Monday, April 20, 2009

Deja vu.....Sen. Wachtmann re: STRS in 2003 -- did he have a crystal ball and gaze 6 years into the future?

He must have!

From John Curry, April 20, 2009
Below is a letter I received (in 2003) from Sen. Wachtmann re. my letter to him regarding misspending, mismanagement, and the entitlement mentality at STRS. That was even before the bonus controversies (yes, there was more than one bonus controversy) , 6 criminal ethics convictions of former STRS Board members and a former Executive Director, and a host of other travesties brought to light by soon-to-be-retired STRS Board member Dr. Dennis Leone.
I take particular note in what Senator Wachtmann said in that letter (attached) concerning health care as, this week, the STRS Board will begin to discuss more cuts to benefits AND increased deductibles as well. Here is what he said on that cold February day back in 2003:
"STRS has not been as farsighted as other systems, such as the Public Employees Retirement System, on managing its portfolio and especially taking early steps to prevent more drastic measures to ensure health care benefits are there for all of the retirees in the future."
We have(n't) come a long way, baby!
John Curry
P.S. The OEA was also searching for that "dedicated stream of (healthcare) revenue" back then... they still haven't found it, have they?
Click image to enlarge

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Dennis Leone: A bold challenge to Pat Frost-Brooks, Bill Leibensperger and Tim Myers

Think they're up to it?
From Dennis Leone, April 20, 2009
I remember several things very, very clearly about the statewide communication by OEA President Gary Allen in the summer of 2003. (It advised OEA members to contact Bill Leibensperger if they had further questions.) Allen described my 2003 findings of STRS board/staff wasteful spending (and this is verbatim) as “misrepresentations,” as “destructive” and “written with unclear motive.” These things I will never forget. He also wrote in this statewide email of how OEA supported Herb Dyer and the big spender STRS board members of that time period (six of whom – Jack Chapman, Hazel Sidaway, Eugene Norris, Debra Scott, Michael Billirakis, and Joe Endry – all were later convicted in court of ethics violations, along with Herb Dyer himself). Allen wrote this during the summer of 2003, after my 13-page report came out in May of that year. In the recent 2009 statewide email, OEA is now calling me a “dissident board member.” While I was the only board member who originally pushed for the suspension of bonus checks – which OEA now says it supports – OEA-backed board members Ramser, Meuser, and Myers did NOT vote in support of the bonus suspension. OEA writes that it is proud of these three STRS board members – but strangely did not say it is proud of STRS board member Tai Hayden, who also is an OEA member. Was this because she voted in favor of what I proposed, which was the bonus suspension? OEA has sunk to a new low, and apparently is not even aware that its own board members at STRS (except Tai Hayden) are voting against what OEA says it supports.
I would love to have the opportunity to debate the current STRS issues in a public forum with Patricia Frost-Brooks and Bill Leibensperger sitting across the table. Is there anyone out there who could arrange such a thing? OEA can pick the date, the time, and location. I will be there. Board member Tim Myers says the teachers he has spoken to in his district – Elida Local Schools – are NOT opposed to the current bonus checks. I’d love to have the opportunity to address them as well. Betcha Myers isn’t willing to set it up. I recall once asking for an audience with the Dublin City School District teachers after the Dublin teacher union president Dawn Leibensperger (does that name sound familiar?) gave her opinion of my 2003 report to the teachers there. My “equal time” request, of course, was denied by Mrs. Leibensperger. In fact, she expressed her distaste that I even asked for it.
There are emails, letters, and tapes that verify everything I have said above.
Dennis Leone
STRS Retiree Board Member
April 20, 2009

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Six years later and they're STILL in the same grade!

Memo from Gary Allen, June 17, 2003
Executive Committee, District Leaders, Local Presidents, OEA-R Advisory Council, STRS Board Members
From: Gary L. Allen, President
Re: STRS Health Care
Recently, Dennis Leone, superintendent of the Chillicothe school district, distributed via e-mail the statement and related report he presented to the board of the Ohio State Teachers Retirement System (STRS) on May 16, 2003. Some recipients have elected to indiscriminately broadcast the report despite its misrepresentations. In response to related inquiries from leaders and members, we are distributing the following statement.
If you are asked to respond to questions regarding Mr. Leone's report, I request that you use the following report to frame your response. The OEA is committed to protecting the pension benefits of current and future retirees and ensuring that they receive affordable, adequate, high quality health care. We believe that the STRS Board and staff are equally committed. We will continue to operate according to that principle.
If you have questions about this matter, please contact me or Bill Leibensperger, or of course, STRS.
Gary L. Allen
OEA Statement
As officers of the Ohio Education Association, we are very much aware of the allegations toward STRS contained in the document written and widely distributed by Dennis Leone, Superintendent of Chillicothe City Schools.
Despite his efforts to discredit STRS management, the OEA remains committed to working with STRS and its staff to find solutions to the health care crisis that is affecting our members. Especially through our work with the Health Care Advocates for STRS, the OEA's focus remains on fixing the problem, rather than fixing blame.
Although Mr. Leone's allegations raise concerns, many of the incidents he wants "corrected" occurred in the past and cannot be changed. The context in which he addresses these issues appears to be of his own creation. The STRS Board and management have addressed the issues Mr. Leone presents. These issues need to be reviewed continually and any resulting change needs to be for the benefit of current and future retirees. The present members of the STRS Board are committed to improving the operation of STRS. We encourage them to communicate these improvements to members. While improving its operation is important, STRS is finding solutions to the health care crisis for now and in the future. The OEA supports this effort.
Mr. Leone's motives for his decision to broadcast his claims far and wide are unclear. Much of his logic is difficult to follow. In contrast, the OEA's purpose and reasoning are clear: we will work with the Health Care Advocates and the STRS Board to protect and promote the welfare of current and future STRS beneficiaries. We respect that - first -- STRS must protect our guaranteed pensions, and recognize that the Board fulfills its fiduciary responsibility in doing so. Anyone can point fingers and create division, especially with the advantage of hindsight and when communicating about such an emotionally charged issue, but the OEA refuses to operate in that destructive way. We believe in the integrity of the State Teachers Retirement System and the individuals on the Board. We remain committed to working with them in a unified way to solve problems and create solutions for the benefit of our shared constituency.

