Saturday, July 29, 2006

Dennis Leone to Damon Asbury: Two Questions

To Jim Kimmel and Nancy Hamant, July 29, 2006
Subject: Fw: Questions Posed

James and Nancy -- For your review and comment.

Dennis Leone
To Judi Peaspanen, July 29, 2006

Here is a response I received to 2 recent questions posed to Damon Asbury. It is best to read my questions first, which are shown at the very bottom. A brief reply from Damon follows, then a brief reaction from me, then the longer reply below from Bob Slater.

Dennis Leone
From Bob Slater, July 28, 2006

Good morning, Dennis.
Let me see if I can help with your questions.

1. Damon is correct that all rebates from AdvancePCS go directly into the Health Care Stabilization Fund (HCSF). I believe the lawsuit that you are referring to is against Merck Medco. We have not received payment of any award yet because it is being appealed, but when we do, it will go entirely into the HCSF because it is directly related to health care and improper payment of rebates.

Settlements in securities litigation, like Freddie Mac, are a little different. Assets for the pension fund and the health care fund are combined for investment purposes, so settlements or awards in securities cases go into investment income for STRS as a whole. At the end of each fiscal year, investment income is allocated between the pension fund and the health care fund, so in that way, the HCSF gets its proportionate share of securities settlements. It would not be proper accounting to put the entire settlement from these securities cases in the HCSF.

2. Damon's response is essentially correct, although the change did not occur before the HCSF was created - the current HCSF was established in 1983. "Net" is an accounting term that means combining different amounts into one figure; in this case, premiums paid by health care plan participants were deducted directly from the health care expenses paid by STRS for financial reporting purposes. As the amount of premiums became more significant, we decided that it would be better accounting to show the figures as "gross" - participant premiums would be shown as revenues or income to the HCSF, and health care costs would be shown as expenses. It is simply a matter of financial statement display - one figure or two figures. Either way, both amounts go through the HCSF. So to answer your questions, there was absolutely no effect on the health care plan participants and no difference in the balance of the Health Care Stabilization Fund.

I hope this is helpful and would be happy to discuss this further when you are here next month.

Bob Slater
July 28, 2006; Subject: Re: Two Questions
Damon -- I do not understand your answer to my Question #2.

Dennis Leone
From: Damon Asbury, July 27, 2006
Subject: Re: Two Questions
Dennis, with respect to your questions -

1. The rebates from Advance / Caremark did go directly into the Healthcare Stabilization fund. There are limits on which funds can go into healthcare. The limits are set by federal law - IRS I believe. So, my understanding isthat Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae would first have to go to the Pension Fundand would only be available to health care to the extent that it was notneeded for pension.

2. I believe that prior to the HCSF being established, revenues were simply netted out from health care expenses. After the fund was created. revenues were treated as a line item.

I'm going to ask Bob Slater to review these to make sure I'm giving you the correct and accurate info.

From: Dennis Leone
To: Damon Asbury
Sent: July 27, 2006
Subject: Two Questions
Damon -- I would appreciate receiving your answers to the questions below:

1. When STRS receives a financial settlement -- like we apparently did in the lawsuit involving AdvancePCS (Merck/Medco) and like we apparently will (according to Jim Petro) from the current Freddie Mac matter -- is there some reason that the dollars we receive from such settlements cannot go straight into the Health Care Stabilization Fund? Many retirees are asking this question, especially as it pertains to the rebates handled inappropriately by AdvancePCS (which was something that was questioned early on by Warren County retiree Nancy Hamant).

2. While I suppose Board members Fisher and Ramser might have thought I was being "intrusive," I inquired at the last Board meeting about whether STRS health care premiums sent in by members were handled differently in years past with respect to the budget and revenue. I wastold no. I am trying to understand the meaning of the following statement, which appeared in the 2001 STRS Annual Report:

"Health care premiums prior to fiscal year 1997 were netted against healthcare expenses. Starting in fiscal year 1997, health care premiums were reflected as revenue."

What does the above statement mean? I am confused, in this instance, about the meaning of the terms "netted against health care expenses" and "reflected as revenue." What if the change had NOT occurred? Would it have affected the members in any way? Would it have affected the balance in the Health Care Stabilization Fund?

Thank you for your attention to these questions. Feel free to share your answers with the entire Board.

Dennis Leone

Friday, July 28, 2006

Ted Strickland's website

FLASHBACK - 3 YEARS AGO TODAY - a trip to the Bistro, the heat's on Herbie, & 'it's not uncommon for executives to have use of a vehicle'

More questionable spending
Teacher pension board's actions concern lawmakers, teachers

Gazette Columbus Bureau


COLUMBUS -- New questions about spending by the state teachers' pension board continue to pop up as state officials prepare to audit the books.

Dennis Leone, superintendent of Chillicothe Schools, continues to dig into the spending habits of the State Teacher Retirement System.

Among his latest concerns: the board spending $88,000 a year on an in-building cafeteria; STRS ownership of 16 vehicles -- 60 percent more than the number owned by PERS, the state's largest retirement system; and lavish spending on a board dinner and recent staff party.

"I don't understand why this is happening," Leone said. "They just shouldn't be spending money like that."

Two months ago, Leone exposed that STRS officials handed out $14 million in bonuses, spent $869,000 on office artwork, and hundreds of thousands on travel and child care for staff, all while the pension system lost $12 billion in investments over the last three years.

Those findings, which he e-mailed to every school district leader in the state, eventually made it into the media and touched off a firestorm of criticism from lawmakers and teachers.

More than 100 lawmakers have since called for the resignation of STRS Director Herb Dyer, who tossed gas on the fire in June when he said STRS money belongs to the board, not the teachers.

The Ohio Retirement Study Council has said it will conduct an audit later this year of STRS spending. The teacher retirement system serves over 424,000 active and retired teachers in Ohio, with assets exceeding $45 billion.

Since his initial findings became public, Leone said he has been getting tips from inside STRS on potential excessive spending.

One such tip led him to a March 13, 2002, dinner at Lindey's American Bistro in Columbus, where Dyer treated himself and 14 board members and staffers.

The total bill: $1,037.

Leone also is concerned that STRS officials threw a $4,100 retirement party for long-time board member

Hazel Sidaway of Canton on June 19. Less than 12 hours later, the board met and Chairwoman Deborah Scott of Cincinnati publicly reprimanded Dyer for excessive spending.

"It's hypocritical for board members to be reprimanding their executive director, telling him to tow the line, when 12 hours earlier they were part of the spending themselves," Leone said.

Laura Ecklar, STRS spokeswoman, said they don't have the ability to cook dinner inside the building, so food was brought in for the party.

