Saturday, November 05, 2005

260 STRS employees and $3 million plus -- why do I get the feeling we've been screwed AGAIN?

STRS suit settlement details made official


Canton Repository

Nov. 5, 2005

COLUMBUS - Details of a $3 million agreement in a lawsuit against the state teachers’ pension fund, which was reached in secret Wednesday, became official Friday.

The parties, which included at least 260 employees, filed the agreement in Franklin County Common Pleas Court. Details were similar to those reported Thursday by Copley Ohio Newspapers.

The agreement for the noninvestment employees of the State Teachers Retirement System includes:

-- $1.76 million for bonuses

-- $237,191 in contributions to the employees’ pensions

-- $245,068 in interest

-- $14,139 for lost investment opportunities

-- $638,000 in attorney fees

-- $113,925 for failure to pay claims promptly

The pension fund said in a prepared statement that the agreement was “the responsible business decision at this time.” Punitive damages and the reasonableness of attorneys’ fees still need to be resolved, according to the statement.

Arguments on those issues are due Dec. 5.

The statement said the payments will not have a “financial impact on the pensions of current and future retirees.”

A 2003 investigation by Copley found that bonuses were awarded for tasks, called “stretch goals,” that many considered part of employees’ regular jobs.

The retirement system board suspended and then abolished the bonus program. It also voted not to award the bonuses to noninvestment staff, overriding decisions to do so by the former and current executive directors. It also ignored the advice of its state attorney. The employees then sued.

Reach Copley Columbus Bureau Chief Paul E. Kostyu at (614) 222-8901 or e-mail:

Duke Snider to Judge Reece: Some of the bonuses are more money than many retirees receive in ONE year for supposedly doing their jobs

Don't forget: that $54,000 bonus alone is THREE TIMES the entire annual pension of some!

"...retirees are going backwards getting less and less while others at STRS are being treated as kings and queens. Maybe we're second class citizens or maybe we should do as a former employee said we need to 'cut back,' eat out less often or words to this effect."

"There was a lady who depended on the 13th check for her special shoes. She was asked what she would do since she would not be receiving it, and she said she would have to do without them. Kinda sad isn't it?"

Nov. 4, 2005

Honorable Judge Reece:

My wife and I are STRS (Ohio State Teachers Retirement System) retirees as of 1998. We have a total of seventy years of teaching experience. We devoted our lives to educating the youth of the great state of Ohio (until certain corrupt people entered the picture). We have been given information throughout our teaching career that STRS was the best retirement system. We received one 13th check and then it was discontinued. We have had a steady increase in health
insurance premiums which we have no control. We receive a 3% COLA each year, BUT it is based on 1998 retirement salary and is not compounded.

Now you probably couldn't care less about the 100,000+ retirees, their family, and friends AND the 300,000+ active teachers, their family, and friends; however, your decision to rule in favor of the noninvestment people getting bonuses do affect many people. You see, Judge Reece, my wife and I paid into STRS, and these people also paid into STRS, because whether they were educators or not, because they paid taxes which go to the school boards who in turn pay their share into the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio.

According to information the noninvestment employees at STRS don't even pay into STRS retirement, but into PERS retirement. They supposedly didn't even have a contract and are basically at will employees who can be replaced at anytime. The STRS board supposedly voted to NOT give them bonuses. Some of the bonuses are more money than many retirees receive in ONE year for supposedly doing their jobs.

Let us assure you that we NEVER received a bonus for doing our job of teaching; i.e., meetings after school, grading papers at night, reaching in our pockets to help unfortunate children, buying shoes or clothing for children, and on and on. The reward we received was the warmth in our hearts and seeing a smile on the little faces who had no idea who helped them. We didn't sue our school board. We were doing our job and enjoyed it. Believe me there were sad time as well as happy times, one child lost his leg to cancer, another child died when his father ran over him with a vehicle, a child who had brain cancer (our own daughter), and on and on. We didn't sue our school board.

Probably the saddest day was when the D.A.R.E. instructor dedicated his program to Jane and me. He, unknowingly to us, got many pictures from our children at home, converted the pictures to a slide show, and believe me there wasn't a dry eye in the entire gym. That was our bonus. We didn't sue our school board.

Jane and I have been attending STRS meetings in Columbus since 2003 (not every one). Columbus is app. 100 miles north of Sardinia, Ohio. We live in one of the poorest counties in the state of Ohio. We chose to come back to our county after our first two years teaching in West Jefferson, Ohio, because we felt Brown County Ohio children need a good education and we felt we were good teachers, We had a chance to teach in one of only three exceptionally outstanding schools in Ohio, but we chose our home town. We were paid $3800 a year. We didn't get any bonuses. We didn't sue our school board. We just did our job.

Do you have any idea why we have been attending STRS board meetings and getting involved? We want to help fellow educators and we want to be treated fairly. There was a lady who depended on the 13th check for her special shoes. She was asked what she would do since she would not be receiving it, and she said she would have to do without them. Kinda sad isn't it? And here are STRS employees who have been receiving BETTER benefits than the retirees. Maybe you should read Dr. Dennis Leone's thirteen page paper about the perks, alcohol parties, trips, and on and on that has been going on at STRS.

Judge Reece, retirees are going backwards getting less and less while others at STRS are being treated as kings and queens. Maybe we're second class citizens or maybe we should do as a former employee said we need to "cut back", eat out less often or words to this effect.

When our school board made a ruling we followed the rule and we didn't sue them. Now we just wonder how much it is going to cost us (STRS retirees), because I bet the lawyers don't work free and the employees will get bonuses in the thousands. Maybe we'll be asked to donate a month's check to help cover the costs of paying the employees and lawyers. And you know what, there probably be retirees who would do just that. And do you think they would sue STRS? Quite frankly, we think (as long as our retirement system would not be jeopardized), the at will employees should be fired and be replaced with (now here's a word that many people have forgotten) LOYAL employees.

Judge Reece, you are an educated person and we find it extremely difficult to understand why the noninvestment people are so deserving. The whole picture (and you have heard just a fraction) certainly has not been studied thoroughly, because we STRS retirees are the ones who have been losing and will be losing. But you know what, we have bonuses in the form of memories of those whom we helped during our professional career. And we didn't sue our school board.

Judge Reece, probably you couldn't care less how we feel and the 100,000 other retirees feel, but some day you'll retire, and as our oldest son said, "you were put out to pasture, and they forgot about you." We would imagine you wouldn't have to worry about retirement, because we're sure your salary is much more than an educators. Maybe the noninvestment STRS employees won't have to worry either, especially when they receive their "hard earned bonuses". They sued the board.


Kenneth and Augusta Jane Snider

Another fleecing in the works? Employees, lawyers will be laughing all the way to the bank while some retirees subsist on $18,000 annual pensions

Bonus settlement reportedly worth $3 million Workers originally sought $1.75 million from state teachers retirement system

Friday, November 04, 2005
Bill Bush

The State Teachers Retirement System board could have paid $1.75 million in bonuses to 268 employees in 2003, but the price tag now could be much higher.

Last month, Judge Guy L. Reece of Franklin County Common Pleas Court found the pension system had breached a contract with those employees and ordered that the bonuses be paid. A settlement approved Wednesday night by the pension-system board is reportedly worth more than $3 million.

Those amounts could be dwarfed by punitive damages - a possibility that Reece has ruled he'll allow.

Reece has asked both sides to brief him on the legal issues surrounding punitive damages, but Michael Szolosi, the employees' attorney, said it's generally an issue left to the members of a jury, who "get to select the number."

That number is reviewed by the judge, who determines whether passion or exaggeration entered into jurors' deliberations, Szolosi said.

"In cases where there are a lot of economic damages, you can get large (punitive damage) amounts," said Ohio State University law professor Martha Chamallas.

In some cases, juries can consider "what would be punitive given the (size of the) organization," Chamallas said.

The teachers pension system is the state's second-largest public-employee retirement system, with $59 billion in assets.

Ohio and federal constitutional law place some limits on punitive damages, but Chamallas couldn't say yesterday how they might apply to this case.

The group's board voted 8-3 to approve a "partial settlement" of the lawsuit on Wednesday night, but members would not provide the details.

Sources said yesterday that the board agreed to pay slightly more than $3 million toward the original bonuses, the required employer contribution to the employees' pensions, accumulated interest and more than $600,000 in attorney fees. The sources spoke on condition that they not be named because of the pending court case.

The settlement is 71 percent higher than what the retirement system would have paid if it had followed the advice of Assistant Attorney General John Patterson in May 2004. Patterson told the board to pay the original bonuses, because if the case went to trial "you're probably going to lose."

A majority voted not to pay the bonuses, including representatives of Attorney General Jim Petro - Patterson's boss - and Auditor Betty D. Montgomery.

At the time, "we felt strongly it was a defensible case," said Montgomery spokeswoman Jen Detwiler. "We felt there was no contract."

The case involved annual bonuses that pension-fund workers had received, beginning in 1997, for meeting goals during the fiscal year. Toward the end of the 2002-03 fiscal year, the pension system held up the bonuses, and the board later decided to cancel them.

"I hope the end result of this is not going to affect the pensions of current retirees and future retirees," said Dennis Leone, who joined the board in September. He voted against the partial settlement Wednesday.

No documents exist detailing what the board approved, said Kim Norris, spokeswoman for the attorney general's office - which is representing the pension fund in the case.

The vote approved the settlement that was recommended in a private meeting by the special counsel appointed by the attorney general.

No minutes were kept of that meeting, Norris said. "It was simply an oral discussion."

Currently, the only record of what the board approved is in the memories of the board members and the other participants of the closed-door session, said pension-fund general counsel Bill Neville.

Leone said that he hopes everybody remembers the vote the same way.

"The public should have been given a summary," he said.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Associated Press report on STRS lawsuit

Teachers pension fund to pay workers $1.75 million in bonuses

Associated Press


COLUMBUS, Ohio - The State Teachers Retirement System has agreed to pay at least $1.75 million to employees who sued last year when they were denied bonuses because they don't do investing work, according to court documents.