[I love this sentence from Gary's memo: "We believe in the integrity of the State Teachers Retirement System and the individuals on the Board." Heck, weren't those the same Board members who either got kicked off the STRS Board (by the state legislature: Jim Petro and Betty Montgomery) or received criminal convictions three years later for ethics violations (OEA leaders who served on the STRS Board in 2003 or later: Hazel Sidaway, Jack Chapman, Eugene Norris, Debbie Scott and also former OEA president Mike Billirakis)? Gary Allen sure makes a mockery of the word "integrity," doesn't he? KBB]

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

MOSERS "ain't" seen nothin' yet! Let's go fishin'!

From John Curry, April 16, 2009

Today's article in the (Springfield, MO) features some questionable retirement system travel. The Show Me folks are just now investigating one of their retirement systems, MOSERS (Missouri State Employees Retirement System), re. bonuses and have happened upon the discovery of another misspending and entitlement practice - globetrotting. It's kind of like opening up a can of worms at the first tug of the pull-tab on the lid above. Following the "amateur-globetrotting" on their dime article below is an example of "professional globetrotting" accomplished on the Ohio public's dime several years ago...... 2002 to be exact. Will the fishing be as good this year for the Missourians as it was for the Buckeyes in the past? Let's hope they catch every fish in the pond! However, $2,688 (even at today's prices) was just a "drop in the worm bucket" compared to the cost of ours, wasn't it?
Smith recalled asking Jetton, "Now that you've gone to London, are you coming to the meetings?"
April 16, 2009
State pension plan paid for Jetton trip
European visit made, but meetings missed.
The Associated Press
Columbia -- The former speaker of the Missouri House appointed himself to a state pension board and attended few meetings, but traveled with the agency last year to London.
The Columbia Daily Tribune reported Wednesday that the Missouri State Employees' Retirement System, called MOSERS, paid $2,688 for then-House Speaker Rod Jetton to take a six-day trip to London in July 2008.
Board members made the trip to talk with investment company officials about what is being done with the retirement system's funds. Some of the investment firms are headquartered there.
As speaker, Marble Hill Republican Jetton appointed himself to the board in September 2007. He left the House at the end of 2008, barred by term limits from seeking re-election.
Agency officials say Jetton missed seven meetings but attended a two-day board conference, the London trip and one other meeting.
"I felt it was unfortunate that he chose to go to one event and that happened to be in London," said Todd Smith, Gov. Matt Blunt's appointee on the board.
Smith recalled asking Jetton, "Now that you've gone to London, are you coming to the meetings?"
Jetton did not respond to the newspaper's requests for comment through two telephone messages and a visit to his office in Jefferson City.
In an e-mail to the Tribune, Jetton said that he is proud to have served on the board.
"During my time of service I tried to educate myself on the financial investments MOSERS' makes with our retirement funds. Since MOSERS' is backed by the Missouri taxpayer it is important that a close eye be kept on all investments," he wrote.
Sen. Jason Crowell, a client of Jetton's political consulting firm and a current member of the MOSERS board, said the meeting was an important function.
"It's like we are kicking the tires before we buy a car," he said.
Now, MOSERS stakeholders, here's some Professional globetrotting accomplished by some former Ohio STRS Board members back in 2002 ...fasten your seat belts! I have highlighted those former Ohio STRS board members who were OEA endorsed "teacher members" of the STRS Board during "our" travel junkets.
STRS paid $70,418 for trips in 2002
Canton Repository, August 9, 2003
Copley Columbus Bureau chief
COLUMBUS — The State Teachers Retirement System board created an online form to evaluate the conferences its members attend.
The electronic form was created because a paper one wasn’t being used, said Laura Ecklar, a spokeswoman for STRS.
But few board members use the electronic version, either, and those who do almost always say the seminars are “excellent.”
Critics of the pension fund say out-of-state travel by board members is indicative of STRS’s excessive spending habits.
In 2002, the first year evaluations were filed, nine current and former board members made a total of 49 trips to conferences, costing STRS $70,418. They filed 13 evaluations.
The top traveler that year was Jack Chapman of Reynoldsburg, who spent $14,684 on 12 trips. He was followed closely by vice chairman Eugene Norris of Columbus, who spent $14,573 on seven trips. Norris’ per trip cost, however, was higher at $2,044. Chapman filed seven evaluations, the most by any board member. Norris didn’t file any evaluations.
In June 2001, the board’s Committee on Board Orientation and Development asked the STRS staff to create a mechanism so members could file reports of their trips online. The evaluations were intended to help current and future board members decide whether it was worthwhile — in terms of education and cost — to attend similar seminars sponsored by the same organizations.
Ecklar, director of Communication Services, said there was no cost involved. Her office developed the wording and appearance of the form, while the fund’s Information Technology Services programmed it for the internal Intranet. She said several months were required to develop and test a program. The form became available in January 2002.
Ecklar called the form a success because board members are using it.
Hazel Sidaway of Plain Township, a former board member and now-retired Canton teacher, chaired the committee that initiated the electronic form. In the committee’s last report that was presented at the board’s June meeting, seven meetings were recommended “as beneficial.”
Three of those seven meetings were sponsored by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans. Yet, two evaluations comment on the organization’s seminars. The annual meeting of the National Council on Teacher Retirement is recommended based on two evaluations, one that said it was “good” and the other said it was “excellent.” The recommendation of the annual meeting of the National Conference on Public Employee Retirement Systems is based on one evaluation.
Chapman was the first to use the electronic form in February 2002 and, is the most frequent user of the program. According to STRS documents, Chapman is the only board member to file evaluations in 2003.
Chairwoman Deborah Scott, who at the June board meeting urged members to file evaluations, submitted one from the six trips she took.
None of the seminars were panned. In fact, 10 of the 13 evaluations said the meetings were excellent and others were said to be good, but still were recommended for other board members to attend.
Joseph Endry rated a convention in Anchorage, Alaska, as excellent “because of very current information about retirement system concerns.”
Chapman recommended the same meeting “based solely on the opportunity this convention provides for trustees to network with peers.” One of the sessions he attended discussed “the loss of faith in corporate America.”
In 2002, State Teachers Retirement System board members made 49 trips to conferences for which they were urged to file voluntary evaluations.
Michael Billirakis spent $5,932 on four trips, filed no reports.
Jack Chapman spent $14,684 on 12 trips, filed seven reports.
Joe Endry spent $9,030 on six trips, filed two reports.
Gloria Gaylord spent $3,803 on four trips, filed no reports.
Paul Marshall spent $1,224 on one trip, filed no report.
Rick Moore spent $2,735 on three trips, filed no reports.
Eugene Norris spent $14,308 on seven trips, filed no reports.
Deborah Scott spent $6,167 on six trips, filed one report.
Hazel Sidaway spent $12,535 on seven trips, filed three reports.