"I think it was felt appropriate to have the people there, including her family members, to honor a particularly long amount of service for a board member," she said. "Now in the future, there may be changes to some of these policies."

Leone also sees other problems, including the number of vehicles owned by STRS. The 16, consisting mainly of vans and Dodge Durangos, had purchase prices ranging from $23,000 to $34,500.

Eight of those vehicles are assigned to directors and deputy directors, per STRS policy. By comparison, the Public Employee Retirement System owns 10 vehicles, and two are assigned for personal use.

"I think there's logic for STRS to own vehicles," Leone said. "I question why all of the executive directors' assistants need to have their own cars paid for by the membership and why they should be able to use them for personal business. That makes no sense whatsoever."

Ecklar said the fleet cars are used for traveling across the state, often to educate members and ensure they are on the right track with their pensions.

Vehicles assigned to STRS officials are part of their compensation package, she said.

"It's not uncommon, I don't think, for executives to have use of a vehicle," Ecklar said.

Sen. Kirk Schuring, R-Canton, a member of the Ohio Retirement Study Council, has pushed hard for Dyer's resignation and said the latest findings "tells me there's a culture there that needs to be eradicated."

"I hoped that would have stopped given the revelations in the news media," he said. "If (Dyer resigns), that would be a step in a positive direction."

Rep. John Boccieri, D-New Middletown, a fellow council member, said the upcoming STRS audit is a good step, but the oversight board also must demand change.

"There needs to be a total overhaul of the system. I continue to be dismayed and irritated at the reports coming out of Columbus.

The board has attempted some recent damage control, with a June 20 letter to all members explaining its side of the situation.

"We will continue to strive to reduce costs to the system without reducing the high level of service that our members need and deserve," said the letter, signed by board chair and vice-chair Deborah Scott and Eugene Norris.

Ecklar said the letter was important.

"They just felt they wanted to let the membership know they are listening, reviewing some of their practices and policies, and kind of let them know they weren't oblivious to what was going on," Ecklar said.

Preparing and mailing 325,650 letters cost STRS about $130,000.

(Reporter Leo Shane III contributed to this story.)

How to cut costs of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other chronic conditions

Source: David Nganele, PhD, president of DMN Healthcare Solutions, a health-education company based in New York City. He is founder of Harmony Health Communications, where he developed award-winning disease-management programs in cooperation with doctors, drug companies and community groups. He is author of several books, including The Best Healthcare for Less. John Wiley & Sons.

A chronic disease can be financially devastating even for someone who has health insurance. Benefit limits often are reached before the condition is under control.

People without insurance may be forced to borrow money or sell assets when faced with such conditions as recurring cancers, heart disease, depression and diabetes.

Making lifestyle changes – quitting smoking, improving your diet and exercising – can reduce the need for medication for many conditions. In addition, sufferers can eliminate some costs entirely by understanding how hospitals, drug companies and doctors do business. Most effective cost-saving strategies…


● Become an expert. Learning all you can about your illness may help you discover lower-cost treatments and aspects of the condition that even your doctor may not know about. You’ll als benefit psychologically from putting yourself in charge instead of relying solely on your doctor.

● Contact association specializing in your condition. They can help you to locate low-cost treatment centers and suggest ways to prevent your condition from worsening.

Example: Adding supplemental chromium, magnesium and vanadium to your diet may help with diabetes.

Associations for several common illnesses…
● American Cancer Society, 800-227-2345,
● American Diabetes Association, 800-342-2383,
● American Heart Association, 800-242-8721,
● American Kidney Fund, 800-638-8299,
● Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, 800-826-3632,

If you’re unsure of the appropriate organization, contact the American Medical Association for a referral (800-621-8335,

● Investigate alternative treatments, such as acupuncture and biofeedback. Many now are covered by insurance. Even if they’re not, they may cost less and be more effective than conventional treatments. For information, contact the federal government’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at 888-6444-6226,

● Buy drugs in large quantities to save on copayments. Most insurers charge a copayment for each prescription, regardless of the drug’s cost. Copayments today can be as high as $50.

Ask your doctor to write 90-day prescriptions, instead of 30-day. You will reduce your copayment by two-thirds.

Example: If you take eight prescription medicines – not unusual for someone with a chronic condition – and have a $30 copayment, your cost will fall by $1,920, or two-thirds – from $2880 (8 x $30 x 12) to $960 (8 x $30 x 4).

If your insurance company won’t allow more than a 30-day supply of a drug from a local pharmacy, ask your health insurer if it uses a mail-order drug service. They typically supply 90-day quantities. Most insurers prefer that you order by mail because it holds down their costs.

● Ask your doctors for free samples. Pharmaceutical companies give away billions of dollars worth of samples for doctors to pass on to patients. Don’t be embarrassed to ask. If your doctor doesn’t have samples, ask him to prescribe generic drugs. For all but a very small percentage of patients, generics are just as effective as brand-name drugs. If you do have insurance, you may have a smaller copayment with generic drugs.

Example: A patient who suffers from depression and doesn’t have drug coverage typically pays about $647 for 90 tablets of Prozac in 40-milligram (mg) strength. The generic equivalent represents a saving of 30% or more.

● Take part in a clinical trial. Each year, thousands of people with chronic ailments receive free treatment by taking part in trials designed to assess new drugs and procedures. The drug industry or National Institutes of Health (800-41101222; coordinates most of these trials.

Important: Participants are given a consent form explaining the trial. Read it, and ask questions before signing.

Some trials are open – all the participants are given the medicine being tested and are informed about the results of the trial at each stage.

Other trials are double-blind – some participants are given the treatment while others receive a placebo. This prevents test results from being skewed by psychological factors. Patients – and often the doctors who administer the drug – aren’t told who has received the drug and who has received the placebo.

Despite the risk that you won’t receive any treatment, don’t rule out a double-blind trial. If you take part in one, you have about a 50-50 chance of receiving cutting-edge medication.

Even if you get the placebo, doctors typically take you out of the trial if your condition worsens, so you can resume treatment on your own.


● When you are hospitalized, put your primary-care physician in charge. Doctors who are unfamiliar with your health history might recommend costly, unnecessary procedures.

Primary physicians, as a rule, recommend fewer procedures than other doctors at a hospital. Your primary doctor already is familiar with your condition and may have tried a variety of treatments for you in the past.

You even might ask your primary physician to help check your hospital bill for inaccuracies. As a patient with a chronic illness, you need to be vigilant about not reaching insurance policy limits sooner than necessary.

● Consider treatment at a teaching or government-run hospital or clinic. These institutions usually charge patients according to their ability to pay. They can make sense for people with limited incomes, especially those who lack insurance or have passed their insurance limit.