The pension fund's board approved the agreement by an 8-3 vote Wednesday.

The lawsuit still remains active on other complaints that could bring punitive damages and payment of the employees' attorney fees. Any discussions on the trial or a possible settlement are confidential until the court rules, said Kim Norris, spokeswoman for Attorney General Jim Petro, who represents state agencies in legal matters.

Michael R. Szolosi Sr., a Columbus attorney representing the employees, declined to comment on the details.

About 275 non-investment workers sued in May 2004, just over a week after the board voted 5-4 to deny them the bonuses while approving $2 million in bonuses for another 102 employees whose job involves investing money for the $54 billion retirement fund that serves 400,000 active and retired teachers.

The average bonus for investment employees was about $11,000. The bonuses ranged from $438 to $54,147. The board also voted to end the bonus program.

Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Guy Reece ruled Oct. 20 that the employees have already proved their breach of contract claim and are owed the $1.75 million.

Last week, the fund said in a court document it would not appeal the ruling and would make the payments, as a show of good faith backing its request for a two-month delay to the trial, scheduled to start Tuesday.

The payments would include interest and payments to the employees' pension fund based on the bonus amounts, the document said. A motion filed by Szolosi said interest should be $385,000, but the state wants to pay only $187,000, and that the pension payments would be about $150,000.

STRS employees' class-action lawsuit over bonuses: Board votes 8-3 in favor of partial settlement


NOV. 4, 2005

The Board of the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio, at the recommendation of special counsel appointed by the Office of the Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro, voted to authorize a partial settlement of a class-action lawsuit filed in May 2004 by STRS Ohio associates seeking payment of Performance-Based Incentive Awards for the 2002-2003 fiscal year. The vote was eight in favor and three opposed.

The Retirement Board determined that this settlement was the responsible business decision at this time as it seeks to mitigate the cost of additional prolonged litigation. Issues that remain to be resolved include the possibility of any punitive damages and reasonableness of attorneys' fees.


Performance-Based Incentive Awards will be paid to approximately 260 associates for work performed during the 2002-2003 fiscal year. The Retirement Board agreed to pay:

- Earned compensation, totaling $1,755,694

- The employer share of OPERS contributions as required by statute, totaling $237,191

- Interest in the amount of $245,068

- $14,139 to participants in the OPERS defined contribution plan, for lost investment opportunities

- Attorney fees and expenses totaling $638,000

- Prompt pay claims of $113,925

Payment for the Performance-Based Incentive Awards will come out of an interest-bearing escrow account that was established by STRS Ohio in 2004 when the litigation began. The results of the litigation do not have any financial impact on the pensions of current and future retireesof the system.

The Retirement Board previously voted to end the Performance-Based Incentive Award Program for non-Investment associates with the start of the 2003-2004 fiscal year.

Tom Mooney to White Hat: "Show us!"

Federation Goes After Charter Schools

Nov 3, 2005, 04:19 PM EST
Reported by Eric James

Just how profitable are Ohio charter schools? That's what the Ohio Federation of Teachers is trying to find out and they're going after a large group of charter schools.

State audit reports have been released for Life Skills Center of Columbus, but the Ohio Federation of Teachers says the reports don't go deep enough.

The centers were created for drop-out or at-risk students. They're run by White Hat management, which runs 31 Ohio charter schools. That makes it, technically, the state's ninth largest school system.

The company received $109 million of public money to run Life Skills Centers across the state, but the Federation of Teachers says only three percent of that is accounted for in the state audit report.

They want to know exactly how the company used the rest of your tax dollars, claiming company profits are higher than the test scores of the students attending the centers.

Tom Mooney with the Ohio Federation of Teachers says, "We don't know how it's being spent. We do know from last week that these kids aren't being tested so we don't know if the kids are even showing up."

White Hat Management Consultant Thomas Needles says, "He is misstating the facts. Our books are open and it's up to the auditor of the state, and it's up to them to take a closer look and they can review whatever they want."

White Hat has made a profit, but it is not required to say how much.

It is important to note that the federation is suing the state over the constitutionality of charter schools.

Lawsuit over bonuses not new; May 2004 Kostyu column tells the story

"I did my job and they did their job" -- Damon Asbury (He also announces that by July 1, 2004, the system's day-care center will be revenue-neutral and should show a $5100 surplus in 2005.)

Deborah Scott gives tearful speech over Board decision to reject bonuses

STRS’s board rejects bonus for some staff

AP / Mike Elicson

(Photo of Damons Asbury) IN THE HOT SEAT. Damon Asbury, director of the State Teachers Retirement System, says STRS risks a lawsuit if it does not pay 268 employees bonuses for the 2002-2003 fiscal year.

Copley Columbus Bureau chief

COLUMBUS — In a close vote Thursday, the board of the State Teachers Retirement System rejected paying bonuses to 268 noninvestment employees for the 2002-03 fiscal year.
It will now wait to see if any of those employees sue the system.

The board voted 5-4 to ignore the recommendation of Executive Director Damon Asbury and its attorney, Assistant Attorney General John E. Patterson. Both said the pension fund risked a lawsuit that it would likely lose.

The board approved paying bonuses worth $2.05 million to 102 investment employees by a 7-2 vote. It also unanimously terminated the bonus plan for noninvestment employees.

Patterson would not comment about the decision.

“I did my job and they did their job,” Asbury said.

Prior to the vote, the board huddled for hours in closed session to talk about its legal standing. It interrupted that session long enough to listen to 20 retirees berate the board and Asbury for even considering the bonuses.

“I’m very pleased,” said Marilyn Gibbs, a retired Plain Local School District teacher, after the vote. “I think it’s fair. It’s the result I had hoped for.”

Gibbs earlier told the board she was wearing a black outfit “to note the passing of trust at STRS.” She said retirement system employees “should be happy to have a job,” because, in Stark County, thousands are without work following layoffs at local industries, including Timken and Hoover.

The bonuses had been on hold since last fall after media reports brought to light questionable spending at the retirement system on travel, artwork, expenses and salaries.

Mike Billirakis and Jack Chapman, who have both drawn the ire of retirees in the past, voted to reject the bonuses for noninvestment employees. Billirakis called the process “ugly” and Chapman said the decision was “agonizing.” They wouldn’t comment further.

Joining them were the representatives of Attorney General Jim Petro, Auditor Betty Montgomery and Superintendent of Schools Susan Tave Zelman.

In a letter to the board, Montgomery said awarding the bonuses would “severely undermine” the progress “we have made in changing the culture at our system.”

She expressed concern, too, that the board’s “litigation position” has been compromised because of the public release of Patterson’s legal analysis of the issue. Still, she said the liability from a potential lawsuit was not sufficient for her to support paying the bonuses.

Deborah Scott, who was chairwoman of the board when the bonus system was in place, gave a tearful speech saying she disagreed with the decision.

“People have really worked hard,” she said. “People did what we asked them to do.”

Current Chairman Eugene Norris, who lost a re-election bid and will leave the board in September, said he didn’t “like the appearance that we have attempted to divide the staff. I’m really concerned with what we are doing.”

The board learned that another major issue that has been haunting it for a year may be ready to go away. Asbury announced that in fiscal year 2004-05, which begins July 1, the system’s day-care center will be revenue neutral.

The board was criticized for subsidizing the center with hundreds of thousands of dollars annually. Asbury said by raising tuition, reducing costs and requiring the use of vacation and labor credits, the center should show a $5,100 surplus next year.

Want to see SOME of the bonuses they were getting? Paul Kostyu lists the juiciest ones in a 2003 column in the Canton Repository

Public retirement system painting an ‘ugly picture’

Canton Repository
June 12, 2003

Copley Columbus Bureau chief

COLUMBUS — Lawmakers who oversee Ohio’s five public retirement systems were hot Wednesday over revelations that the state’s teachers retirement system spent nearly $15 million on bonuses and artwork at a time when the system is struggling and member benefits are being cut.

Herbert Dyer, executive director of the retirement system, said Wednesday that the money spent on bonuses and art “belongs to the board,” not the teachers who contributed to the system and can be spent “as the board sees fit.”

That wasn’t good enough for Rep. Michelle G. Schneider, R-Cincinnati, Sen. Kirk Schuring, R-Jackson Township, and Rep. John Boccieri, D-New Middletown, who are members of the Ohio Retirement Study Council.

Using investment returns on bonuses, artwork, subsidized child care, travel to Hawaii and Alaska, among other places, and other expenses of the retirement system board, Schneider said, was “wrong. It’s shocking. It’s a distorted perspective on whose money this really is.”

The system gave out nearly $1 million last year to 65 employees not associated with managing its financial portfolio. Thirteen got bonuses of more than $20,000, seven more than $30,000 and one topped $50,000. The investment staff received more than $13 million in bonuses even as the system’s portfolio lost $12.3 billion during the past three years.

Dyer told council members that upcoming changes to health-care benefits will cost retirees and their families more so that part of the system remains solvent.

Dyer would not apologize, however, for the spending spree, saying the staff deserved the raises. He said its effort was “superior if it was better work than average.”

He said the investment managers deserved bonuses because they kept the portfolio from losing more than it did.

“We didn’t lose the money by misplacing it,” Dyer said.

“I am most disturbed by the increases to employees,” said Schneider, who also questioned spending $869,000 on artwork.

“I collect artwork,” she said, “but I don’t do it with other people’s money.”

“Good artwork is expensive,” Dyer responded. “It’s what artists expect for their work. It was designed specifically to complement the decor (of the system’s building).”

At one point, Boccieri said to Dyer, “The more I listen to your testimony, the more agitated I get.”

Schuring, who was not present for Dyer’s testimony because he was attending another meeting, said later that he is convinced there has to be more oversight of the state’s retirement systems. He said the council is ill-prepared to provide oversight because overseeing spending is not part of its responsibility.

“How are we going to stop these things from happening again?” he said. “It might take legislative action. They have to be fiscally prudent and fiscally conservative. Bonuses and increases in staff are not needed.”