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Tuesday, April 07, 2009

FLASHBACK- 3 YEARS AGO - Will they be fooled by the offering of a donut this time?

From John Curry, April 7, 2009
Well, the ballots are out for 2009 and hopefully, the electorate will be a bit better informed this time 'round! Three years ago, at STRS board member election time, active educators had never heard of current active teacher candidate for the STRS board, Jim Stoll. This time...things are a little different as more and more public school educators have been "educated" about what has happened at STRS AND what IS happening with their investment moneys and future benefits (or lack thereof). Will they be fooled by the offering of a donut this time? I hope not. God's speed, Jim Stoll! In my mind, you are the only active teacher candidate who will not be a rubber stamp for either the STRS administration or the OEA. John
Sunday, May 07, 2006
Editorial by John Curry: Donuts for votes? Good one, OEA! (By the way, you still have some dirty laundry to tend to)
"Will current and future OEA-backed STRS Board members be nothing more than puppets for the OEA “company line” when it comes to critical decisions affecting retirees or will they think for themselves and the betterment of the lives of retirees that they have a fiduciary responsibility to? There are too many stones yet unturned."
May 7, 2006
Well, the election’s over and we (the OFT also) didn't win! This statement begs the question, “Why?” The following is only my opinion and I would like that to be understood before I go into my theory as to WHY? There are multiple reasons and I would like to touch upon each one:
MONEY: The OEA, in the past, has spent over $100,000 in a former unsuccessful attempt to see that Eugene Norris was reelected to the STRS Board. This time around they spent who knows how much?
COMMUNICATION WITH A CAPTIVE AUDIENCE: After suffering losses in the past two STRS elections and SB 133, the OEA finally realized that their control was rapidly loosening its grip over the STRS. They concentrated upon indoctrinating their local leaders (local chapter presidents) concerning the necessity to be more active when it came to regaining control of the teachers retirement system.
What the OEA didn't tell local leaders was the sordid history of a retirement system that had an ugly past, but is now in a state of reform. A system recently dominated by an OEA majority of entitlement, Ohio ethics law violations, misspending, and arrogance. We CORE members are well aware of this, but a majority of the rank and file classroom teachers still haven't the slightest idea. These teachers, a majority of whom are many years away from retiring, didn't have the time nor interest in reading anything that didn't have an immediate impact on their classroom or their current paychecks. You and I were one of these teachers not that many years ago.
Just how many times, as a young teacher, did you take the STRS ballot and throw it in the trash can so that you could continue to grade papers at your desk rather than worry about something years down the road?
LACK OF COMMUNICATION TO THE PUBLIC: The only newspapers in who Ohio who gave any decent coverage to the STRS scandal (yes, it was a scandal) and ethics convictions were the Canton Repository and the Cleveland Plain Dealer. The Toledo Blade, whose excellent investigative reporting and the subsequent series of editorials led to the arrest of BWC’s corruption king Tom Noe, didn't even mention Hazel Sidaway’s recent conviction. We didn't receive the broad coverage that the Police and Fire people received when their board members traveled the world (families included) with their dime.
A DONUT FOR A VOTE: I will have to give the OEA credit for this one. This was the most important factor in the defeat of CORE backed candidates. The OEA finally discovered the real way to insure that those STRS ballots were filled out (to their way of liking) and turned in rather than thrown in the trash can. Recently a directive was sent to local presidents suggesting that the teachers (a captive audience) meet before the beginning of the school day at the school to have donuts and refreshments. It doesn't take very long to scarf down a donut, drink a cup of java, and place two checkmarks on a ballot. More votes were salvaged by this reason than all the other reasons put together. Was this an example of buying votes? I'll let you be the judge of that one!
What now, will some of us take the path that will see us attempt to “kiss up” to those who have oppressed us and raped our retirement benefits because of a loss at the ballot box? Will we take the approach -- “Why can't we just all get along?”
Well, for one, this CORE member will continue to plod along -- educating the educators as to what has happened and why. With truth comes power. Not enough educators yet know the truth. The job of educating the educators is not finished.
What will become of the strained but still somewhat still friendly relationship between the OFT and the OEA? What will be the result of the class action lawsuit against the OEA for loss of benefits by retired OEA staffers (the lawsuit that the OEA doesn't want to talk about)? Will Conni Ramser finally read Dennis Leone’s 13 page presentation to the STRS Board back in 2003? How many more current/former STRS Board members/associates will be served subpoenas for misdemeanors or will there be felony arrests for evidence tampering to cover up the history of gratuities and other crimes of a felonious nature? Will current and future OEA-backed STRS Board members be nothing more than puppets for the OEA “company line” when it comes to critical decisions affecting retirees or will they think for themselves and the betterment of the lives of retirees that they have a fiduciary responsibility to? There are too many stones yet unturned. One thing is for sure - this STRS retiree will never coalesce with the current OEA leadership. We retirees (and tens of thousands of unknowing active teachers) lost a battle, but we DIDN'T LOSE THE WAR!
John, still a very PROUD CORE MEMBER and still dedicated to “educating the educators” about the rape of our retirement system.