Information: Health Resources and Services Administration, 800-400-2742.

● Negotiate with the hospital and other providers. Pay what you can now, and work out a payment plan for the rest. Or ask for a fee reduction. A hospital or doctor nearly always will compromise because reducing the bill may be cheaper than paying a collection agency or not collecting at all.

● Get the opinion of more than one doctor before any procedure. Second opinions increase your chance of finding less expensive – and perhaps more effective – treatment.

Example: Cancer treatments vary greatly in cost and outcome. Since few doctors are experts in all procedures, it’s best to weigh the options with different specialists.

Many chronic disease sufferers don’t get more than one opinion because they thing that their insurance will not pay for a second opinion. In fact, most policies will pay for two or three consultations as long as the doctors are in the insurer’s network of approved physicians.

How to Get Faster Emergency Medical Care

Source: Harry Alberts, MSW, a certified social worker, formerly with the New York State Department of Health

These days, most emergency rooms (ERs) are characterized by confusion and chaos. But inside knowledge of how the system works can get you better treatment.

First Step: A triage (“sorting”) nurse will assess the priority of your medical need. This person will look you over and then ask several questions. Be prepared to give your medical history succinctly and descriptively.

Planning: Before a medical emergency strikes, prepare a card that lists your medical history, including allergies or other chronic conditions and previous operations or serious illnesses. Keep it handy and, in an emergency, take it to the hospital.

Organize your thoughts so that you’re able to describe, clearly and accurately, symptoms, time of onset and medications taken. Don’t draw conclusions or give opinions unless you’re a physician. And don’t selectively omit information. If you have breathing or bleeding problems, indicate these first, firmly and clearly.

Reason: Life-threatening conditions are given priority.

After seeing the triage nurse – and sometimes even before – you must make arrangements for payment.

Helpful: On your medical history card, include information about your medical insurance coverage, date of birth, Social Security number and the name, address and phone number of your employer.

For complex conditions: Go to a large teaching hospital.

Advantage: University affiliation…best-trained staff…advanced technology that most other hospitals can’t afford.

Hospitals in general, including teaching hospitals, come in three varieties: Private for-profit, private not-for-profit and government-run public hospitals.

Myth: Public hospitals are the worst…some are, in fact, excellent.

Advantage of for-profit hospitals: They’re usually less crowded since they generally turn away those who can’t pay. Private not-for-profit hospitals, many of which receive funding that obligates them to serve the poor, and public hospitals tend to be crowded. If you’re a high-priority case and your public hospital is a teaching hospital, you may get the best care there.

Important: Location of a hospital…and contracts that it may have to care for special groups. Hospitals that receive admissions from “combat zones” or are convenient to public transportation are likely to have a crowded emergency room. Hospitals that have a contract to treat emergency cases from a local mental hospital, center for the retarded, prison or shelter are also apt to be more crowded…often with high-priority cases. A low-priority case, such as a broken arm, might be treated faster at a walk-in emergency medical center – where it would be a high priority.

Hospitals that take Medicaid and Medicare (almost all) are always more crowded in areas where few doctors accept these types of insurance.

Reason: People simply go to the ER instead of a doctor’s office.

Especially crowded time in all ERs: Saturday nights.

Inside information: If you arrive at a hospital by ambulance, you will usually receive a higher priority, even if you could have gotten to the hospital without the ambulance. If your condition is serious enough that taking an ambulance isn’t frivolous, it’s a good idea to call one.

Best: Arriving in the hospital’s own ambulance, because you then automatically become on e of the hospital’s patients…and its patients receive priority.

Caution: If your insurance company determines that an ambulance was not medically necessary, you could be stuck with a huge bill.

For the same reason, the ambulance of a local volunteer unit or fire district is a good choice.

These people know the local ER personnel, and they are your neighbors. Contribute to their fund drives and post contribution stickers.

If your condition is very serious: Call the police – always dial 911. Police response with an ambulance – or transport by the police, if no ambulance is available – will facilitate matters at the hospital.

Helpful: Call the ambulance a bus, an inside term used by police. They may assume that you or a close relative is a cop and render service accordingly.

Get the Respect You Deserve in the Hospital

Source: Charles B. Inlander, a health-care consultant and president of the nonprofit People’s Medical Society, a consumer health advocacy group in Allentown, AP. He is the author of more than 20 books on consumer health issues, including Take This Book to the Hospital with You. St. Martin’s

A hospital stay should be a time of healing. But all too often the experience erodes a patient’s personal dignity.

Here’s how to ensure that your needs are met and your dignity stays intact during hospitalization…

● Ask about everything. Let your doctors and nurses know that you plan to play a major role in your care. Ask about treatments and prognosis.

Don’t worry that your doctor will think you lack confidence in him/her. Or that asking questions will cause resentment among the hospital staff, producing worse care.

Hospital patients who ask questions receive better and more respectful treatment, studies have shown. Questions encourage the medical staff to pay more attention to you. If medical personnel use jargon, ask them to explain it.

Always inquire about the medication you are given. If you receive a new drug, ask: “Why is this different from what I was getting before? Who ordered it?”

● Know who is treating you. Hospital staffing levels have been drastically redued. A person in a white uniform is not necessarily a doctor or nurse. In fact, it may be someone with almost no training, such as an orderly.

If you are concerned that the person is not fully trained in the procedure, refuse it. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you receive treatment from someone more qualified.

● Don’t be shy about seeking help. If no one responds to your call button within a few minutes, pick up the phone. Call the hospital operator and ask to be connected to the nursing station on your floor. When the phone is answered, say you need help in your room – immediately.

Important: If you have a complaint, you have the right to a response in a reasonable period of time. If you’re not getting one, ask to see the hospital’s “patient representative” or “ombudsman,” who mediates between staff and patients.

If there is no patient representative or the representative isn’t helpful, ask to see the medical director or the hospital administrator.

● Have someone with you at all times. If you are seriously ill or undergoing surgery, you probably won’t have the energy or mobility to protect your rights. So have someone with you 24 hours a day. As long as your “advocate” is not interfering with the delivery of care, he/she has a right to be there.

● Make sure the food is appetizing. Notify the hospital dietician if fresh fruits and vegetables aren’t served…the food doesn’t arrive hot…the meals are served at unusual times for the convenience of the staff…or you lack sufficient time to eat.

Better: Have visitors bring food to supplement hospital meals. Make sure they are aware of any special dietary restrictions you have. Tell the doctor or nurse that this is what you intend to do.