Council members also listened to Dennis Leone, the superintendent of Chillicothe City Schools, whose investigation of the retirement system led to the disclosures about spending. While teachers are being affected by the retirement system board’s decisions, he said, so are Ohio’s taxpayers. He noted that matching contributions to the retirement system come from school boards that use taxpayers’ dollars.

“That’s 944 employers who contributed $1.2 billion,” he said. “That’s taxpayer’s dollars.”

Leone said he closed three schools and laid off 45 employees “and I don’t get a bonus.”

Since 1998, the retirement system increased the number of its employees by 42 percent to 707.
He said the retirement system board “just doesn’t get it. They just don’t understand how it looks. They just don’t understand how wrong it is.”

Dyer insisted that the money to employees, which included a $41,000 bonus for himself, was needed “for getting (and keeping) a good staff.” He said it was necessary for board members to travel to meet “face to face” with fellow board members from other state systems to learn how to run the retirement system effectively and efficiently.

Leone said after the meeting that Dyer “danced all around” council members’ questions. He said the system’s spending “is completely foreign to me.”

You can reach Copley Columbus Bureau Chief Paul E. Kostyu at (614) 222-8901 or e-mail:

A Sampling of STRS Bonuses

The State Teachers Retirement System gave out nearly $1 million in bonuses last year to 65 employees ranging from the executive director to the director of the employee day-care center. The bonuses do not include more than $13 million in bonuses given to the managers of the system’s investment portfolio.

Thirteen noninvestment employees got bonuses of more than $20,000, seven more than $30,000 and one topped $50,000.

Here are the positions that topped $30,000:

Job Title, Annual pay, 2002 bonus, Percent:

Deputy executive director, finance $150,000 $52,500 35%

Deputy executive , member benefits $150,000 $49,875 33%

Deputy executive director, administration $148,000 $49,728 34%

Executive director $266,810 $41,052 15%

Info. technology director $140,000 $33,368 24%

Government relations director (lobbyist) $108,675 $32,603 30%

General counsel $125,235 $31,309 25%

Here’s a sampling of salaries and bonuses for some other positions:

Communications director $95,800 $15,328 16%

Building services director $75,800 $14,402 19%

Child care director $61,400 $8,639 14%

Creative services manager $63,400 $5,706 9%

Food services supervisor $39,300 $1,965 5%

Total $5,615,065 $888,595 16%

Source: State Teachers Retirement System

Thursday, November 03, 2005

STRS employees sue over bonuses: Canton Repository

Teachers retirement system to pay $3M-plus to settle suit


COLUMBUS -- The State Teachers Retirement System has agreed to pay more than $3 million as part of a continuing lawsuit brought by noninvestment employees against the pension fund.

The price tag could go higher.

At a special meeting Wednesday, the pension board remained in a closed session for nearly three hours before voting 8-3 in public session to back a partial agreement. Board members, Executive Director Damon Asbury and in-house attorney Bill Neville refused to comment on the conditions of the agreement.

The board approved it without a settlement document, and based its decision on advice from special counsel, John Stock, a Columbus lawyer appointed by Attorney General Jim Petro.
Copley Ohio Newspapers has learned the agreement stands at $3,004,000.

Of that, $1.75 million will be used for bonuses Franklin County Judge Guy L. Reece II ordered the State Teachers Retirement System to pay last month. That means the board agreed not to appeal Reece’s decision. Another $625,000 will go toward paying the employees’ attorney fees. The rest of the money will go to the employees, according to several sources.

A 2003 investigation by Copley Ohio Newspapers found that bonuses were awarded for tasks, called “stretch goals,” that many considered part of employees’ regular jobs.

The retirement system board responded by suspending and then later abolishing the bonus program. It also voted not to award the bonuses to noninvestment staff, overriding decisions to do so by former Executive Director Herbert Dyer and Asbury, his successor. The board also ignored the advice of John E. Patterson, an assistant attorney general.

Dennis Leone and John Lazarus, who were elected to the board in part because they opposed the bonuses, voted against the agreement, but they repeatedly refused to comment about the details of it.

“I don’t know what to tell you,” Lazarus said. “I voted ‘No’ because I have been against the principle of giving bonuses to noninvestment staff from the beginning. Standing on principle might cost you sometime.”

Leone said he would comment only after a “lingering issue” separate from the agreement is dealt with in two or three weeks. He would not elaborate. He did say, however, he thought that a document spelling out what the board decided should have been made public.

Lazarus said the board needs to talk with a unified voice and that any comment should come from Neville, who refused to comment.

In the meantime, a Tuesday court hearing about attorney fees, punitive damages and other issues has been delayed, according to Michael R. Szolosi Sr., a Columbus attorney representing the employees.

Szolosi also refused to spell out the details of the agreement, calling it a “partial interim payment,” and saying that he was working on his version of it Wednesday night.

“The (employees) will be pleased and appreciative,” he said of the agreement. “It will help resolve some issues.”

But other issues remain, Szolosi said, emphasizing that the case has not been settled.

Reach Copley Columbus Bureau Chief Paul E. Kostyu at (614) 222-8901 or e-mail:

STRS employees sue over bonuses: Columbus Dispatch

Terms of settlement in bonus case not disclosed; lawyer questions secrecy

Thursday, November 03, 2005
Bill Bush

The State Teachers Retirement System partially settled a lawsuit yesterday evening involving a claim by hundreds of its own employees that they are owed $1.75 million in bonuses.

But the agency wouldn’t disclose any details of the settlement, including how much it was costing or who was being paid.

After emerging from a closeddoor meeting called to discuss pending litigation, the board voted 8-3 to follow the recommendation of a special counsel appointed by the state attorney general to enter into a settlement according to the terms discussed privately.

The agency would provide no other details. Bill Neville, the retirement system’s general counsel, said the agency didn’t need to make public what the settlement said at the time of the vote. He would answer no other questions, including when or if the details would be made public.

Retirement system spokeswoman Laura Ecklar clarified later that the agency was advised by attorney John Stock, the special counsel appointed to represent the system, that the settlement was privileged attorney-client communications.

The lawsuit involved bonuses withheld from 268 employees in 2003. The employees said the retirement system had reneged on an agreement to pay the bonuses.

Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Guy Reece ruled last month that the agency owed the employees a total of $1.75 million, and left open that the retirement system might also owe punitive damages and attorney fees, The Repository of Canton reported.

Board members Judith Fisher, Denis Leone and John Lazares voted against the settlement. Leone said before the vote that he looked forward to the day that he could comment on the settlement, which would come after a "pending legal matter" was finalized.

Fred Gittes, a Columbus lawyer who frequently litigates public-records and openmeetings disputes, said he didn’t believe Ohio law permits a public body to approve the expenditure of funds while withholding the details of the expenditure.

"My gut reaction is, no, they can’t vote approval of something without the public knowing what they approved," Gittes said last night. "That’s not a public vote. They have basically denied the public the right to know."

Duane Tron: A veteran of the corporate world, the classroom and Viet Nam has a few words for Mr. Brandt

From: Duane E Tron
To: John Brandt
Sent: Wednesday, November 02, 2005
Subject: Planning for retirement!

"OSBA will either be part of the solution or be part of the problem! I sadly see you as part of the bigger problem!"

Dear Mr. Brandt,

You have indicated in numerous correspondence that blame for our health insurance debacle is due to a lack of planning by retired educators. Mr. Brandt I wish to make it known that when I became a teacher at the age of 27 I left a position with a major corporation where I was a bright and rising star. All of my fellow colleagues in research and development for the company went on and became corporate CEO's. I chose to become a teacher to make a difference in the lives of young people and out of a sense of duty to community and nation.

I taught school for fifteen years and acquired a Master's Degree before my income equaled what I was making when I left Corporate America. My wife and I did invest wisely and prudently and if we had not we would be faced with abject poverty today. You implied that many educators needed to plan better. Unfortunately I along, with thousands of others worked in rural and impoverished school district with low pay and benefits. I spent my entire career in low paying positions where it was very difficult to save very much money at any time. In addition, I had the privilege to work in school districts with disgraceful and dilapidated facilities during my career.

I only counted on two things when I chose to retire. They were quality and affordable health insurance and a monthly check. I chose to work for substandard wages throughout my career. Unlike some teachers in high priced districts we didn't have the luxury to save and invest large sums of money. I was subjected to increased education standards that required a higher degree and ongoing CEU's and college credits to maintain my certification to teach. The problem? This was another unfunded mandate that I was required to absorb from my paltry paycheck. I never worked in any district where the school board picked up these additional costs.

You accuse us of poor planning? We thought we did a great job of planning and then we watched half of our investments evaporate in 2002 when the stock market went south. Then we were slammed by huge and outrageous increases for health insurance with STRS and with no advance warning. I would remind you that PERS is still charging retirees about $90.00 a month for health insurance. My wife and I were subjected to increases that are close to $800.00 a month. STRS did NOT grandfather anyone and the costs are outrageous.

The health insurance crisis you accuse us of not properly preparing for is the crisis that is sweeping across this nation today. I guess NOBODY properly planned for retirement from the employees at Delphi, Navistar, US Steel, Delta Airlines, United Airlines, and on and on!

Sir! You like so many others appear to be totally out of touch with reality and the magnitude of the crisis we are all facing. The federal government is NOT able to bail us out. You and your entourage haven't been able to resolve the ongoing funding problems plaguing Ohio's schools. Why haven't you planned better to secure adequate funding for Ohio's schools? Why have you failed so miserably to prepare public schools to adjust to ongoing lost revenues?

You made a threat that with your power and influence you will fight any increase to STRS from public schools to stabilize the pension fund and HC component. You have been reported as saying that you have lots of power and you will get STRS placed under Social Security. I have found that lawmakers haven't been wowed by your statements and threats. This is a powerful barometer we use to determine the credibility of anyone! Guess where you rank on the bar?

I realize you think you are very powerful and influential and if this were so I would think you would have convinced the Ohio General Assembly to fix Ohio's school funding dilemma. Correct? Mr. Brandt if you can't convince them to fix the funding dilemma I surely doubt you are able to compel any lawmakers to place STRS, and the other four state pension funds, into Social Security!