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Friday, December 12, 2008

Molly Janczyk: STRS and Ethics

From Molly Janczyk, December 12, 2008
Subject: STRS & Ethics: My Opinion
I am gravely concerned and deeply disappointed in what I perceive as the continued loose ethical behavior at STRS. Dyer stated STRS money was his or theirs to do with what he wanted. He was forced to resign for such arrogant and defiant statements. Asbury had his own questionable ethics regarding various issues written about multiple times. But, STRS shareholders had high hopes for the new Exec. Director, Mike Nehf, who seemed aware and determined to make Ethics standards at STRS something that could be trusted.
Mike Nehf is said to have taken it upon himself to solely decide and gift the STRS staff with an additional day off: the Friday after Thanksgiving . This day is not a contractual day off and one would have to use their contracted vacation days to take it as vacation. But, Nehf felt the staff simply deserved to have this day without using contract days. A 'gift' from him to them.
Did Nehf pay for this gift? No, WE DID! It is STRS earnings on our contributions that once again gave STRS staff a perk not within the contract. Do we care if anyone else in the U.S. has done this? No. Perhaps, other systems give this day but are they at the expense of shareholders or contractual? Either way, who cares? It is OUR money and NOT Nehf's to spend as he wishes. The cost of this gift given by Nehf to the staff and paid for without our consent: $175,000.
Past attitudes would be to smirk and say: "We don't get it! It would not pay for health care anyway." We get that-obviously. Health care costs self insured STRS $1.5 Million per day. What THEY don't get is: If one can just simply decide to gift the staff with perks worth $175,000 for ONE DAY OFF, then it can just as easily gift needy retirees with $175,000 for meds, treatments, necessitites. STRS states this kind of thing keeps staff happy and they work so hard. Heard that before?
Well, I can tell you with assurance that 175 retirees earning less than they can survive on, would be VERY HAPPY to receive $1000 each! I have repeatedly asked for a charitable fund for needy retirees over and above the assistance program. Many, many retirees are having difficulty paying for groceries and meds and treatments and Dr. visits. They have cut meds, reduced or stopped meds and treatments and Dr. visits.
Mr. Nehf: How do you look them in the eye and tell them you gave our money to provide an extra non-contractual day off to make it nice for our employees? You email STRS rhetoric but it is becoming increasingly and uneasily apparent you share the arrogant and unfeeling lack of ethics your former Exec. Directors possessed.
Where exactly, in this time of crisis, do you think your staff will depart for to engage better employment? What staff, anyway, is not having to cut back and rethink bonus programs, benefits and extras of any kind during such a downturn? How on earth did you think this was OK-to give away $175,000 of your shareholder's money in a catastrophic financial crunch?
Where is OUR help to get through this? What have you done for US?
Educators are a modest group wanting only a secure retirement and health care. Giving away $175,000 here and there does add up and it JUST LOOKS BAD! Should I spend $1000 on something short term because it won't pay for the home I want anyway? If I keep doing that, I will never get there. It is only $6 Million, it is only $175,000, and so on. This is precisely what we experienced with Dyer and Asbury.
OEA diehards would say it is WE who draw attention to STRS behavior and thus hurt chances of passing HB315. I say WHY is STRS behaving in ways that need attention and THAT is what is hurting chances with HB315. THAT is why school boards say they mismanage money. IF STRS has money to do such things, how hard up are they? School boards are NOT listening. Slick Bill Leibensperger who was reimbursed $40,000+ for his expenses on top of a $150,000 salary and probably an educator salary as well, had the constant habit of smirking at us along with his equally slick wannabe's. They wanted us to help with HB315 -- which we unfailingly did. EVERY legislator possible was met with by CORE leaders. CORE solicited letters, emails, and calls on behalf of HB315. But, OEA has little use and leaves no doubt of its disdain for CORE when unwanted items are brought to shareholder attention.
QUESTION: WHERE IS OEA and OEA-R and ORTA when unethical behaviors are rumored or revealed at STRS? OEA did nothing in 2003 and they do nothing now expect to support STRS. ORTA and OEA should be holding STRS accountable and providing oversight on behalf of membership. Instead, they defended STRS even when undisputable evidence was provided. They fought those who blew the whistle on STRS and impugned their reputations hoping something would stick. Changes were forced due to media attention. Now, evidence again, that STRS is making its own decisions without contracts to support them.
I will tell you that all those organizations will breathe a sigh of relief on 9/01/2009 when Dennis Leone is no longer a STRS Board member. NO ONE will be there any longer to provide oversight on behalf of membership-OEA , OEA-r and ORTA call it micromanaging. No one will care nor find out about spending $175,000 of membership money for an extra day off cause the Exec. Direc. wants to gift staff rather than have them use their days properly. No one will mind the bonus figures or travel expenses. They will be blips in the budget all bunched together with no one to question what the figure includes. No one will delve into proper handling of sick and personal days or even care for that matter. Most will be lulled into complacency once again and simply want to be told all is ok.
Most retirees and actives only want to live their lives and not be bothered. And the status quo at STRS will once again reign supreme with no or little questioning. If any do bother, they will be pacified by STRS rhetoric, STRS legal advice and STRS 'experts' only speaking STRS bias. Board members will then feel they have done their fiduciary duty cause they asked a question. They will never go into the rank and file or delve into records or see red flags and go to the source as Leone does. STRS and OEA, OEA-R and ORTA have outweighted us. They are big and strong and have power and money to do as they wish. 9/01/09 will come soon enough for them and all will be well again for them on Broad St.
Ethics? Legal? Often two different areas and not necessarily having the same outcome. STRS walks the line most of the time to be legal. Who cares about ethics here and there? HB315? Sit in lawmakers seats and on school boards and look at figures. Watch STRS behavior and look at OPERS who operates with prudence and long term planning that is not reliant on in house or out of house or numbers of employees.

Lawmakers would be impressed if STRS took the lead by increasing the years for retirement to enforce the decrease in unfunded liability with working longer and withdrawing later, applying a percent of pension for health care premiums to help those with less and let those with more pay more, making 20 yrs. early retirement and only offering health care access to those with 15-19 years. All 6 or more years out from retiring. Lawmakers are looking at increased years for retirement already. If STRS took this lead and enforced some of these changes, lawmakers may look at HB315 more favorably since it was willing to make changes as well and not just ask for change. Yes, it is educator contribution increasing but more than that has to occur for legislators to approve HB315 as well as swaying school boards.

Many lawmakers look at the 35% rule and feel educators will have enough to pay their own way with pensions far superior to Soc. Sec. benefits. They fail to see those of us who had no opportunity to achieve the 35 yr rule retiring before it became available. Yes, we benefitted for the bill but with the cost of inflation and simple stagnant COLAS are now losing money every year whereas those who are seeking the 35 year rule continue to gain because of increasing salaries annually.

STRS needs to reconfigure the 35 yr. rule in light of its current retirees declining in benefits with inflation, overwhelming health care costs and stagnant COLAS while actives work towards an ever increasing salary range under which to retire.

Most of those areas can all be done without legislation and simply because STRS wants to truly distribute its assets fairly for all vs. just the active educators. Lawmakers would see STRS is working hard to realign for the betterment of total membership as well as to conserve and decrease its unfunded liability.