● Know your rights. You have a right to say “no” to any medical procedure. You have the right to see your medical records. You have the right to check yourself out at any time, even against the advice of hospital personnel. You have the right to fire your doctor. You have the right not to be treated by a medical student, if you so choose.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Blog Problems (message from your friendly blogger)

July 27, 2006

Hey, computers are great when they work right, right? Right. Well, my AOL software finally went south late last night, and I ended up reinstalling it (which I really should have done MONTHS ago when it first started acting up) -- TWICE! Once to get the version that was on the old CD-ROM that I found in my desk drawer, and again to download the version I had been using -- the current version (AOL 9.0 SE). I went to bed and let it download itself (yeah, I'm still on dial-up), since it took all night (or so it seemed). Anyway, I'm up and running again, but things always come in threes, you know.

The second problem is my blog. Every so often it acts up at the host site, which is what it's doing now. The little tool bar is missing at the moment, so until their engineers get it back on there, I have no control over stuff like font type, size & color, or being able to do boldface, italics, upload pictures, etc. I just tried out one article, the one on the origin of ORTA, and it seemed to come out OK -- nothing weird, like font so tiny that you can't see anything but straight lines, or captions so big that the words get all jumbled together and overlap. Weird things happen all the time to test my ingenuity. After the nine+ months I've been doing this, new glitches are STILL occurring on a regular basis. Anyway, I just wanted to warn you, in case something comes out looking really strange. Hopefully it won't, but if it does, I'll try to get back in there later on, when it's fixed, to straighten it out.

The third thing? Just my car. Nothing huge, but problems always occur at the most inconvenient times. When I ran one of my harps up to Lakeside on Tuesday (to leave at Hoover Auditorium; my second harp will accompany me & a vanload of music, strings, bench, music stand, tuners and all the stuff I need for living in a rental cottage for a month this weekend), I noticed my AC wasn't working up to snuff in the 86° heat, and it was time for an oil change. Since my Olds dealership of 40 years finally bit the dust in April (in Alliance), I've felt like an orphan. Then I found out my ProCare place in Westerville had morphed into Monro Muffler & Brake (& Service). I decided to give them a try anyway, and boy, am I glad.

I was there several hours this morning, chatting with some neat women who were having their cars serviced; the guys were great, intelligent, didn't talk down to me, showed me the filthy filters, etc., explained stuff to me and didn't pressure me. Ended up with a new battery (the other was the original, 3+ years old, nearly 80,000 miles -- yes, I'm on the road a lot), new air intake filters, charged up AC, and oil change. And all at a reasonable price. When I drove out of there, I felt like I was floating on a cloud, my car handled so beautifully ('02 Olds Silhouette minivan); it felt almost like a brand new car again.

So my blog is the least of my problems. As long as I can keep it chugging along, and you guys bear with me, everything will be fine. Thanks again for hanging in there. I will have computer access at least several times a week in Lakeside (no phone line in my rental cottage, but the Lakeside board seriously wants to make Lakeside wireless; no telling how soon that will happen), so I will keep up with this as I can. Here's the Lakeside website: (sorry it didn't show up as a live link -- you'll need to copy & paste); I'll be playing in the Lakeside Symphony, which I've played in almost every season since it started in 1964 (this is my 40th). Here's our concert schedule, in case you're in the area sometime and would like to check us out:

Hope the rest of your summer goes well; keep cool, and be healthy -- and keep those guys honest down at STRS!

Kathie Bracy

Paul Kostyu: Society of Professional Journalists annual Brick Award goes to Ohio Supreme Court

Canton Repository, July 25, 2006

Good luck getting past court to see public documents

COLUMBUS In May, the Central Ohio Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists awarded the Ohio Supreme Court its annual Brick Award.

The chapter is made up of current and retired journalists, public relations officials from public agencies and private companies, and others with an abiding interest in First Amendment freedoms. The Brick Award goes to the person or entity who over the past year, more than any other, tarnished public rights, including the right to know. The court rejected an invitation to pick up the award. But it did respond with a lengthy letter defending its actions to open access to information to Ohio citizens.

The court’s decisions clearly indicate, however, that a public left ignorant is better than one that is informed. No decision better illustrates that than the one the court made in April. It said the current and future governors of Ohio should have a limited executive privilege to keep documents secret.

Executive privilege had never existed in the state’s 203-year history. There is nothing in the Ohio constitution about it. The privilege doesn’t exist in any state law. In a flagrant display of legislating from the bench, the justices made up the privilege.

The court had a chance to limit the damage of that decision. The justices ordered Gov. Bob Taft to turn over to the court the 200 to 300 documents sought by state Sen. Marc Dann, D-Youngstown, so they could decide whether Taft had abused the authority they created for him.

To be fair, this is the work of five of the seven justices: Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer and Justices Terrence O’Donnell, Maureen O’Connor, Judith Ann Lanzinger and Evelyn Lundberg Stratton. The other two — Paul E. Pfeifer and Alice Robie Resnick — are voices of reason. They understood all along the problem that the court was creating by giving immense power to governors, Republican or Democrat, to hide corruption behind a wall of secrecy.

Last week, the court failed the public again and, in fact, made its original decision worse. The justices said Taft abused his authority. The records he withheld were clearly public. But in tortured logic, the clueless five said the public can’t see the documents unless a “particularized need” can be shown Moyer, writing the majority decision, said being an Ohio taxpayer wasn’t good enough to show need. If Ohio taxpayers don’t have a right to see what the governor is doing, who does?

The court did something even more astonishing. It said it would trust Taft and future governors to make the right decision about releasing public documents. It will let the governor decide who has a need to see records. What are those folks smoking? The five washed their hands of future public records cases and, in doing so, created an almost impossible barrier for anyone to get documents from the governor’s office.

Potentially, this case could allow county commissioners, mayors, city managers and township trustees to claim an executive privilege to keep their constituents in the dark. The public’s ability to bring to light government corruption in the executive branch is nearly gone.

The Ohio Supreme Court has bricked the doors of the Statehouse, courthouse and city hall. Good luck getting in.

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

Origin of ORTA and why we ALL need to get tough

While "surfing" through some websites this morning I came across this ORTA flashback. It summarizes an incident which led to the formation of a pro-retiree organization of educators - ORTA.

Here it is:

ORTA Historical Fact-0f-the-Day 7-27-06
The Ohio Retired Teachers Association came into being as result of rebuffing dealt by the Ohio General Assembly to a delegation led by D. J. Schurr, the last president of the Retired Teachers League of Ohio. Accompanied by members of the Retired Schoolmasters Club, the group appeared before the Assembly to plead the cause for retired teachers. They were dismissed after being told that they were not truly representative of Ohio's retired teachers: they lacked representation of the northern part of the state and also women.