Mr. Brandt I am willing to bet that I am better connected to top political leaders than you or any of your associates. I haven't been able to convince any of them of the need for reform in a number of areas and I seriously doubt that you can achieve the lofty, and ridiculous threat, you made against us.

Sir! You are truly out of touch. My daughter pays 18% of her monthly check into her retirement fund. Her employer contributes 18% as well. STRS hasn't increased contributions in two decades to offset major increases in health insurance costs and other costs associated with retirement. Please don't try and insult the intelligence of retirees with idle and simple threats. An increase in contributions is long overdue and must occur if current actives hope to have a chance to retire in the future.

Mr. Brandt, last year my wife and I paid 39.43% of my gross retirement check for health insurance and related co-pays and deductibles. Do you think this to be fair and just for my years of service to the children of the state of Ohio? Not only did I serve school children as a teacher, coach and principal, I served nearly 20 years as a volunteer firefighter and member of our EMS. I also served six years in the US military during Vietnam! Do you think it proper,correct that I have to pay nearly 40% of my monthly check for health care?

Mr. Brandt you must be living in a parallel universe! What you have been saying is that I have NOT earned my retirement! Mr. Brandt I have placed my life in harms way more times than I wish to count to serve my country, state, and local community! And you think I'm NOT entitled to quality and affordable health insurance?

My daughter places her life on the line every day to protect the President of the United States and I resent anyone implying that I haven't earned my retirement! I would equally resent anyone implying that my daughter hasn't been paying her way toward her retirement! Mr. Brandt, you are out of touch with reality and really don't possess a firm grasp, or understanding, of what has been going on.

I am only asking for what I HAVE earned and nothing more. If this means that actives have to pay an additional 2.5% over the next five years I hardly see this as being unreasonable! I guess if they want to be able to retire they will have to pay! If you want to raise the backs of Ohio's active teachers get up and tell them that you are going to force them into Social Security. I want to be present when this announcement is made because I want to see the reaction of active teachers to you and OSBA.

There is only one reasonable solution to this crisis and that is to fix the problems and not make ignorant threats and statements! We should all be working together to fix the problem and it appears that you are a big part of the problem!

I, along with thousands of others, am only asking for that which we were PROMISED and to which we EARNED during our years of service. We are not asking for anything unreasonable or unobtainable! We only want what we were promised during our 30+ years of teaching the children of the State of Ohio. Sir! This is hardly unreasonable on our part!

OSBA will either be part of the solution or be part of the problem! I sadly see you as part of the bigger problem!

Duane Tron
St. Paris, OH

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

John Curry finally hears from John Brandt; John Brandt subsequently hears from Molly

From: Molly Janczyk
To: John Brandt (and others)
Date: 11/2/2005 4:23:19 PM
Subj: Brandt: OSBA: doesn't respond

Does Mr. Brandt consider pertinent questions as attacks on himself? Apparently he does not wish to respond to those who question him preferring to remain slient and take it personally. I, too, submitted a list of questions with no answer. It is an American right to ask and be answered reasonable questions. What is wacky, out of line or lacking in fact in Mr. Curry's or my questions or pts., Mr. Brandt? You just do not wish to answer: perhaps because you either have no answer or cannot answer and look good???????? Molly J.

And now, Mr. Brandt's response to John Curry; such eloquence -- he certainly knows how to express himself!

From: John Brandt
To: John Curry
Sent: Wednesday, November 02, 2005 7:54 AM
Subject: Re: Where was the OSBA?(Second sending-no reply to first)

MrCurry I do not wish to be rude to you, but I decline to have further correspondence with you and your colleagues who have written to me in a similar vein. While youa are all very passionate aqbout the issue in some way,. your messages have failed to stick to the specific point. jave cpntained erroneous or wacky ideas, and have included personal attacks on me. I see no point is corresponding with such people., John M Brandt OSBA

On Tuesday, November 1, 2005 9:27 PM, John Curry (e-mail address) wrote:

Mr. Brandt, You were quick to reply to my initial email to you concerning the proposed request for additional contributions by both the employer and employee to the Ohio STRS. You made it clear that the OSBA would not support (some word like "war" was mentioned in the Beacon Journal) any increases in employer contributions.

You have NOT, however, been quick with a reply to the email below that I sent you on 10-22-05. I am resending it to you for your comments. A second copy of it can be found below this letter to you. Do you wish to make any comments concerning the past misspending and mismanagement of STRS monies- part of which came from Ohio school boards -or- do you wish to ramain silent on this loss of public monies by an organization who was responsible? If the OSBA did take a stand on the misspending and mismanagement by STRS, then show me the facts and paperwork. If they didn't, THEY SHOULD HAVE. What have you to say?

Sincerely, John Curry, a Proud CORE member
ORC 3307.15 - not just a wish, IT'S THE LAW!

From: John Curry
To: John Brandt
Sent: Saturday, October 22, 2005 5:21 PM
Subject: Where was the OSBA?

Mr. Brandt, I do realize that your organization has and will continue to take a hard-line position on any proposed increases in the employer contribution rate to STRS. There has been a considerable amount of misspending, mismanagement, and entitlement philosphy during the reign of the "old" STRS Board. This brings me to this question: Why was the OSBA silent concerning this misspending, mismanagement, and entitlements when these were being practiced at STRS. After all, 14% of every earned "teacher dollar" of the monies that your boards contributed to STRS were involved. If I am incorrect about your organization's lack of criticism of the STRS for doing what they did- please enlighten me by sending copies of any and all critical articles or news releases issued by your organization against these STRS practices. Thank you.

John Curry - a Proud CORE member
ORC 3307.15 - not just a wish, IT'S THE LAW!

Marc Dann: the Dennis Leone of the Ohio Statehouse?

Article published Nov 2, 2005

Ohio Dems attack 'bad apples' in GOP
Candidates visit Newark, focus on scandals

Advocate Reporter

NEWARK -- State Sen. Marc Dann, of Youngstown, didn't let a little thing like being struck by a car distract him from his mission.

Dann was in Newark as part of the Bad Apple Tour, a group of state Democratic candidates trying to focus attention on recent scandals and investigations involving Republicans. After being struck by a car while crossing North Park Place, Dann dusted himself off and got to the business of addressing 25 Democratic supporters who gathered at the gazebo on the Square.

"I got hit by a car and I'm still here. It shows how committed I am," said Dann, who is considering a run next year for state attorney general.

He and other Democrats are touring mid-sized Ohio cities in response to the investment scandal at the Bureau of Workers' Compensation, Gov. Bob Taft's conviction for failing to report gifts such as golf outings, and other investigations into state and national Republican office-holders.

"Right now, the governor, attorney general, auditor and secretary of state are more loyal to campaign contributors than the people of Ohio. I think we need to take the state back -- not for the Democrats, but for the people," Dann said.

John B. Reardon, a Democratic candidate for state auditor and treasurer of Mahoning County, criticized former auditor Jim Petro and current Auditor Betty Montgomery, both gubernatorial candidates.

"Republican scandals, Republican corruption, Republican failures -- the problems are no more evident than in the auditor's office," Reardon said. "Betty Montgomery failed to do her job and Petro failed to act as state auditor before Betty Montgomery.

"This office needs to be much more than state Republican politicians that need a job while waiting to run for governor. I believe Ohio needs an auditor vigilant in rooting out corruption."

Dann said the title of the tour comes from state Republican Party Chairman Bob Bennett's comment that the Republicans' problems were caused by a few bad apples that the party will weed out.

"It's really sad about our current situation," Dann said. "We're so beholden to special interests, there's no money left to make critical investments (for Ohio). We're falling further and further behind."

Dann also spoke in favor of state Issues 2, 3, 4 and 5, which he said will reduce the influence of big money in political campaigns and make legislative districts more competitive. He said district lines should be drawn to avoid one-party domination in an area.

"In my district (32nd, including Trumbull County), I don't have to talk to Republicans," Dann said. "I do because I try to be conscientious, but I don't have to, and Jay (Hottinger, state senator from Newark) doesn't have to talk to Democrats.

"Dann said an elected official from either party will be more responsive to all people if his district includes a significant percentage from both sides of the political spectrum.

"Competitive districts make for better legislators," Dann said. "Even if Republicans get elected, they will be more responsive to you."

Time for a new sheriff in town; Senator Dann, are you listening?

From John Curry

I was going to put the "not STRS related" rider in the title, but yes, this is STRS related!

The current Attorney General (Petro) and State Auditor (Montgomery) blindly sat by and ignored the misspending and mismanagement by STRS while they were ON THE BOARD and apparently oblivious to what was going on behind their backs -- or were they?

The current governor helped them "stay clean" and above the current STRS ethics mess by his veto for the funding of an STRS investigation by the Inspector General. And the Secy. of State (Blackwell), well, I'll give him a pass on the STRS fiasco, but not on the current "pay to play" game that Taft, Petro and Montgomery also seem to like to play.

A former U.S. President said it well in a statement (which crosses both party lines) that describes the above leadership plague on the Buckeye State: "We, the people, are the boss, and we will get the kind of political leadership, be it good or bad, that we deserve." (JFK)

Now, for the new Sheriff in town? Will Sen. Dann run for the office of Ohio Attorney General? God, I hope so!

John, a Proud CORE member

"Right now, the governor, attorney general, auditor and secretary of state are more loyal to campaign contributors than [to] the people of Ohio." (Senator Marc Dann)

Time for a foot dragger's award? TWO good candidates here!

Thank you, Tom -- don't let 'em off the hook!

Thomas Curtis
To: Damon Asbury

Sent: Wednesday, November 02, 2005 10:20 AM
Subject: Request For Child Care Information

Hello Damon,

Just a quick reminder that you had indicated to me you would send me the child care information I requested the week following the October board meeting. Nearly three weeks later, I have not received it and am wondering why not?