I continue to be dismayed by the retirement system who does not see ALL its faces or listen to their voices of true need. A system is only as strong as the weakest among it. Religion, morality, ethics- all speak to helping your brothers and sisters, your neighbors and friends. That, would , I think, include ALL our fellow educators-those who came before and grew the organizations and paved the way for today's educators. Current retirees fight for future retirees having paid an untenable cost trying to preserve health care for us and for them. Where are the active educators who fight for US????

Where is Mike Nehf leading a new more ethical STRS looking at every expense and asking himself: How would I address this issue with my membership? How would I answer needy retirees not just with standard rhetoric but with compassionate and earnest understanding of their crisis and fighting for improvement of their benefits - not simply my staff? Compromises can be made and better standards for all-membership foremost according to ORC:3307.15. Make it evident how you fight for your retirees, Mike! Who will question YOU when Leone is gone. Shouldn't YOU be questioning yourself? That is who we thought we hired.
**You will not be questioned by OEA, OEA-R or ORTA with any real in depth efforts. They will be happy with whatever STRS and OEA tells them.
There is no shortage of greed at STRS and no shortage of rationalization to support it by the Board. When one only listens to one side, one does not grow. When STRS only invites 'experts' who are going to strengthen their argument, nothing is gained. All sides should be heard, weighed and researched in depth.
Molly Janczyk
STRS Retiree

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

*STRS Flashback* 5 years ago...."If Mr. Dyer is guilty of anything, it's doing what the board wants him to do." (ORTA's Joe Endry)

From John Curry, June 24, 2008
Subject: *STRS Flashback* 5 years ago...."If Mr. Dyer is guilty of anything, it's doing what the board wants him to do." (ORTA's Joe Endry)
Well, Joe, Mr. Dyer was found guilty of violating the Ohio ethics law in a criminal court. Did the "board" really want him to do that? Since many on that board were also found guilty of violating the same Ohio ethics laws...maybe you were onto something! John

Canton Repository, June 29, 2003
STRS bound by costly contract
By PAUL E. KOSTYU Copley Columbus Bureau chief
COLUMBUS -- Demanding that Herbert L. Dyer resign as executive director of the State Teachers Retirement System is one thing. Paying for it is another.
If the STRS board fired Dyer tomorrow, he would walk away with a $533,620 check. Unless the board can prove “malfeasance, misfeasance or nonfeasance,” Dyer gets paid for the rest of his 6-1/2 -year contract, which ends June 30, 2005.
If he resigns, he gets at least $133,405 because he must give STRS a six-month notice. That does not include pay for any unused sick or vacation time.
His contract gives him an incentive for awarding the STRS investment staff high bonuses regardless of how its investment portfolio does — the more bonuses they get, the more he gets.
Dyer has been under fire for three weeks for directing a pension fund that paid $15 million in performance bonuses and for artwork purchases and travel over three years. That was paid while the system’s investments plummeted by $12.3 billion and health-care contributions by retirees jumped significantly.
Privately, people in and out of the retirement fund are predicting Dyer will go, either on his own or because he will be forced out. One person said Dyer seems “more dejected” with “a different demeanor” than he normally projects.
But those who work with him say he remains in charge, goes about the business of the fund and has not talked about stepping down.
The chairwoman of the board, Deborah Scott of Cincinnati, has repeatedly and succinctly said, “Mr. Dyer is still the executive director.”
Marilyn Gibbs, a retired Plain Local Schools teacher, sent an e-mail June 12 to several people, including four members of the retirement system’s board. She asked, “I wonder if it’s time for someone to ask Mr. Dyer to resign.”
One board member responded.
Joseph Endry, the only member of the board who is elected to represent retirees, wrote back, “Well-written personal contracts are very expensive to break. Be patient.”
Asked to explain his message, Endry said, “It’s not that easy to break contracts. If Mr. Dyer is guilty of anything, it’s doing what the board wants him to do. He didn’t build this building.”
Among the criticisms of the retirement system is the spending on its posh, nearly $95 million headquarters in Columbus.
Dyer joined the teachers retirement system Jan. 1, 1993. He got a new contract in February 1997, and his current contract began Jan. 1, 1999. It was amended in April 2002.
Dyer’s contract calls for his pay to be adjusted annually based on the Consumer Price Index of the previous year or 3.5 percent, whichever is higher. The index has not been above 3.5 percent since 1991. Computations of Dyer’s base salary, however, show that his raises were actually above the 3.5 percent limit set by the contract.
In 2001, his base salary was $236,000 and rose to $256,260 in 2002, a $20,260 or 8.6 percent increase, according to STRS documents. It went up again this year to $266,810, which is a $10,550 or 4.1 percent increase.
Dyer also has received annual bonuses for meeting performance goals. His bonus is based on the weighted average of bonuses given to the STRS investment department multiplied by a percentage obtained from his annual evaluation.
In other words, the higher the bonuses paid to the STRS investment staff — whether the portfolio did well or not — the higher Dyer’s bonus.
For example, in 2002 the 110-member investment staff received $3.75 million in incentive bonuses for its work in 2001. The average bonus was $34,100. Dyer got a $41,052 bonus or 120.39 percent times the investment staff average.
You can reach Columbus Bureau Chief Paul E. Kostyu at (614) 222-8901 or e-mail:

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

STRS Flashback -- 2 Years Ago.....Was Hazel hiding under a rock?‏

"With all due respect, anyone who works for state government has to be hiding under a rock if they had not heard of an ethics law."
Franklin County Municipal Court Judge Carrie Glaeden
Ex-pension board member sentenced
Friday, May 12, 2006 Alayna DeMartini

A former member of the state teachers pension board apologized to a judge yesterday for twice accepting freebies from companies the board hired.

"I would like you to rethink that it was only on two occasions that you let the teachers you represented down," Franklin County Municipal Court Judge Carrie Glaeden told Hazel Sidaway. "I think it was more than two occasions."

A jury convicted Sidaway last month of two misdemeanor ethics violations of accepting four free tickets to a Cleveland Indians game in 2001 and two free tickets to a Broadway production of Hairspray in 2003.

"I?m having a hard time understanding why ... you thought it appropriate to accept that," Glaeden told Sidaway yesterday when she sentenced her.

A year before Sidaway accepted Cleveland Indians tickets in 2001 she had accepted other baseball tickets, Glaeden said. She also accepted a free meal for her grandchildren, the judge said. The allegations came out during the trial; she was not charged in connection with them.