The politicians "snubbed" educators because they (the politicians) knew that these educators were meek,humble, and had no political clout. ...and so, today, without endorsing (due to fear of a potential tax exempt status loss) the largest Ohio retired teacher organization still will not endorse a candidate. For that matter - CORE members - we at CORE have yet to endorse a candidate or candidates. Will CORE and ORTA BOTH sit on the sidelines while the FOP,OFT,OEA, and other organizations hop on the endorsement boat and apply pressure - political pressure by way of endorsements - something politicians really do listen to. John

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Blade wins First Amendment award for 'Coingate' reporting

STRSers, do these phrases sound familiar - "corruption, cronyism on the public nickel, arrogance of public officials?"
Dennis Leone won this award last year - guess who won it this year by exposing "corruption, cronyism on the public nickel, and arrogance of public officials? Like Dennis, this group didn't back down either! (John C.)
Blade wins First Amendment award for 'Coingate' reporting
COLUMBUS: Newspaper journalists from around the state gave The Toledo Blade a standing ovation as it won the First Amendment award in the annual Associated Press Society of Ohio awards ceremony.

Said the judges: ''This package had it all - corruption, cronyism on the public nickel, arrogance of public officials, and a newspaper that wouldn't back down. ... A great example of sticking with the story in following every loose thread, terrific impact.''

Retirement System Board Shouldn't Pay Double Dipper's Insurance

Canton Repository, July 24, 2006
By Michael E. Hanke, General Manager
When an educator in Ohio retires, then is hired for another job in Ohio education — a practice commonly called double dipping — the State Teachers Retirement System many times ends up paying for the health insurance of the dipper. School districts like this because it takes some of the strain off tight budgets.

Maybe it can be argued that the retired teacher has that coming. Certainly, school districts might argue that because it reduces their health-care costs. But what it also does is help encourage school systems to hire double dippers, passing over new teachers and administrative talent, driving many of those young people to different states.

The State Teachers Retirement System board has the authority to change this, but since some of the board is comprised of active teachers who more or less are near retirement, you can see how they might not want to change. Too bad.

One more "outsource" at our expense! "People"-Pinching HMO's & Outsourcing

More Penny-Pinching HMOs Outsource Americans' Private Medical Data To India
By Paul McDougall
Jul 25, 2006 at 08:10 AM ET

If you've had some nasty or embarrassing illness in the past 12 months, perhaps an ailment so unusual or damning you'd prefer to hide it from your employer, friends, and loved ones, then here's a shocker: There's a good chance a stranger in far-off India knows all about it. And the kicker: It was your health care provider that told him of your secret battle with plantar warts, rampant hirsutism, and pathological addiction to eBay.

Like most other parts of corporate America, the health care industry is quickly learning that there are enormous savings to be had through offshore outsourcing. At an increasing rate, insurance companies, hospitals, and pharmaceutical manufacturers are farming out to cheap-labor countries everything from claims processing to diagnostics to drug testing. Total spending on offshore outsourcing by the U.S. health care industry will grow from $321.7 million in 2005 to an expected $575.3 million in 2008, according to IDC.

Along with that work is going gigabytes of private patient data--information so sensitive that it could be used to deny someone a job or make them ineligible for life insurance. There's a widely held myth that federal regulations like HIPAA prevent that sort of data from going abroad. That's not the case. As long as the foreign processing company adheres to U.S. rules concerning privacy and security, it's permitted.

So should we demand that our congressmen outlaw the offshoring of medical data? Consider this first: Is it any worse to have a nosy claims processor in Delhi gossiping about your medical history than one in, say, Hartford--the latter being a person who's more likely to actually know someone you know? To boot, many Indian business and tech services firms maintain tighter security procedures than some of their U.S. counterparts. They know that one major privacy breach could sink them. (Note from John - ever try to communicate with someone from India who really doesn't speak the "Queens English" all that well even though they should? It is an effort in futility! I have dealt with several and was totally unimpressed and exhausted after our conversations - but, the CEO's and stockholders of the insurance company sure love it - all the way to the bank! Will they reflect the savings back to the insured or will they pocket the difference? Maybe these corporations should be forced to deal with an "offshore" Securities and Exchange Commission who would be demanding and unsympathetic! Heck, I'll even bet that CEO stock option "backdating in Bombay" would even be easier to pull-off.)

Finally, offshoring to low-cost countries like India offers a potential salve to the growing crisis in this country around medical expenses. Costs are skyrocketing and many employers--GM, for example--are cutting staff in part because they can no longer afford all those insurance premiums. One thing is for certain: The United States must find ways to curb the skyrocketing cost of health care. Offshore outsourcing is at least worth a long look as part of the solution. Or does the whole thing just make you too uncomfortable? (Note from John #2 - I'll bet it makes a whole lot of insurance company lower-level employees and U.S. taxpayers who will face job loss uncomfortable.)

Letters from retirees on rehiring

From Nancy Boomhower, July 24, 2006
Subject: Re: Rehire of Teachers & STRS

I keep thinking about this issue of rehirees and STRS insurance coverage. I wonder if we are considering all of the facts. One: these people are eligible for the insurance since they worked and paid in all of the required years and if they were not rehired, they would be receiving the insurance. Two: These people are paying into the STRS at the same 10% as other educators and the school systems are paying in the same 14% for them. Also, now 9% of what the school system pays in goes to other areas and only 5% goes into the rehirees accounts. Three: these people must be fairly healthy or they wouldn't be working so they help balance out the pool of insurees so we don't have all sickees. Have all of these factors been considered? The school systems are the ones who benefit from this arrangement. These rehires would probably have better coverage if they received it from the school rather than STRS. I know I did. Perhaps we need to have the info as to where the 9% goes and where the 14% paid into STRS by actives goes. Just some issues to investigate and think upon.

Nancy Boomhower
From Jim Kimmel, July 24, 2006
Subject: Re: Rehire of Teachers & STRS
It is happening all over, several in Warren county and Mason, Kings, etc and Lakota. Looks like everybody is on the gravy wagon and the retirees are in the traces. If the health care fund is in such bad shape why in the WORLD would they deplete it more when retirees are getting whopping big retirement checks (cpompared to those who have retirred even a few years ago and then get a 10 year or so salary AND STRS health care. Of course they do pay in and they say it is a wash but I wonder if we can even get reliable data to see if it is hurting or helping the fund.
From: (a retiree), July 20, 2006
Subject: Rehire of Teachers
Today I received the Bluffton News (a weekly newspaper) and the big news was that the board rehired a teacher, making her the fourth teacher since this has been an option. She was rehired by a 3-2 vote. The two that voted against her were not against her, or her teaching, but on the basis that there is a bunch of new teachers waiting to be hired. The superintendent of the Bluffton mentioned about the cost saving to the system, since the STRS picks up the health insurance at a saving of $10,000 per teacher rehired. The board of education wail decide at the next meeting if they want to rehire this same superintendent of Bluffton Schools who is eligible to be rehired, and of course, that is what he hopes the board will do.
That will make five rehires just in one school district--$50,000. When will the STRS start to face the issue of this rehire cost to the STRS health program. The STRS has let another year slip by.
When will the STRS think about helping those who retired before all these perks started to level the playing field? Since the health fund is low, but the pension fund is in good shape, how about reinstating the 13th check to those who retired before 1998?

