohol.
16.  $7,116 for baseball tickets, concert tickets, movie rentals, and Kings Island tickets for STRS employees in the summer of 2003 for "team building."
17.  $530,284 spent by Board on trips and meetings around the country in 2000, 2001, and 2002.
18.  Multiple trips taken by Board members and staff to places like Honolulu, Palm Springs, Kiawah Island, and Anchorage.  A planned trip to China in 1995 was cancelled after it was suggested that it would have the appearance of junketeering.  
19.  Frequent occurrences of at least 6 Board members going to the same meeting, sometimes twice a year, costing STRS over $9,000 each year.
20.  $36,736 spent by a Board member Jack Chapman in a single year for trips all over the country.
21.  $1,017 airplane ticket for a Board member that would have cost $258 if it had been purchased 30 days in advance of the conference.
22.  $1 million cash payback per year to full-time STRS employees for 18 days of unused staff vacation days and unused sick leave.
23.  Total administrative expenses at STRS increased 17.4% per year between 1996 and 2002.
24.  Total STRS employees increased from 414 to 725 between 1996 and 2002.
25.  A total of 1,035 employee bonus checks were issued to STRS staff in 2000, 2001 and 2002.
26.  $24.4 million was awarded in bonus checks to employees between 1998 and 2003.
27.  $3.2 million had to be paid by STRS to PERS because of bonuses alone since 1998 to satisfy that pension system's 13.31% annual employee contribution requirement.  STRS employees are members of PERS.
28.  34 STRS employees in 2002 received bonus checks in excess of $40,000 (with 18 of those getting bonuses in excess of $70,000).
29.  One STRS employee received bonus checks of $110,000 and $68,800 in 2001 on top his base salary of $164,000.
30.  Over 150 STRS employees had base salaries over $100,000 in 2002, with 32 of those making over $155,000 -- topping the salaries of both the governor and the chief justice of the State Supreme Court.
31.  A total of $39,251 was paid to the Perry Local School District by STRS in 2002 and 2003 for sub teacher costs for Board member Michael Billirakis (when he attended STRS meetings), even though he did not have a position in the school district.  NEA pays Perry Local the dollar amount associated with the salary and benefits for Billirakis, enabling him to be listed as an employee.
32.  Excess STRS furniture was sold to STRS employees in 2000 and 2001 for $27,703, and instead of this amount going back into the pension fund, it was given to charities.
33.  The regular work week for STRS employees is 37 1/2 hours.
34.  If an STRS employee adopts a child, the STRS Board awards a $5,000 cash gift to said employee.
35.  Between 1999 and 2004, the STRS Board paid out $2.1 million in educational stipends for STRS employees to take college courses.  This amount was double what the other 4 public pension systems in Ohio paid out, combined, over the same time period.  STRS pays up to $7,000 per year (per employee) for undergraduate or graduate work.

Changes at STRS Since Leone's Report on May 16, 2003

On May 16, 2003, Dennis Leone presented a 13-page position paper that summarized recent spending abuses by the STRS Board.  The report made numerous recommendations for the Board to change its spending practices and to do a better job of representing its membership.  The following changes have occurred since May 16, 2003:

 1.  The 52 credit cards and 39 gas cards held by staff and board members have been turned in.
 2.  All but a couple of the 16 cars, vans and SUV's purchased by STRS have been sold.
 3.  The policy that permitted staff to use STRS cars for personal use has been dropped.
 4.  The STRS staff has been reduced by 100 employees and the administrative budget has been cut.
 5.  New policies prohibit the use of pension money for things like alcohol, parties, movie rentals, Kings Island, concerts, and baseball games, or for airfare, lodging, and gifts for out-of-town STRS visitors.
 6.  New policies require plane tickets to be purchased at least 30 days in advance in order to receive the cheapest rates.
 7.  New policies restrict how many professional meetings Board members can attend yearly, the number of Board members who can attend said professional meetings, and how much can be spent at said meetings.
 8.  The cost to run the STRS child care services center has been reduced from $500,000 per year to $100,000 per year.  It is still promised to be cost neutral.
 9.  Cafeteria services in the STRS headquarters are now cost neutral.
10.  Fees to use the STRS fitness center have been increased.
11.  Bonus checks for non-investment staff have been eliminated -- affecting over 300 employees -- and bonus checks for investment staff will occur only if said employees earn money for STRS.
12.  NEA paid back STRS the $39,251 that the Perry Local School District received from STRS for sub teacher costs for Michael Billirakis when he was attending STRS meetings.
13.  STRS Executive Director Herb Dyer resigned to avoid being terminated, after 105 legislators called for his resignation.
14.  Senate Bill 133, signed by the governor on June 16, 2004, put in place a number of oversight regulations.  It also requires ethics training and travel policies for all Board members.
15.  Senate Bill 133 added another retiree to the Board, removed State Auditor Betty Montgomery and State Attorney General Jim Petro, and added three investment specialists -- thereby stripping OEA of its majority control of the STRS Board.
16.  Senate Bill 133 stipulates that the "big spender" Board members from 2000, 2001 and 2002 -- those who spent in excess of $10,000 per year of pension money on trips around the country -- may never again run for the Board or serve as an appointee to the Board.  This affects Jack Chapman, Eugene Norris, Hazel Sidaway, Gloria Gaylord, and Debbie Scott.  It deserves noting that Eugene Norris, a former OEA officer and Board president in 2004, was defeated in his re-election attempt immediately before Senate Bill 133 went into effect, by John Lazares -- Warren County ESC Superintendent.
17.  Senate Bill 133 contains a disciplinary procedure that will authorize the State Attorney General -- in the event that Board members improperly spend pension money in the future -- to seek restitution, pursue civil charges against Board members, and cause their removal from the Board. 

Bottom Line

 1. It was Dennis Leone who wrote the report two years ago that summarized the spending abuses (hundreds of millions) of OUR pension money by the STRS Board and staff.  The theme of his 13-page report was that the Board needed to change its spending practices immediately and do a better job of representing its members.

2.  You will not see Dennis Leone’s name on any endorsement list by either OEA or ORTA, because OEA and ORTA don't plan on telling their membership who the 5 candidates are and what their credentials are.

3.  When Dennis Leone issued his report on STRS two years ago, the LAST thing he expected was the initial reaction he got from both OEA and ORTA afterwards......OEA wrote a statewide memo that said his findings were inaccurate and "misrepresentations," while ORTA initially try to ignore his report.  It was not until thousands of actives and retirees statewide became outraged over the truth that both OEA and ORTA then said:  "Of course we are concerned about the spending practices at STRS."  His 13-page report stepped on some toes at OEA and ORTA.  (OEA had 5 former officers sitting on the STRS Board, and also caused many retirees to ask ORTA why they had not first discovered what Dennis Leone found.)

4.  To quote Dr. Leone: “I believe an STRS Board member needs to be an uncompromising guardian and caretaker of OUR pension money.”  Ohio law REQUIRES all decisions of the Board to be for us and our beneficiaries.........and this has not happened in the past!!

Questions to Consider

Candidates Leone and Speas have been very active over the past two years, pushing for constructive changes at STRS, addressing the Board, writing the Board, testifying on pension reform legislation and working with legislators on Senate Bill 133.  Have the other three candidates (Green, Chapman and Johnson) done this?  How many times have they addressed the STRS Board?"  (As of March 2005, Dennis Leone has addressed the STRS Board in 20 out of 24 meetings, missing only when absolutely necessary.)

Why isn't ORTA sending out a summary of the credentials of all five retiree candidates?  Is it because ORTA doesn’t want us to make up our own minds?  Is it true that ORTA is sending out a flyer soon to all 110,000 retirees that will not include the credentials of Leone, Green, and Chapman (all of whom are ORTA members)? 

Parting Thoughts

In 2002, STRS told you they didn't have enough money for your 13th check -- right?  But they sure had enough money for parties, alcohol, trips to Honolulu, big bonus checks for staff, and child care services!!

 Once we get him elected, Dennis Leone will be an ADAMANT voice on the STRS Board that will sayTHIS CAN NEVER, NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN!!!”
Larry KehresMount Union Collge
Division III
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