Please be reminded that I originally requested this information on 8/8/05. I have sent you two additional requests since the initial one. It would appear that you are dragging your feet on this issue once again. This is an inordinately long period of time to receive the information I requested and is unacceptable, considering the continued questions I receive for such. This information should be readily available and should never have taken this long to obtain. A three-month wait is very inappropriate.

Further, you have provided me with no updates as to the progress of bringing the child care center to cost neutral, which I have also requested. Again, why not?

I was asked to keep CORE abreast of the progress concerning this issue, but I have been unable to do so due to the lack of response on your part. How can we resolve this problem concerning this issue?

Thank you,
Tom Curtis

From: Thomas Curtis

To: Jeanna Cuillins, Barbra Byington
Sent: Wednesday, November 02, 2005 9:52 AM
Subject: STRS Performance Audit

Second Request

Independent Fiduciary Services, Inc.
805 15th Street, NW
Suite 1120
Washington, DC 20005

Good day Ms. Cullins & Ms. Byington,

The membership of the STRS and I have been extremely frustrated for the past 3 years. Our funds have been very poorly managed during the past 10-15 years, thus resulting in the reduction of our pension checks to again pay for benefits promised to us by our fiduciaries throughout our career. We are now told that because they were only promises they really had no responsibility to actually keep those promises. That scenario is very sad and is recurring daily.

This brings me to my reason for writing you for the third time. We have yet to receive any results after years of following the processes and procedures those in the STRS, the ORSC, Ohio government, Ohio law, and the Ohio legislature have asked us to follow. There appears to be little accountability here.

The STRS membership was promised the results of your performance audit in the spring. That was not forthcoming. Next we were promised it in the fall. Fall is here and yet we have received no notice of any date your STRS performance report will be presented.

Would you kindly provide me with a month and date that will be forthcoming?

Thank you in advance for your timely response.

Thomas Curtis
STRS Retiree

Opinion: Tom Curtis on unions and the OEA

Why do they continue to exist?

The leadership of the OEA, an organization most of us paid dues into during our entire teaching career, is an interesting group of union officials. Please keep in mind, the operative word here is union. The term union has many connotations in and of itself, some good, but some not so good. If you are a dues paying member, the OEA may recognize you in some instances. However, once you retiree and are no longer paying dues, you are nonexistent to them and they fail to even communicate with you. That is my experience concerning the STRS debacle and the OEA. This shows the true consideration the leadership of the OEA has for the individual teacher. These OEA leaders are very self-serving people, but would adamantly deny such.

The OEA has attempted to drive a wedge between actives and retirees concerning the STRS situation for the past three years, by criticizing and name calling the retirees for their efforts to gain equality. None of this has been positive. The OEA has failed to respond to requests for documentation of their negative allegations about the retirees. The result, we can no longer trust the OEA or the STRS. That one fact is unsettling to so many of the STRS membership.

Unions are becoming less and less functional in our society today, as they no longer are able to keep people under their control and are very costly to operate. The OEA seems to always be in financial trouble, which is how they justify yearly increases in an already very expensive dues structure. Unions may have served their purpose in a society of industrial labor workers, but that is no longer the case. Those jobs have been eliminated or sent elsewhere, often because of union involvement. As a means of breaking a union hold on a company, the company simply closed their doors and took those manufacturing jobs to another state or worse, to a foreign country.

The United States no longer is considered to be a manufacturing country, which is what made this country great. Look at the concessions the UAW is now considering? Items they would never have given into in past years. In my opinion, unions are the younger siblings of the lawyering profession. Union officials take advantage of any negative situation they can and attempt to derive their income from doing such. Do these officials truly share in the plight of the people they represent, or do they benefit from that plight? I will leave you to ponder that question.

I have been a member of five different unions during my lifetime. 4 of the 5 were very large and powerful in their day. In looking back at my experiences with these unions, the true inspiration and motivation of these union officials is often not what the membership thinks it to be. These officials attempt to gain control of the group of people they claim to represent through many avenues.

Many of their tactics are justified, above board and for good reason, but many are not and are often ethically challenged. They often work on the premise that they will do whatever it takes to get the job done. If these officials are challenged about their processes and procedures, they do not respond to their challengers, they attempt to ignore them as though they do not exist. If they do respond, as the president of the OEA did to Dr. Dennis Leone’s 13-page position paper concerning the questionable operation of the STRS in May 2003, they do so in a manner they have perfected for many years.

They attack that person(s) and what they have stated as being nothing but allegations and misrepresentations. They make false claims about that person in order to damage that person(s) credibility, like calling them a fanatic. Are we retirees fanatics, that would depend on which camp you belong too? What is disturbing about their attacks, is that they cannot and will not defend their statements. They ignore all of those who question them. Now THAT is what I call a lack of credibility!

The OEA has failed to date to validate any of the remarks made in print about Dr. Leone’s position paper. The OEA has made many allegations about his motivation and vigorously attempted to discredit him, so he would not be elected to the STRS board. It has been stated that the OEA spent roughly $150,000 of teacher dues or PAC money in their attempt to regain some of the board seats they have lost, due to their lack of responsibility and ensuing loss of credibility. Unfortunately, they just do not get it!

In my opinion, if anyone deserves to be on the STRS board, Dr. Dennis Leone stands far above most others in the understanding of what needs to take place at the STRS. He has stood strong on all of his issues and never wavered on his commitment to bring accountability, trust and faith back to the STRS. His efforts have saved the STRS millions to date and improved the processes and procedures used by staff to operate our system.

Why did the OEA do this to the one person that every member of the STRS owes a huge debt of gratitude? That is very simple to answer. The OEA trained and helped elect numerous past and present OEA executive committee members to board seats. The OEA held control of 5 of the 9 board seats for more then a decade.

The OEA has certainly not helped to bring accountability, trust and faith back to the STRS in these past three years. Their position has been, yes it happened, but let us move on and just forget about the huge misspending that occurred. Looking into the past serves no purpose. Really? What is that all about? Why no accountability for those that failed their fiduciary responsibility?

The only accountability those board members will have to answer to have come from the Ohio Ethics Commission. This is due to retiree Sondra Stratton, filing a complaint on behalf of the STRS membership with the OEC. I know of no such discipline effort on the part of the OEA. However, they still feel they should have a strong influence concerning who is elected to the board. That is a union mentality, protect your own, even if they are wrong and move forward. What good is that notion to the members of the STRS, absolutely none? That idea does not follow common sense.

The OEA was in charge of the board for over 20 years by holding 5 of the 9 board seats and they failed to properly fund the health care benefit this same union promised us throughout our career. In my opinion, the OEA is most responsible for the lack of faith and trust we now have in the STRS, but they still want to run the show. They are shameless.

Have the OEA union officials been affected by the decisions made by their own people, most certainly? Most notably, they currently hold only 2 of 11 board seats. The others have been replaced. Language in SB 133, which the OEA aggressively fought until the very last minute prior to the vote by the legislature, makes sure that no one group of people, union or non-union will hold a majority of the STRS board seats ever again. What does that tell you? Has their membership suffered, I cannot answer that. One would think it would have. Again, the OEA has never taken any responsibility for what their people permitted to happen at the STRS.

Unfortunately, the OEA leadership has not been affected in the same manner as the STRS membership. We lost big time! The health care benefit we were promised throughout our careers, which the OEA failed to make sure was properly funded, does still exist. Yes, it still exists, but in a very different manner and scope than promised. It is certainly not the Cadillac plan many retirees were promised at retirement and the STRS literature always taunted as being such.

Further, for those retirees who lost their spousal and dependent children subsidy, it has become 800% more costly. Who would have ever dreamed that the STRS would totally eliminate the spousal and dependent child subsidy with no grandfathering offered to those most affected? None of the other four public pension systems has done this to their membership. Where was the OEA concerning this issue? They were nowhere to be found, because we are retirees, no longer pay dues to the OEA and thus do not deserve their support.

There is one sad fact concerning this issue of health care. The huge 800% increase in the health care benefit cost only affects a minority of the STRS membership and does not appear to matter to the majority. It appears the majority is either ignorant of this fact, which the OEA has certainly NOT publicized, or they are just not too sympathetic to those members suffering the most financial loss. I do know one thing, the OEA called on many local active union officials and OEA-R members to testify at the September STRS board meeting. The OEA had speakers make statements about how affordable our health care program is. That is only true for those that do not have to provide for a spouse or dependent children, but their statements at that meeting never indicated such, WHY NOT? The OEA is so deceptive it is sickening to me.

In summary, the OEA leadership has made no effort to bring the actives and retirees together. The OEA is the party most responsible for the lack of affordable health care. The OEA leaders of today appear to be little more then a group of union-minded leaders looking to keep their own dedicated flow of income arriving monthly. I guess you cannot blame them for that, as we all need a source of income. On the other hand, they want a much larger income than the people they represent. To me, just how they work their process is what is very questionable. I have not found one member who can truly explain in a dollar value response, why the OEA is such a good thing.

Why does the OEA continue to exist?


Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Glossary of terms commonly used in retirement systems

Ever wonder what some of those words mean? Now you can look them up!

The Kansas Public Employees Retirement System (KPERS) has a handy link on their website: a glossary of terms commonly used in connection with retirement pensions. Go to and click on "Glossary."

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Molly confronts Bill Leibensperger and OEA Central on remarks published in 'Communique'

. . . and you cite 'exaggerations' but you can't give examples; please explain

From: Molly Janczyk
Sent: Saturday, October 29, 2005 3:22 PM

To: Gary Allen and Bill Liebensperger
Subject: "Naysayers" says OEA; and an OEA Fairy Tale vs. FACTS and ques. for Bill L.

It continues with the: Name calling starts under section: **WHAT HAPPENED: I am sorry for the length but hope you find this informative.(( )) indicates my words inserted in places in the article.

The Nov. issue of the Central OEA/NEA 'Communique' has a lengthy article written by Bill Leibensperger. In spite of asking that the rhetoric stop so we can move forward on HC legislation, the editorial states:

"Sept. STRS board meeting was successful one for OEA due to quick and effective action. He goes on saying he will tell what happened, why it is important and make a plea for action on behalf of OEA members.