Flashback -- 3 years ago -- A gravy train & a question that was never answered -- Why did they support Dyer?

Canton Repository, July 29, 2003

OEA should tell members why it backs STRS director

As a teacher, and the spouse of a recently retired teacher, I greatly appreciate The Repository’s attention to the obvious abuses perpetrated by the State Teachers Retirement System leadership, and the negligence of the offices of state Auditor Betty Montgomery and Attorney General James Petro.

I am writing to thank The Repository, and to urge teachers to remember also that our union, the Ohio Education Association, needs to shoulder some responsibility for financial abuses

OEA cooperated to make sure Michael Billirakis’ contract was shifted from his home district to a higher-paying district where he neither lives nor works. This costs taxpayers who pay this salary, and will cost STRS more when he retires, since the pension amount is based on salary received. (Wouldn’t all teachers like this deal — OEA subsidizes moving our contracts to higher-paying districts while we remain in our current schools.)

I believe all working teachers should question and demand a response to why OEA supported STRS Director Herbert Dyer. Could it be that OEA officials don’t want to ruin their chances of becoming STRS officials and losing the opportunity to become part of the STRS “gravy train”?

We teachers are owed an explanation from the association we pay to protect us and look out for our best interests.



FLASHBACK-3 YEARS AGO-Can you spot the bullet that was conveniently forgotten? The statute of limitations for felonies clock is still ticking!

From John Curry:

On July 26, 2003, Paul Kostyu featured an article (Report intended to critique STRS pensions) which (among others) mentioned legislative initiatives that were being considered to prevent another STRS mess. Kostyu lists four bullets containing these reforms. See if you can guess which one of the bullets below has conveniently been forgotten by our legislators.

(July 26, 2003)

"The State Teachers Retirement System has been criticized during the past two months following news reports of excessive spending on staff bonuses, artwork and travel.

A flurry of legislative initiatives call for improved accountability and oversight of the five funds. The proposals include:

• Requiring a performance audit of each fund;

• Giving power to the Ohio inspector general to investigate;

• Requiring employees with any role in deciding how funds are invested to file financial disclosure forms with the Ohio Ethics Commission.

• Changing the make up of pension boards and providing a way to remove members."

If you guessed "Giving power to the Ohio inspector general to investigate," - you answered correctly! All of the other bullets (three of them) were accomplished by SB 133 becoming law. Why do you think the inspector general initiative was forgotten? Ohio's statute of limitations for felonies varies according to the felony although ALL felony limitations are over two years in time as are the limitations for misdemeanor I ethics violations. The Inspector General was ready - a bipartisan group of legislators did want him to investigate ("A number of state lawmakers, including members of Taft’s party, have vowed to overturn that veto." - Kostyu-)

WHAT CAUSED THIS ISSUE TO BE DROPPED LIKE A hot potato? Had this fiasco taken place within the legislators' very own retirement system (OPERS) would the "ball have been dropped" like it was with STRS? Maybe your friendly local legislator can tell you! Since the legislature is in recess and the senators and reps. will be back in their home districts campaigning, kissing babies, shaking hands, eating fried chicken, and doing the county fairs - ASK THEM WHY. A reminder may help jog their memory - it might even affect their digestion or conscience! John

Kostyu's article (of 3 years ago) follows below:

Canton Repository, July 26, 2003

Report intended to critique STRS pensions
By PAUL E. KOSTYU Copley Columbus Bureau chief

COLUMBUS — An annual report by the Ohio Retirement Study Council is supposed to examine Ohio’s five public retirement systems.

But it actually does no more than review legislation that came before the General Assembly in the past year.

According to Ohio law, the council must file the report with the governor and the Legislature “covering its evaluation and recommendations with respect to the operations” of the pension funds.

The most recent report was submitted on Jan. 30. Similar to past reports, it simply recaps new bills that have to do with the pension funds; it says nothing about the operations of the funds.

The State Teachers Retirement System has been criticized during the past two months following news reports of excessive spending on staff bonuses, artwork and travel.

A flurry of legislative initiatives call for improved accountability and oversight of the five funds. The proposals include:

• Requiring a performance audit of each fund;

• Giving power to the Ohio inspector general to investigate;

• Requiring employees with any role in deciding how funds are invested to file financial disclosure forms with the Ohio Ethics Commission.

• Changing the make up of pension boards and providing a way to remove members.

Some people, including Gov. Bob Taft, argue that the proper oversight already exists with the study council, which includes six lawmakers and three appointees by the governor. Taft vetoed a measure in the state’s budget bill that would have given the inspector general some oversight authority.

A number of state lawmakers, including members of Taft’s party, have vowed to overturn that veto.

But the study council’s annual report says nothing about bonuses, travel or any other policies affecting employees and their work at the funds.

Sen. Kirk Schuring, R-Jackson Township, has been a council member since 1999 and served two years as its chairman. He’s also been a strong critic this year of STRS.

He contended the annual report is what it should be — “straightforward” — and argued that the statute is “ambiguous” about how much power the council has to look at day-to-day operations.

“We have followed the spirit of the law,” he said. “We review and study. That should not be confused with the responsibility of the inspector general.”

When lawmakers question the intent of existing law, they can go to the Legislative Services Commission. It writes proposed legislation at lawmakers’ requests.

Schuring said he is not aware of any request to the commission to research the intent of those who created the study council.

Rep. Michelle G. Schneider, a Cincinnati Republican and the council’s vice chairman, said the flap over STRS illustrates the weakness of the current law and the need to give the council more oversight power.

“There was no reason for us to believe the pension funds were being misused until the STRS fiasco,” she said. “We thought there was oversight by the individual (pension) boards. Now, we’re taking a hard look at it.”

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

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Marc Dann (D) earns the endorsement for Attorney General

(John Curry, 7/25/06): As a retired educator I would like to touch upon a "touchy" issue for some educator actives and retirees concerning the following endorsement for Sen. Marc Dann for Ohio Attorney General. It seems as if the topics of firearms, concealed carry, target shooting, and hunting are somewhat alien to most (note I said "most") educators due to their gender and/or their background.