Glaeden sentenced Sidaway, a retired Canton elementaryschool teacher, to two years on probation and ordered her to pay $670 in fines and $5,382 for the cost of the investigation. She also required her to serve 200 hours of community service split between the Canton school district and a retirement home or senior center.

"I tried for 17 years to represent the teachers of Ohio with dignity and dedication," Sidaway said. "I accepted something of value that I should not have taken."

The free tickets Sidaway received were from investment consultants who had contracts with the State Teachers Retirement System.

The jury acquitted Sidaway of four other ethics violations for accepting free meals at Columbus restaurants from companies the pension board hired.

The companies included the cost of the meals for board members in their bill to the board, H. Ritchey Hollenbaugh told jurors.

If that was the case, the judge said, then the cost was coming out of the pensions of teachers and retired teachers across the state.

Hollenbaugh said his client wasn?t aware of the ethics law when she accepted the tickets.

"At the time there were no red flags raised. There should have been, but there weren?t," he said.

But Glaeden questioned that.

"With all due respect, anyone who works for state government has to be hiding under a rock if they had not heard of an ethics law."

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Sunday, April 27, 2008

Flashback 2 years ago: STRS Board member Hazel Sidaway convicted; more to come

From John Curry, April 26, 2008
Subject: FLASHBACK-2 YEARS AGO- STRS Board member Sidaway convicted...the first of many more to come!
"Prosecutor Lara N. Baker said Sidaway and the board were part of a retirement system culture of entitlement. She said the board abandoned its responsibility to retirees and teachers. She said Sidaway took so many trips on the pension fund’s dime that it became a full-time job for her."
Ex-STRS board member Sidaway guilty
Canton Repository, April 15, 2006
COLUMBUS - Hazel Sidaway was found guilty Friday of two counts of violating state ethics laws. The former Canton City Schools teacher faces a $1,000 fine and a 6-month jail term on each count. Eight jurors took two hours to arrive at their verdict after listening to testimony for three days in Franklin County Municipal Court. They said Sidaway was innocent of four ethics charges.
She was convicted of accepting four tickets, valued at $120, to a Cleveland Indians game in July 2001 and two tickets, valued at $550, to the Broadway show Hairspray in May 2003. She took family members to both events.
Sidaway’s attorney, H. Ritchey Hollenbaugh, said an appeal is unlikely. He said Sidaway had no regrets about going to trial. “She never considered a plea because to this day she believes she did nothing wrong.”
Judge Carrie E. Glaeden will sentence Sidaway on May 12.
Hollenbaugh said he will ask for leniency and that the judge “take into consideration other cases, like the governor’s.” Gov. Bob Taft was convicted of four ethics violations last year in a plea deal that netted him a $4,000 fine and court costs, but no jail time.
Hollenbaugh referred to Taft in his closing arguments Friday. “Did (Sidaway) play golf 52 times and not report it?” he said.
This was the second conviction in an ongoing investigation by the ethics commission of the State Teachers Retirement System, where Sidaway was a board member when she broke the law. Former Executive Director Herbert Dyer was convicted on a single ethics charge in a plea deal in September 2005. He was fined $1,000 and court costs and ordered to pay $394 in restitution to the retirement system.
Dennis Leone, the former superintendent and now retirement system board member who initiated questions about how the fund was operating years ago, said he hopes Sidaway is ordered to pay restitution.
“I wish other spending abuses that board members engaged in could be part of this decision,” he said.
Other board members and staff are on the prosecutor’s radar, some of whom went on the New York trip with Sidaway and others who may have violated ethics laws in other ways. Retirement system attorney Bill Neville attended the trial and took notes.
“We’d like to resolve (future) cases expeditiously,” said Paul Nick, chief investigator for the Ohio Ethics Commission. “I think they can see what is coming.”
“I think people will be paying attention,” Hollenbaugh said.
Sidaway cried and her lips quivered as Hollenbaugh made his closing arguments, telling jurors “she is not a criminal.” He said, “This case is an insult to the people who do public service.”
Prosecutor Lara N. Baker said Sidaway and the board were part of a retirement system culture of entitlement. She said the board abandoned its responsibility to retirees and teachers. She said Sidaway took so many trips on the pension fund’s dime that it became a full-time job for her.
Under cross examination by Assistant City Attorney Mickey Prisley, Sidaway said she considered the Broadway show a board meeting because conversations occurred before the show, during intermission and on the walk back to the hotel after the performance.
Prisley was incredulous, asking her repeatedly to justify the expense.
“I’m telling you,” Sidaway said firmly, “we had conversations at appropriate times in the evening.”
The commission initiated an investigation of the retirement system after media reports, including many by Copley Ohio Newspapers, in 2003 and 2004 raised questions about travel, bonuses, artwork and other items.
Reach Copley Columbus Bureau Chief Paul E. Kostyu at (614) 222-8901 or e-mail:
Note from John....what did the OFT have to say about this? Well, click here to see their commentary.

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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Another take on the OEA's comparison of Boards A and B...with a healthy dose of reality mixed in!

From John Curry, April 13, 2008
Subject: Curry to OEA re. April 2008 "Protecting our priorities" article in the Ohio Schools magazine in reference to the current STRS Board election?