RESULTS THEY WANTED: He speaks of the positive outcome of the day. The STRS and HCA's: Member Educ. and Engagement Campaign and Proposal was adopted and endorsed afterwards by OEA Exec. Comm. members will be asked guidance and opinions on a change of law so a dedicated stream of revenue can be created to sustain a health care benefit for both current and future retirees. ((THAT is good)).

WHY OEA TESTIFIED: OEA has been a key leader in the HCA working in collaboration with STRS board members and staff for last couple of yrs. AT THIS TIME WHEN FINALLY READY to craft legislative proposal with the approval of memberships, THE FACE OF THE STRS BOARD CHANGED SIGNIFICANTLY. No longer is there and active majority of contributing members on the board and CONCERN THAT THE 3 NEW STATUTORY MEMBERS CREATED BY SB 133-'investment experts' appointed by the Gov., Pres. of House and Pres. of Senate and Speaker of the House-MIGHT HAVE A MORE NARROW INTEREST THAN THOSE BOARD MEMBERS ELECTED BY THE PARTICIPANTS IN THE SYSTEM LED TO SOME VERY EFFECTIVE POLITICAL ACTION IN SEPT. THAT I (BILL L.) HOPE YOU (OEA MEMBERS) WILL HELP US BUILD UPON IN COMING MONTHS."

((INSERT NOTE: by Molly.J.: REMEMBER, THESE INVESTMENT EXPERTS WERE APPOINTED DUE TO THE SPENDING OF OUR MONEY BY THE PREVIOUS 5 OEA ACTIVE BOARD MEMBERS WHO HAVE BEEN OR MOST LIKELY WILL BE INDICTED FOR THESE ETHIC VIOLATIONS FORCING THE NEW SB133 WHICH PLACES OVERSIGHT BY INVESTMENT EXPERTS ON THE BOARD AND THE ABILITY TO REMOVE VIOLATORS IN THE FUTURE. Most of the previous and some of the current board members haven't a clue about investments and have had to play catch up re: finances. CONNI RAMSER ASKS LOTS OF QUESTIONS TO HER CREDIT BUT ADMITS TO KNOWING LITTLE WHEN SHE JOINED THE BOARD AND JUST MONTHS AFTER SHE WAS SEATED, IT WAS BEEN SAID BY AT LEAST ONE OF HER CO-BOARD MEMBERS, THAT SHE DIDN'T BELONG ON THE BOARD AS SHE WAS LOST IN THE DISCUSSIONS.. That was probably the norm in yrs. past BUT now, MOST of the board members are very fluent in finances having served on boards and possessing a better understanding of such issues than Conni. Leone and Lazares and the investment experts also researched issues and know what questions to ask and what points to make for a much more knowledgeable and effective, efficient board. They hit the ground running vs. spending time and money being trained in areas past elected board members knew little or nothing about wasting a year more getting 'with it.' m.j.))

Back to the Bill's editorial:

The article goes on:


"Being made aware that STRS would be entertaining a motion that will shape the future of retiree HC benefits for our (OEA) members, 18 active and retired OEA members composed testimony that stressed the importance of the compact between the STRS and public school educators for HC and retirement benefits and public policy that protects it. ((A list of names follows of those who)) spoke "ELOQUENTLY EXPRESSING THEIR SUPPORT FOR STRS'S CONTINUAL EFFORTS TOW COST CONTAINMENT AND MEMBER EDUC. AND ENTHUSIASM FOR SURVEYING MEMBERS AND EMPLOYERS. THEY ALSO addressed the importance of the 35 yr benefits and the peril of shifting to a defined contribution plan for HC. With the assistance of OEA and HCA, I (Bill L.) also testified and coordinated testimonies."


"They made a huge impact. (The 18 speakers) STRS Board members and staff alike commented on the POWER of their professional, articulate and passionate testimony.

THE STARK CONTRAST BETWEEN THE OEA MEMBERS AND TOO MANY OF THE USUAL ((THAT WOULD BE US: CORE)) PARTICIPANTS IN THE PUBLIC INPUT portion of meeting who have launched personal insults, unreasonable demands and angry diatribes for the past couple of years was a vivid one. A positive, unintended consequence of this testimony by these professional educators was the huge morale boost it gave to a beleaguered STRS staff and board."



1. Did we not have a chat about this? This rhetoric which is a fairy tale, hurts actives and retirees. By not giving them the facts, you continue to perpetuate untrue rumor and harm cooperation between all YOUR membership.

I addressed you about this type of talk and asked you to provide ONE SHRED OF EVIDENCE THAT ANYTHING SAID BY CORE OR LEONE AND LAZARES WAS UNTRUE OR NOT STEEPED IN FACT. YOU SAID, "THERE WERE EXAGGERATIONS IN LEONE'S REPORTS AS ALLEN." I asked you to GIVE ME ONE! You were unable to do so after repeatedly trying to say there were exaggerations. I said CORE wishes to ALWAYS retract any statement not correct and to tell me anything not true and that it was all substantiated BY INVESTIGATIVE REPORTERS: KOSTYU of the Canton Repository, ((WHO WON AN AWARD FOR HIS INVESTIGATIVE RESEARCH ON STRS)), OLHEMACHER of the Cleveland Plain Dealer who broke the story on 6/08/03 followed by subsequent articles, JEFF HIRSCH WHO REPORTED TO CH.12 CINCI., and many more. FACTS regarding the misspending were PROVIDED BY DAMON ASBURY, EXEC DIREC OF STRS, and DENNIS LEONE RECEIVED AN AWARD FOR HIS RESEARCH PAPER ON STRS.

((I told Bill that he was saying they were all lying if he continued his remarks. At that time, he simply said , Well , there were a lot of facts in the report and gave me NOTHING that was an exaggeration. I then said, again, that CORE was REACTIVE to OEA rhetoric and IF OEA STOPPED, GUESS WHAT? NO REACTION! He said he understood but could not control others but indicated he would try or that was my understanding. WELL: HE CERTAINLY DIDN'T TRY HARD AS HE CONTINUES TO INSULT CORE THOUGH DOES NOT NAME US. I continued that we were going to start addressing this issue by ASKING him directly at meetings to PRODUCE FACTS for his comments and that he needs to come prepared or stop this. So Bill,


Bill's editorial continues with:

"Concern that a new STRS board might consider such destructive ideas ideas as repealing SB190 (which includes the enhanced 35 yr. rule and other gains for members) and moving away from the subsidized defined HC benefit for current and retired retirees WERE ALLAYED FOR THE TIME BEING. At the end of the day, everyone seemed to be on the same page moving forward as reflected in the board's unanimous vote and supportive comments from everyone in the audience -- INCLUDING PREVIOUS NAYSAYERS!"

FAIRYTALES, BILL! I was in the audience along with many of those you call 'naysayers.' You write as though this was some remarkable achievement when what happened was 18 folks spoke and most of us wondered WHY they weren't more informed of reality by now. of course, that happens when one does not seek all info from all sides and then proceed to decide issues for themselves vs. relying on one entity only for their spoonfed and one sided info.


-4 of the 5 active OEA beleaguered board members have been replaced and cannot return to the STRS board due to overspending language in SB 133. One and probably all 4 or 5 of the former and one current OEA active board members and one retiree board member who voted with them will be indicted for spending our money on themselves for perks and pleasures. (That would be naysaying, rt.?) -The 3 investment experts with what you call possible 'more narrow interests' don't seem to have your support so did they feel 'boosted' by OEA?



5. QUES: WHERE IN ANY OF THIS, DO YOU FIND: "Unreasonable demands?"

Angry, sometimes, yes, at having our guardians of our money say 'it was theirs to spend as they wish'. Herb Dyer, former Exec. Direc., of STRS was fired for such a remark. Is it reasonable to be angry if your broker spent your earnings on investments on his own trips, cars, etc.? YES! THAT IS WHAT STRS DID!

As Dennis Leone said in the Oct. STRS board meeting, public speak session to an active who said someone was heard to ask "Where have they been?"

Leone asked to speak and I think board members will now be doing so in response to comments and questions addressed to them or to the board to which they qualified to answer:

Leone said: "I said that. I asked where they have been?" I am happy that the actives are here now but I wonder why they weren't here over the past 2+ yrs. when the going was tough to help with changes positive for all STRS membership: active and retired."

Also, he brought up the RUMOR that NEW board members wanted to change the 35 yr. rule and wondered where that came from as neither HE nor the board since his inception HAVE EVER DISCUSSED IT! Nor is he particularly interested in changing it.

DAMON ASBURY HAD INSIGHT ON THIS AND SAID: "I think it came from the JULY 2005 STRS statement THAT ALL AREAS AND POSSIBILITIES WOULD BE LOOKED AT INCLUDING THE 35 yr. rule. to look at cost saving measures."

IT DID NOT COME FROM LEONE YET UNFAIRLY HE IS BEING BLAMED!!!!!!!!!!!! (No surprise when it comes from OEA tactics.)

It has also come to my attention that suburban educators are hearing negative remarks still about Leone's research from possibly no other than Bill L.'s wife, Dawn.




The article continues:


Bill writes:

"......time for leaders and members from other parts of the state to come forward and help the new board understand these concerns really do represent everyone. Make plans to attend or send reps to future STRS board meetings to provide testimony ((love that word: implies their word is somehow steeped in truth, unfortunately, this article is not, in my opinion for reasons stated)) or presence or both. ((OEA HAS 4 or 5 show up in Oct.)). I (Bill ) will help you ((evidently he doesn't trust OEA actives to write their own speeches: kinda insulting, I think-more like use you as a mouthpiece)) with the logistics of your participation and development of 'testimony'. Please email me, (Bill) at: (_) to indicate your interest.

Then he lists the meeting dates and continues:

"Please make it a priority to ensure an OEA presence at these meetings. Let me know how I can be of assistance."