"Buckeye Firearms Association is proud to announce endorsements in four Statewide races for this fall.

Marc Dann (D) earns the endorsement for Attorney General. The Attorney General is the state’s top attorney. This person is key to firearms issues in general, and concealed carry in particular. He is responsible to determine what states Ohio will enter into a reciprocity agreement with, thus determining how many states your Ohio CHL is valid in. He also prepares the pamphlets required for all CHL classes. Currently the Attorney General is involved in many pending court cases that can have a dramatic effect on the laws that effect day to day legality of all gun owners. Jim Petro (R) has done an excellent job for gun owners (of course, Jimmy likely wasn't responsible for unsuccessfully overseeing thier STRS retirement system, was he - John), and we need elect Marc Dann to keep that office friendly to gun owners. Jim Irvine said, “If it were not for Marc Dann’s leadership in the Senate, we might still be discussing how to pass concealed carry instead of discussing making improvements. We need to elect Dann.”

Note from John: No, I am not a member of the "Buckeye Firearms Association." I however do respect the thousands of law abiding sportsmen in Ohio who do own firearms and do exercise their Constitutional right to participate in the activities of gun collecting, target shooting, hunting, and even carrying concealed. During my lifetime I have had the fortune to hunt, competively target shoot, and have even dabbled in the hobby of gun collecting. All of my "classroom hours" were not spent teaching in a public school building - some were spent training new police recruits learning how to become proficient with their firearms as an Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy certified firearms instructor. Other (OPERS related) hours were spent enforcing the Ohio Revised Code as a State Park Officer which entailed dealing with thousands of Ohio sportsmen who, every year, converged upon a large northwestern Ohio public hunting facility (Grand Lake St. Marys State Park) to participate in the duck and goose hunting seasons. The vast majority of these sportsmen are gentlemen, law abiding citizens, gun owners, and many are even CCW permit holders! They are (unlike this author) mostly conservatives (if one must use a label) - BUT LOOK WHO THEY ARE ENDORSING FOR ATTORNEY GENERAL - Senator Marc Dann - and rightly so! On this issue, it looks like many educators and the sportsmen both agree. Let's send Betty Montgomery packing - not the "concealed carry" kind of packing - the suitcase kind of packing! John

Freddie Mac to pay $410 mln to settle suit-official

Tue Jul 25, 2006 5:27 PM ET

NEW YORK, July 25 (Reuters) - Freddie Mac, the second-biggest U.S. mortgage finance company, will pay $410 million to settle a shareholder suit, according to Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro on Tuesday.

Payments will be made to investors who purchased Freddie Mac stock between July 15, 1999 and Nov. 20, 2003, and the the two Ohio pension funds that initiated the lawsuit, Petro said in a statement.

The lawsuit was initiated by the Ohio Public Employee Retirement System and Ohio's State Teachers Retirement System in 2003 when an internal probe found executives at the McLean, Virginia-based company had manipulated accounting rules that resulted in $5 billion restatement of earnings.

Dennis sets the record straight re: Rehires & benefits

From Dennis Leone, Friday, July 21, 2006
To: Mary Ann Kannam
Subject: Bill on Rehired Retiree Teacher Benefits
From: Dennis Leone, STRS Board Member
Mary Ann -- This email pertains to your Lake Local School District article that quoted a school board member who claimed that the State Teachers Retirement System "has a bill" to eliminate health insurance for rehired retirees. There is no such bill.
Perhaps what the school board member was referring to was the fact that proposed House Bill 272 -- sponsored by State Representative Michele Schneider --- had language that was designed to prohibit rehired retirees from utilizing the STRS health insurance plan. This provision of H.B. 272 has been removed from the bill, not because Ohio's lawmakers are in favor or against such a change, but because they realized that Ohio's public pension boards have the power to institute the provision on their own.
Having said the above, I am in a minority on the STRS Board regarding this issue. I am in the camp the believes that rehired retirees should not be allowed to utilize STRS health insurance. It is troubling to me that so many school districts are using STRS to reduce their own health insurance costs. It is also troubling to me that in the bigger picture, new teacher talent and new administrative talent are getting passed over in favor of the easier route -- immediately re-employing educators after they retire. Hundreds of teachers and administrators who have been laid off around Ohio due to their school districts' financial constraints are not even given a chance to apply.
What is convenient for the local school districts may not be helping the future of our profession in the long run.

Flashback, 2003: STRS and Damage Control

Canton Repository, July 18, 2003

Rest of the story sounds a lot like what we already know about STRS

By PAUL E. KOSTYU Copley Columbus Bureau chief

COLUMBUS -- Folks at the State Teachers Retirement System have been involved in damage control in light of reports about the pension fund’s operation.

The damage control has moved to at least two fronts.

First, it seems obvious the STRS board will get rid of Executive Director Herbert Dyer. The board held its second closed meeting in as many weeks Thursday to talk about personnel. This is just a guess, but the meetings are likely briefing sessions by the board’s attorney about his negotiations with Dyer’s attorney. In other words, both sides are trying to find an exit for Dyer that is financially palatable. Of course, we don’t know this for sure because the meetings are secret and board members are loath to talk about what goes on behind closed doors.

The obvious thinking, of course, is that if Dyer goes, then perhaps some of the heat on the pension fund and the board will evaporate as well. That remains to be seen.

Another tactic is to spin the news in a more positive direction. On June 20, board Chairwoman Deborah Scott and Vice Chairman Eugene E. Norris sent a two-page, single-spaced letter to STRS members. The letter went to most of the 400,000-plus members, and several were willing to share the correspondence.

“For 83 years, the State Teachers Retirement System has provided an exceptional level of retirement benefits to Ohio’s public educators,” the letter began. “As members of the Retirement Board, we have been entrusted with maintaining the quality of this system. This is a duty that none of us take lightly. We want you to know that your pension is secure and STRS Ohio continues to be financially sound.”

They continued, “Recently, there has been media attention in some parts of the state focusing on the spending practices at STRS Ohio. We understand that some of our members and the public-at-large have questions and concerns about these issues. ... While what has been reported in some papers has generated questions, it is by no means the whole story.”

Thus, the reason for the letter — to reveal the whole story.

The letter says it’s true that compared to other pensions funds “we do often have a larger investment staff and a larger operating budget than systems that have more members and/or assets.” But that’s because “we save millions of dollars each year by managing more than 80 percent of our investment assets in-house ...”

Of course, of the millions saved, $18.8 million since August 2000 through March this year didn’t help teachers but were given as staff bonuses.

“Our operating budget is higher because the compensation and benefits paid to these investment associates are included.”

The operating budget couldn’t be higher because of the cost of maintaining a $94.2 million building?