Response to "Protecting our priorities," April 2008 issue of Ohio Schools (OEA monthly publication)
[John's responses are indicated in blue type.]
Which board would you prefer to work with, Board A or B?
Board A
• Obsessed with trivial concerns (If you mean the $5,000 Board-approved child adoption bonus paid for by teachers STRS contributions and given to STRS associates and then called to the Board's attention by Dr. Leone then...give me Board A any day.)
• Short-term focus (This is a perfect example of the focus exhibited by a board formerly staffed by OEA people such as Billirakis, Sidaway, Norris, Chapman, and Scott.... the short term focus you about the lack of planning for future healthcare funding for STRS retirees?)
• Reactive stance (One can't be proactive if one doesn't know how poorly the formerly OEA-controlled STRS Board was managing their business -- they weren't! Dr. Leone exposed this, and then reactions came from not only STRS stakeholders, but from members of the Ohio House of Representatives (the majority of whom signed a petition to oust former STRS Exec. Director Herb Dyer); and Senate Bill 133 (Retirement System Reform Act) was passed into law because of this lack of a proactive stance by former STRS Board members…many of whom were OEA members.)
• Reviews, rehashes staff work (If you mean Dr. Leone's motion requesting a summary of contracts to be presented to all Board members before acting, then....give me plan A any day.)
• Driven by single agendas (This one, I'll have to give you credit [almost]. Yes, Dr. Leone and John Lazares are guided by a single is called Ohio Revised Code, Section 3307.15...they both have repeatedly stated that! Funny that I haven't heard that section of the ORC being mentioned as a guiding principle by the OEA contingency on the Board!
• Consistent split vote (If you mean no more "rubber stamp" boards and the administration is always right, then...give me Board A any day: I thought the OEA was against "rubber stamp" boards when they were at the local schools level. Do I see some hypocrisy here?)
• Grandstanding (If you mean Dr. Leone's publicly stating that secret balloting at an "open" board meeting was contrary to the Ohio Sunshine law and subsequently being proven correct by an Attorney General's Opinion then give me Board A any day!)
• Plays to the audience (If you mean publicly exposing mismanagement to the Board and stakeholders concerning their illegal acceptance of expensive tickets to attend the Broadway musical "Hairspray" and mentioning that STRS business was conducted [as former OEA officer and STRS Board member Hazel Sidaway unsuccessfully did -- in court -- at her ethics trial] then you may be on the money with this one!)
• Violates confidence (The former STRS Board members who were also OEA members violated the confidence of tens of thousands of STRS retirees almost every time they took a seat at an STRS Board meeting…..Dr. Leone exposed that, and the current OEA STRS Board members are constantly continuing to snipe at Dr. Leone for many reform-minded motions that he initiates….go to a Board meeting or listen to the STRS Board CD’s…you'll then understand.)
• Individual directives (No one person on the Board can issue an individual directive without the majority of the Board voting on it in the form of a motion.)
• No chain of command (There always has been a “chain of command” for Board members…it is stated in section 33 the Ohio Revised Code under the duties of STRS Board members. The STRS Board also has and will continue to observe rules of order at each and every Board meeting.)
• "Fix it" mentality (You don't think that the STRS wasn’t ethically broken? That was the main reason for the passage of SB 133, the Retirement System Reform Act -- which now is Ohio Revised Code -- and affects all Ohio pension systems, as well it should. In it, many former OEA officers who were also STRS Board members would today not be allowed to run because of the previous excessive monies they used in air fares and travel expenses to “globetrot” on the teachers’ dime.)
• Focused on day-to-day operations (Dr. Leone and John Lazares -- highly experienced administrators and leaders; independent thinkers [and non-OEA-directed Board members] -- are, always have been and always will be focused on ALL operations….be they day-to-day, month-to-month, or year-to-year operations.)
Board B
• Governs lawfully (If you mean governing lawfully with OEA Board members who were convicted of criminal violations of the Ohio ethics laws, such as the former OEA office holders Sidaway, Billirakis, Norris, Scott and Chapman, then....give me Board A any day!)
• Primary emphasis on results for members (I’d say Dr. Leone’s exposing hundreds of thousands of dollars of frivolous spending by former STRS Board members [who were also former OEA officers] and unmerited bonuses for non-investment STRS employees translated into a “primary emphasis for members," wouldn’t you?)
• Encourages full exploration of diverse viewpoints (By the very nature of this concept there will be differences of opinions and subsequent disagreements, won't there? This directly relates to your "Consistent split vote" mentioned in Board A.)
• Focus on strategic governance matters rather than operational issues (What’s wrong with an STRS Board member or members keeping an eye on both? After all, they are legally responsible for ALL operations of the STRS and can be held to civil liability if they are derelict in this responsibility!)
• Observes clear separation of board and CEO roles (This is exactly the reason behind Dr. Loene's pursuit of clarity in the "operations" of the Ohio was considered "micromanaging" by the OEA contingency on the Board.)
• Makes all decisions by formal vote of the board (Correct me if I am wrong but...aren't all Board decisions required to have a formal vote?)
• Governs with long-term vision (If the formerly OEA-dominated board (5 out of 9 members) had had the initiative to seriously plan for the future of STRS healthcare [as OPERS did] then STRS retirees wouldn't be currently paying over eight times the healthcare premiums for retiree and spouse as are paid by OPERS retirees for themselves and their spouses for the same coverage.)

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Kostyu on tackling public corruption; STRS cited as example

From John Curry, April 10, 2008
Subject: An Ohio "Corruption" bill (SB 219)...Ohio STRS mentioned...when does the clock start ticking for those who offered gratuities?
Canton Repository, April 10, 2008
COLUMBUS Investigations into the state's pensions systems and the Bureau of Workers Compensation several years ago has led to legislation that expands the reach of prosecutors and the Ohio Ethics Commission to go after public corruption.
Senate Bill 219, which passed the Ohio House unanimously Wednesday, equalizes the time frame that prosecutors and the ethics commission have to charge public and nonpublic officials with corruption. The bill, sponsored by State Sen. Kirk Schuring, R-Jackson Township, passed the Senate in December.
The bill now goes to Gov. Ted Strickland. A spokeman said Wednesday that Strickland will sign the bill.
Current law says public officials must be charged with corruption and ethics charges within two years after leaving office. However, those who corrupted the officials had to be charged within two years of the crime being committed.
Typically, that meant an earlier start of the clock.
David Freel, executive director of the commission, said the time difference often prevented the commission from going after those who gave illegal gratuities or things of value to public officials, who themselves were convicted of accepting the gifts. The legislation requires charges for public and nonpublic officials to be filed within two year of a public official leaving office.
The commission initiated an investigation of the State Teachers Retirement System after a series of stories by The Repository in 2003 and 2004 that pointed out problems with the system. Seven pension officials, including a former Canton teacher, were convicted of ethics charges.
"The message is," Schuring said, "that those who violate the public trust cannot avoid scrutiny and ultimately punishment."
Reach Repository Columbus Bureau Chief Paul E. Kostyu at (614) 222-8901 or e-mail:

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Sunday, April 06, 2008

In whose league are they playing.....Major League or Minor League?