CORE is very happy for this hopefully increased attendance at STRS BOARD MEETINGS:

As with the Oct. STRS BOARD MEETING, it gives actives a chance to address the board and NOW be answered ON THE SPOT regarding any concerns from those board members interested in responding to ques. and comments then and there. I know Leone and Lazares are willing to speak directly to you and this helps overcome false RUMORS and provide facts ALL ENTERED THEN IN THE MINUTES AND UNREFUTABLE for future misuse.


As Dr. Buser, investment appointee to the board, said to me: "WHY DO THESE ORGANIZATIONS DISLIKE CORE? CORE ASKS REASONABLE QUESTIONS AND JUST WANTS TO HELP! Don't they understand you are all working for the same thing?"


OEA CENTRAL: You continue to disappoint with negative rhetoric about persons who have fought for and secured reduced spending and guaranteed it stop so STRS can focus and ACT SOLELY on its membership per ORC: 3307.15, the law which states it must do so. You HARM RELATIONS BETWEEN GROUPS IN YOUR MEMBERSHIP WITH FALSE STATEMENTS. YOU are NOT working to coordinate all of your groups to combine efforts to work together. You thank me for trying and then turn and speak ill. YOU CANNOT HAVE IT BOTH WAYS! Only YOU, OEA CENTRAL, have to power for change but you repeatedly turn your back. We are true to our word and more and more (half your membership, I am told) wish for collaboration with CORE. Also, more and more actives are hearing the facts and you ONLY hurt yourselves as TRUTH RINGS CLEAR! CORE, Concerned Ohio Retired Educators, fights for ALL EDUCATORS WHO WILL RETIRE OR ARE RETIRED UNDER STRS.

Bill, OEA CENTRAL, I invite ANY dissent with ANY comment and WILL retract any item if not accurate PROVEN by you to be false.

Molly Janczyk
STRS Retiree who fought to build CEA and OEA since early 70's.
OEA Member as an Active
OEA-R Lifetime
ORTA Lifetime

David Brennan and Buckeye charter school history: more than you really wanted to know

Toledo Blade
Oct. 30, 2005

Schools and fund-raising
In the business world, CEOs look for every edge.

A year after George Voinovich took office as governor of Ohio in 1991, he picked Akron industrialist David L. Brennan to chair a committee studying whether state tax dollars should be used to enable parents to send their children to private schools.

The study prompted the creation of a voucher program in Cleveland, and Mr. Brennan in 1995 opened three schools that received $2,250 per student.

When Mr. Voinovich ran for re-election in 1994, Mr. Brennan helped raise $1 million for Ohio Republicans, who gained control of the Ohio House that year, ending a Democratic majority that had stood for 22 years.

A year later, Mr. Brennan became chairman of the finance committee for the Ohio Republican Party, in charge of statewide fund-raising.

Mr. Brennan then pushed for charter schools - an alternative type of public school that receives taxpayer funds but is independent of the public-school system and largely free from state and local regulations. They also receive more per-pupil funding than voucher schools.

In 1997, state Rep. Sally Perz, a Toledo Republican who now is one of Mr. Brennan's lobbyists, succeeded in getting an amendment into the state budget bill to create the first charter schools in Ohio.

A year later, Mr. Brennan formed White Hat Management to manage charter schools. White Hat now operates 49 charter schools in seven states, including 13 Hope-Academies and 20 Life Skills Centers, including one in Toledo.

The Hope Academies are K-10 schools and the Life Skills Centers are designed primarily for high-school dropouts.

Based on enrollment, Mr. Brennan's charter schools have received $263 million in Ohio tax money since 2002.

Mr. Brennan, his wife, Ann, their daughter, Nancy, and the Brennan political action committee have contributed $3.4 million to Republican candidates in Ohio and on the federal level since 1989.

"The question is: Has Mr. Brennan purchased undue influence for private profit with these large contributions," said Tom Mooney, president of the Ohio Federation of Teachers.

State legislators in 2002 changed the law to allow charter school sponsors to renew a charter for an indefinite period of time, despite saying in the late 1990s that charters would be up for renewal every five years to hold them accountable for results.

Mr. Brennan, who declined to be interviewed for this article, has said he contributes to political candidates to compete with the teachers' unions.

Since 1990, the political action committees of Ohio's teachers' unions have poured nearly $3.9 million into the coffers of candidates and the state's political parties. Although more than half of that amount was send to Democrats, the PACs did contribute heavily to Republicans as well, including more than $530,000 to GOP party funds.

Mr. Brennan now is expanding his school-choice enterprise. The federal No Child Life Behind law, the centerpiece of President Bush's education policy, requires all public school districts with low test scores to offer tutoring.

White Hat Management has formed NCLB Tutors to make money from that provision. Now, the rest of the article, some of you educators might be politically offended, but it was written by the same authors!

John (Curry), a Proud CORE member

Article published October 30, 2005

Ohio Bush donors richly rewarded
'Pioneers and Rangers' handed access to contracts, policymakers


COLUMBUS - The Ohio business leaders and lobbyists who steered at least $4.1 million to President Bush's re-election campaign last year collected more than $1.2 billion in taxpayer dollars for their companies and clients, a Blade investigation shows.

The fund-raisers who helped deliver the battleground state - and ultimately the 2004 presidential election - also received choice appointments from state and federal officials. The posts included an ambassadorship to Germany and a seat on the Ohio State University board of trustees.

Others made millions from unbid contracts varying from supplying ball bearings to the military or office furniture for federal agencies.

As they raised millions to help re-elect George W. Bush in 2004, the 30 Bush "Pioneers" and "Rangers" from Ohio - who raised at least $100,000 and $200,000 respectively - also had access to policymakers from the Ohio Statehouse to the White House.

The fund-raisers included Tom Noe, a former Toledo-area rare-coin dealer who is facing multiple investigations into the state's failed $50 million investment in rare-coin funds. He was indicted Thursday on three felony charges that he laundered money into the President's re-election campaign.

Both Bush-Cheney and the campaign of Democrat John Kerry tapped "bundlers" who would find dozens of others - often business associates and other contacts - who would each contribute $2,000, the maximum allowed by federal law to a candidate in an election.

But in Ohio, where the election swung on fewer than 120,000 votes, Mr. Bush's 30 premier fund-raisers exceeded the Kerry campaign's take from the state by themselves.

"This fund-raising is just a pyramid scheme, except that it works," said Alex Knott, a spokesman for the Center for Public Integrity, a nonpartisan watchdog group based in Washington. "The Pioneers and Rangers are the networks of people - the friends of the friends of the friends - who put money into these coffers. They are given a tracking number so their donations can be given credit and there is only one reason for that - if that is going to be used as value later."

The three Ohio Pioneers and Rangers who agreed to speak with The Blade said ideology and a fondness for the President drove their giving. They also sketched a picture of behind-the-scenes campaign access few Bush supporters experienced.

One Ranger, insurance executive Doug Corn of Cincinnati, told The Blade he met with President Bush 16 times during the last two years. A Pioneer, Ron Beshear, described a late-night White House tour that included a stop at the Oval Office.

The newspaper's investigation also found:

The state of Ohio paid about $800 million to the companies and lobbying clients of Ohio's 30 Pioneers and Rangers during the last six years, an analysis of a state expenditure database shows. The money flowed from the state to the fund-raisers for a number of purposes, including charter school payments, development grants, and tax refunds.

Records showed that the federal government paid more than $447 million to the firms of the President's Ohio fund-raisers and their lobbying clients since Mr. Bush took office in 2001.

The revenues of some of the firms headed by Ohio Bush Pioneers and Rangers are determined partly by the amount of subsidies they get from Columbus and Washington and by the regulatory decisions made by government officials.

John Edwards, the 2004 Democratic vice presidential nominee, said Friday that The Blade's findings are "part of a continuing pattern" of the Bush administration's giving of special access to fund-raisers.

The former U.S. senator from North Carolina said the culprits are the nation's flawed campaign finance system and the government officials who act in the interest of their "cronies."

Mr. Edwards said President Bush's Pioneers and Rangers system had a "significant effect" on Ohio and the outcome of last year's presidential race.

"George Bush and Dick Cheney had significant amounts of money raised by these Pioneers and Rangers in Ohio," Mr. Edwards said, adding, "huge amounts of money raised by them and others around the country were infused into Ohio."

"A significant amount of that money was raised by people who had particular interests. And it is obvious that some of them were awarded for what they did. Unfortunately, it's the voter and the taxpayer who suffers for that," he said.

A spokesman for the Republican National Committee, Aaron McLear, said there is no connection between campaign contributions and government payments to firms of big GOP fund-raisers.

"Our supporters ensure that we have the tools and resources necessary to get our message out and mobilize voters," he said. "They donate time and money because they believe in our values and support our candidates."

Mr. Corn, the insurance salesman for Northwestern Mutual Life who raised at least $200,000 for the President last year, had never made a campaign donation before last year's election, but said he was inspired by Mr. Bush's "out-front Christian values" on issues such as abortion and gay marriage.

"I didn't want, nor did I expect, anything at all in return," Mr. Corn said. "My reward was that he was re-elected, and my reward was [newly appointed Chief Justice] John Roberts."

But assessing other Ohio presidential campaign fund-raisers, Mr. Corn added: "Positively, I think people got involved and they wanted something."

'Bundling' the cashBy the end of the 2004 race for political money, President Bush out-raised his opponent, Democrat John Kerry, $293 million to $252 million.

Some of the first Pioneers and Rangers helped Mr. Bush become governor of Texas in 1995.

By 2004, the Bush-Cheney campaign had "perfected" its money-bundling machine, said Mr. Knott, the spokesman for the Center for Public Integrity.

The Bush-Cheney campaign recruited 548 Pioneers and Rangers nationwide, with 30 coming from Ohio and 18 from Michigan.

There also was a "Super Ranger" class, with eight Ohioans raising $300,000 for the Republican National Committee. The money helped fund campaigns across the country.

Health-care interestsIn the realm of health care, there are two Ohio firms with Bush fund-raisers as executives - HCR Manor Care Inc., a Toledo company that provides nursing home care, and Invacare, an Elyria health products manufacturer.