From John Curry, April 6, 2008
Subject: I sit and listen to my STRS CDs and ponder....whose league are they really in? I sit and listen to my STRS CDs of the March '08 board meeting I reflect upon all the guff that Dr. Dennis Leone has to take and still get his motions passed so that reform is still taking place in our retirement system. My schedule of working 12 hour shifts, so as to afford affordable healthcare insurance for my spouse (whose healthcare premium subsidies were trashed by STRS several years ago) and myself...after 30 years of teaching in Ohio's public schools, makes it rather difficult to actually attend live STRS Board meetings. Still, I can get rather up close and personal when it comes to really hearing all the petty bickering by some board members that surfaces when Dennis introduces an idea that embodies reform. The funny thing is....many of those Leone-initiated motions were, at first, attacked by some on the Board who decried the very concept of such a reform-minded motion....only then, sometimes months later, to actually vote in the affirmative on the very same motion after the concept actually penetrated the logic center in their brains!
What were they thinking -- or were they thinking? Who are these Board members who initially just couldn't comprehend what Dennis was trying to do? Well, they just happened to be the ones who were strongly endorsed by the OEA!
Tom Mooney (the former President of the Ohio Federation of Teachers), before his untimely death, did realize what Dr. Dennis Leone was trying to accomplish at STRS....and told us very open and honest speech to CORE members back in June of 2006...a meeting which I was lucky enough to attend. Too bad Tom's words weren't taken heart by some of those OEA-anointed persons who now represent "labor" (i.e.. classroom teachers and administrators) on the current (and even the past) STRS Board. Tom would roll over in his grave if he knew what has transpired at STRS Board meetings since his passing.
Compounding the problems mentioned above, I feel that there is another reason that some on the Board fail to realize: that they are dealing with a guy (Dennis Leone) who is "out of their league" when it comes to the concept of openness in government and the public's right to know that we now call the "Sunshine Laws" and the "Freedom of Information Act." It might behoove them to revisit history to see that the one they sometimes belittle (Dr. Leone), for what some of them have called micromanaging is actually one step ahead of them and doing what he does for their benefit and the benefits of over 300,000 STRS stakeholders. They tend to forget two items listed below:
Awards- Society of Professional Journalists- Ohio Chapter
Chapter award winners
First Amendment Award
This award recognizes significant contributions to the First Amendment rights of freedom of expression. Individuals and organizations both inside and outside of journalism are eligible.
2007 - Marc Dann, Ohio attorney general
2006 - Fred Gittes, Gittes & Schulte
2005 - State Rep. W. Scott Oelslager, R, Canton
2004 - Dennis Leone, former superintendent of Chillicothe Schools
2003 - Martin Rozenman, Suburban News Publications
2002 - Catherine Candisky and Darrel Rowland, The Columbus Dispatch
2001 - Staff of the Ohio State University Lantern
2000 - Thomas A. Schwartz, OSU journalism professor
1999 - Cliff Wiltshire, Suburban News Publications
1998 - Verne Edwards, Delaware Gazette
1997 - Frank Deaner, Ohio Newspaper Association
1996 - Martin Yant, Ohio Observer magazine
1995 - Staff of the Ohio University Post
1994 - The Columbus Dispatch and Editor Bob Smith
1993 - not presented
1992 - Alan D. Miller, The Columbus Dispatch
1991 - The Fairfield County Leader
1990 - Luke Feck, former Dispatch editor
1989 - Andrew Douglas, Ohio Supreme Court Justice
1986 - Sam Perdue, Columbus Citizen-Journal city editor and columnist
1983 - Judge John W. McCormac of the Franklin County Court of Appeals
Item #2... the 2005 "Ethics in Government Award"
This award was presented to Dr. Leone by the Government Finance Officers Association. This award was described by the Bowling Green State University Retirees Association Newsletter as an award presented "For exposing a terrible and arrogant entitlement culture at the State Teachers Retirement System beginning in 1995, the Government Finance Officers Association presented its 2005 Ethics in Government Award to Dr. Dennis Leone in Cleveland Sept. 14 (2005)."
Since this presentation was obtained by this STRS retiree in the form of an Adobe Acrobat Reader, I'll have to give you a link to go to for details of this (along with other background on Dr. Leone, as well as Dr. Paul Kostyu - who wrote nearly 100 articles re. the STRS fiasco) can be found by clicking on the following link:
The bottom line is...Dennis is thinking and acting "out of their league" when it comes to the betterment of a retirement system for all STRS stakeholders (active and retired). For those Board members who continually stonewall reform at STRS Board meetings comes an award also presented by the Society of Professional Journalists - Ohio Chapter. They, in my mind, are strong contenders for the "other award" that the SPJ also presents each year, The "Brick Wall Award" is described below...along with its dubious list of award winners. Care to nominate a few current STRS Board members for this award? I have a few in mind!
Brick Wall Award
Started in 2001, this dubious distinction is presented to the individual or organization that, according to chapter members, did the most to block citizen access to public records and proceedings or otherwise violated the spirit of the First Amendment during the past year. Anyone is eligible, but special consideration will be given to public officials and tax-funded agencies that fail to follow the law.
2007 - Ohio Supreme Court justices Paul Pfeifer, Judith Ann Lanzinger, Terrence O’Donnell, Evelyn Lundberg Stratton and Alice Robie Resnick
2006 - The Ohio Supreme Court for a series of decisions which weakened Ohio’s Open Records law. Particularly onerous was the court’s decision to recognize “executive privilege” for the Ohio governor’s office in Dann v. Taft. This exception is not in the state’s Open Records statutes or the Ohio Constitution. In other record-shielding decisions, the court has blocked newspaper access to photographs of police officers and to the home addresses of state employees – both longstanding public documents.
2005 - Sen. Larry Mumper, R, Marion: Sponsored “Academic Bill of Rights” to limit what professors can say in the classroom; Jacqueline Piar, superintendent of Northridge Local Schools: Dismissed the high school principal and sent public records out of the county to shield them from view and asked the Licking County sheriff to drop a criminal investigation.
2004 - Ohio Consumers’ Counsel Robert S. Tongren: Destroyed a $579,000 consultants’ report to hide it from public scrutiny
2003 - Village of New Rome: Refused to provide documents showing how money was spent or how some officials came to occupy their offices
2002 - The Ohio Historical Society: Refused to follow Ohio laws regarding open meetings or public records, even though it received 75 percent of its annual funding from taxpayers; kept executive salaries secret
2001 - Judge Thomas E. Louden of Delaware County Juvenile Court: Sued by The Columbus Dispatch when he improperly closed a detention hearing and posted deputy sheriffs at the doors of the Delaware County Courthouse to keep the media out of the building)

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