According to federal lobbying records, Invacare has spent more than $1.5 million since 1999 lobbying Washington officials on health-care issues. The company's CEO, Malachi Mixon, who was a Bush Ranger, and his employees and associates have contributed at least $1 million to political campaigns since 1989.

Mr. Mixon declined a request for an interview with The Blade, but it's clear from the company's statements that Invacare relies heavily on the support of the federal government.

In its Aug. 8, 2005, financial statement, Invacare wrote: "The Company is directly affected by government regulation and reimbursement policies in virtually every county in which it operates."

In its most recent quarterly filing, the company noted that "reimbursement uncertainties" have affected the performance of the company and there wouldn't be stability until Medicare and Medicaid implement plans for new codes and fees in 2006.

Invacare and its subsidiaries have received at least $3.1 million in contracts from the federal government since President Bush took office in 2001. Invacare largely provided hospital products for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

In Ohio, Invacare has received payments of at least $691,000 from the state of Ohio since 1999.

Most of the money Invacare received from the state came by way of development grants between July, 2004, and July, 2005.

The Ohio Department of Development awarded Invacare with about $446,000 in grants during that period.

Like Invacare, Manor Care Inc. has a strong interest in government health policy.

The company's chief operating officer, M. Keith Weikel, is a Bush Ranger. He, his employees, and associates have contributed more than $1.6 million to political campaigns since 1989.

Mr. Weikel declined to be interviewed for this article.

His company, which relies on Medicare and other government payments for 67 percent of its $3.36 billion in revenue last fiscal year, has legislative needs.Manor Care has lobbied heavily in favor of reducing jury awards in lawsuits, known on Capitol Hill as tort reform. A group Mr. Weikel helped form campaigned against Nancy Argenziano, a Republican lawmaker in Florida, in 2002 because she didn't support a proposed cap on punitive damages in jury awards against nursing homes in Florida. The law passed, and Ms. Argenziano won a state senate seat.

In a 2003 quarterly filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the company cited "strong tort reform" measures enacted in Texas and other states as reasons for increased profits, adding: "There is still significant work to be done on this serious, industry-wide issue, especially in the state of Florida."

Manor Care spokesman Rick Rump said Manor Care is interested in tort reform and increasing Medicare payments, particularly in rolling back a planned cut on Jan. 1 that he said would equal a $17-a-day loss per patient at some of its facilities. But employees are not forced or encouraged to contribute to any politician, he said.

More than simple entitlement payments from Medicare, the company and another that Mr. Weikel helps oversee as a board member, Laboratory Corporation of America, enjoy various federal contracts, including with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and other agencies that total at least $65 million from January, 2001, to July, 2005.

The companies have been paid at least $1.6 million by state of Ohio agencies.

Timken's tie-insOn April 24, 2003, the President announced his economic agenda at the Timken Co.'s research facility in Canton, Ohio.

"The greatest strength of the American economy is found right here, right in this room, found in the pride and skill of the American work force," the President said. "Here at Timken, last year, productivity rose 10 percent, which means that America can compete with any nation in the world because we got the finest workers in the world."

W.R. "Tim" Timken, Jr., who inherited the manufacturer's chairmanship in 1975, hosted Ohio fund-raisers for the President.

A Ranger in 2004, he became the U.S. Ambassador to Germany last month.

Even though Mr. Bush praised Timken Co. as an example of a thriving American business, the company had relied on government handouts worth $259 million since 2001.

In a 2003 claim to the federal government, Timken requested subsidies because France, Germany, Italy, China, Japan, and even Romania "dumped" ball bearings on the American market. Timken reported damage in excess of $63 billion.

The U.S. government paid Timken $109 million in 2003, almost three times the company's profits.
Timken was the primary recipient of a 2000 federal anti-dumping and subsidy law, according to a September report by the Government Accountability Office.

The law was proposed by U.S. Rep. Ralph Regula (R., Navarre) in 1999. Timken is headquartered in his district.

Two weeks later, Ohio's Mike DeWine presented the legislation to the U.S. Senate. Mr. Regula and Mr. DeWine have received $30,700 and $46,750 respectively in contributions since 1989 from Timken employees and members of the Timken family.

Timken spokesman Jeff Dafler said he would not comment on the company's individual sources of revenue.

"The company's focus is and always has been on the markets themselves," he said.
Mr. Timken would not agree to an interview with The Blade.

Schools and fund-raisingIn the business world, CEOs look for every edge.

A year after George Voinovich took office as governor of Ohio in 1991, he picked Akron industrialist David L. Brennan to chair a committee studying whether state tax dollars should be used to enable parents to send their children to private schools.

The study prompted the creation of a voucher program in Cleveland, and Mr. Brennan in 1995 opened three schools that received $2,250 per student.

When Mr. Voinovich ran for re-election in 1994, Mr. Brennan helped raise $1 million for Ohio Republicans, who gained control of the Ohio House that year, ending a Democratic majority that had stood for 22 years.

A year later, Mr. Brennan became chairman of the finance committee for the Ohio Republican Party, in charge of statewide fund-raising.

Mr. Brennan then pushed for charter schools - an alternative type of public school that receives taxpayer funds but is independent of the public-school system and largely free from state and local regulations. They also receive more per-pupil funding than voucher schools.

In 1997, state Rep. Sally Perz, a Toledo Republican who now is one of Mr. Brennan's lobbyists, succeeded in getting an amendment into the state budget bill to create the first charter schools in Ohio.

A year later, Mr. Brennan formed White Hat Management to manage charter schools. White Hat now operates 49 charter schools in seven states, including 13 Hope-Academies and 20 Life Skills Centers, including one in Toledo.

The Hope Academies are K-10 schools and the Life Skills Centers are designed primarily for high-school dropouts.

Based on enrollment, Mr. Brennan's charter schools have received $263 million in Ohio tax money since 2002.

Mr. Brennan, his wife, Ann, their daughter, Nancy, and the Brennan political action committee have contributed $3.4 million to Republican candidates in Ohio and on the federal level since 1989.

"The question is: Has Mr. Brennan purchased undue influence for private profit with these large contributions," said Tom Mooney, president of the Ohio Federation of Teachers.

State legislators in 2002 changed the law to allow charter school sponsors to renew a charter for an indefinite period of time, despite saying in the late 1990s that charters would be up for renewal every five years to hold them accountable for results.

Mr. Brennan, who declined to be interviewed for this article, has said he contributes to political candidates to compete with the teachers' unions.

Since 1990, the political action committees of Ohio's teachers' unions have poured nearly $3.9 million into the coffers of candidates and the state's political parties. Although more than half of that amount was send to Democrats, the PACs did contribute heavily to Republicans as well, including more than $530,000 to GOP party funds.

Mr. Brennan now is expanding his school-choice enterprise. The federal No Child Life Behind law, the centerpiece of President Bush's education policy, requires all public school districts with low test scores to offer tutoring.

White Hat Management has formed NCLB Tutors to make money from that provision.

Voting company's stake Wally O'Dell, the CEO of voting machine-maker Diebold Inc., has looked to the secretary of state's office in Columbus to set elections policy that would mean millions of dollars for his Canton, Ohio-based business.

In 2003, as the Bush-Cheney efforts accelerated, Mr. O'Dell, a Bush Pioneer, issued a fund-raising letter to Ohio Republicans declaring that he was "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the President next year."

The note sparked concern among Democrats, who charged it was an inappropriate action for a company vying to sell electronic voting machines to county governments.

Mr. O'Dell's letter was mailed one day before Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell was expected to name Diebold as one of three firms eligible to sell voting machines to Ohio counties. Diebold eventually received permission to sell its voting machines to Ohio counties.

Earlier this year, Matt Damschroder, the executive director of the Franklin County Board of Elections, acknowledged that last year he had accepted a $10,000 check for the county GOP from a Diebold consultant who was seeking county business. The transaction took place in Mr. Damschroder's county office and he was fined a month's pay for accepting the payment.

Diebold officials denied they had any knowledge of the contribution. Aside from the dozens of county contracts Diebold won to supply elections machines last year, the firm has collected more than $2.7 million from the state of Ohio since 1999.

In 2001 alone, the Ohio Department of Mental Health gave Diebold more than $1.3 million for technological equipment.

The company also has won more than $24.7 million in federal contracts since President Bush took office in 2001.

Mr. O'Dell also declined a request for an interview.

Rare-coin scandalIn April, shortly after The Blade wrote the first stories on Mr. Noe's rare-coin funds, Gov. Bob Taft was asked if his longtime contributor gained special access because of his support.

"I don't know," Mr. Taft said during an April 7 interview at The Blade's editorial department. "You tell me."

During a courthouse news conference after the governor's conviction on ethics charges in August, Mr. Taft told reporters that there is "no connection" between contributions and state contracts.

"Contracts are awarded based on merit, based on qualifications, based on experience and performance under our administration," Mr. Taft said. The governor's spokesman reiterated the governor's assertion last week.

Bob Bennett, the chairman of the Ohio Republican Party, called any link between state contracts and campaign contributions "a stretch."

"Why is it wrong?" he said, of the campaign contributions. "What makes it wrong? You assume that these people are buying something, and they're not. They're buying good government. They're buying a philosophy of government."

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean believes there's a problem with corruption that extends from Columbus to Washington.

"Americans don't like the culture of corruption that Republicans have brought to Columbus and Washington D.C.," Mr. Dean said last week, reacting to The Blade's findings. "The American people are looking for an alternative to the Republicans' pay-to-play approach to government."

Despite attempts at campaign-finance reform on the federal and state levels, evidence shows that those who give money to politicians tend to get access to public money and policymakers, said Taylor Lincoln, senior researcher for Public Citizen's Congress Watch.

"Were the Pioneers and Rangers doing all of this work because they thought George W. Bush was the guy, or did they want a foot in the door if he was re-elected?'' Mr. Lincoln asked.

The answer matters to the state of democracy in the United States, said Mr. Knott of the Center for Public Integrity, "This is the American people's government. It is not the government of these individuals who coordinate campaign contributions," he said.

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