STRS recruits and retains “qualified, service-oriented and high achieving associates,” the letter said. “Associates receive the incentive award only for achievements over and above their current job responsibilities — and only if accomplished.”

The letter doesn’t say that some of those achievements sounded more like routine job descriptions than “push goals.”

As a result, the compensation package “has resulted in consistently high levels of performance and consistently high levels of member satisfaction. It also results in low employee turnover.”

Scott and Norris said the board suspended the bonus program because of the impact that the declining stock market had on STRS revenue. They don’t mention public pressure because of extravagant spending.

Instead, they said the administrative budget was reduced for the current fiscal year by $2.8 million while a way also was found to extend the health care program to 2014. Would that be by boosting members’ costs?

Laura R. Ecklar, a spokeswoman for STRS, said the letter was necessary in light of media reports. “We’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t,” she said.

That’s a fair assessment.

In other words, Ecklar was saying the STRS board could be criticized for not keeping members informed if Scott and Norris didn’t respond to media reports. And it could be criticized for responding.


Preparing, printing and mailing 325,650 letters cost STRS $129,779.

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

Flashback, July 2003: Party's over, Jack

You know, Molly, he really did play some golf on our dime! Imagine that!!
Who's next?

From Molly Janczyk, July 14, 2003
ALRIGHT! BARNET WOLF, reporter for 'The Dispatch.' That's the kind of detailed reporting WE'RE talking about !!!!!!!!

FRONT PAGE: Jack Chapman likes to travel! Bet/ 2000 and 2002, he took over 3 dozen trips costing STRS $50,000.
The Reynoldsburg 'teacher' (when he teaches if you can call 1 remedial math class and then sitting in other peoples' classes as an ass't all a.m. , then a study hall and home as his lunch and planning period were only pm periods. as i recall, when i was his sub the principal said 'well you can go now at 12:30 to 1:30 .approx.this is how they 'don't have to count on him being there. the kids for his remedial math class never knew when or when not to attend the several times i was there for him).
Anyway, back to Dispatch.
Chapman's travels helped push STRS' travel costs to the highest of the 5 pension plans.
Sen. Schuring found Jack's travels outrageous and questioned the purpose of his extensive traveling. Jack was the most active traveler of all 5 pension plans. THIS IS NOT NEW!
In '95, Jack's trips were reported cost #$36,736 for '94.
Jack missed 75 school days for the past school year and 27 more for P.B., professional and sick leave to add up to over 1/2 of school days.
4 'active' board members). For JUST JACK, that totalled $6000 for past yr.
Jack is also pres. of central Ohio chaptr of OEA (THERE'S THAT NAME AGAIN) who paid him an additional $21,523 a year in salary and RETIREMENT CONTRIBUTIONS (bumping up his retirement, it would seem).
The $218,500 for STRS' travel expenses outside of Ohio for 2000-2002 surpassed any of the other 4 pension plans.
The largest of the 5 pension plans , PERS, paid and average of LESS THAN $20,000 per year for travel beyond Ohio in 2001-2002.
"OUR BOARD MEMBERS JUST DON'T TRAVEL MUCH" said Tom Sherman, gov't relations officer for OPERS.
Schuring IS NOT satisfied with STRS' explanation that travel was necessary for board's responsibilities to admin. the fund.
Schuring says that while members may need to learn latest trends, THE INDUSTRY IS JUST NOT THAT DYNAMIC that so many need to attend so many conferences.
Eugene Norris made 25 trips for $42,250. He traveled to Hawaii.
Sidaway took 24 trips for nearly $38,400. ONE TRIP TO HAWATII cost nearly $3800. Others included Las Vegas and Matha's Vineyard and 6 trips to the west coast.
Gaylord who represented PETRO when auditor, spent $16,312 and when she was PETRO's rep for OPERS claimed more than $12,000 in travel outside Ohio attending more conferences than any other OPERS board member.
Rick Moore who was Betty Montgomery's rep had more than $10,600 in travel expenses outside Ohio to 'stay in the loop' (under orders ). Only trips that all other board members took were approved for him.
A list of Jack's travels to where and why is printed on pg. A2 of the Dispatch.
I hear he goes nowhere without his clubs and SOME skip conferences to play golf in exotic locales instead!

June Hughes: Rehire of Teachers & STRS

June raises some interesting points. Thank you, June! (John Curry)

From June Hughes, July 24, 2006

I think this is unfair to those of us retired but not rehired or even want to be rehired. We're paying for part of the costs for school systems we know nothing about and have no say so in their policies! What do you think? It's unfair to new teachers too!

Today I received the Bluffton News (a weekly newspaper) and the big news was that the board rehired a teacher, making her the fourth teacher since this has been an option. She was rehired by a 3-2 vote. The two that voted against her were not against her, or her teaching, but on the basis that there is a bunch of new teachers waiting to be hired. The superintendent of the Bluffton mentioned about the cost saving to the system, since the STRS picks up the health insurance at a saving of $10,000 per teacher rehired. The board of education wail decide at the next meeting if they want to rehire this same superintendent of Bluffton Schools who is eligible to be rehired, and of course, that is what he hopes the board will do.

That will make five rehires just in one school district--$50,000. When will the STRS start to face the issue of this rehire cost to the STRS health program. The STRS has let another year slip by.

When will the STRS think about helping those who retired before all these perks started to level the playing field? Since the health fund is low, but the pension fund is in good shape, how about reinstating the 13th check to those who retired before 1998?


Monday, July 24, 2006

July 24 posts

Note: Since my blogging time is going to be sporadic and limited for at least the next six weeks, I will not be able to spend much time editing, formatting, etc. This blogging business is tricky. I never know how something’s going to turn out; if it’s too weird looking, I won’t publish it. Trust me; you wouldn’t want to strain your eyes trying to read it. This includes articles, e-mails, everything. Most likely to get blogged: clean e-mails/articles, good spelling & punctuation; formatting that transfers well to blogging (something I can’t control and which can be very tricky, frequently requiring me to retype the whole thing). I am lumping a lot of things together into several long posts today in an effort to blog the most from my backlog of vacation e-mail (about 300) in the shortest time. Will catch up as I can. Thanks for bearing with me. KBB 7/24/06

Plain Dealer, July 23, 2006
Subject: Who is planning to put more of the "ouch" in voucher?

Another voucher joust Sunday, July 23, 2006 As if it weren't already obvious from the campaign commercials cropping up on TV, it's an election year.

And with members of Congress soon to head home to the stump, strategists from both parties have started pumping out proposals perfect for political speeches.

On the education front, GOP leaders last week trotted out one of their old favorites: a nationwide school voucher program. This iteration would spend $100 million to allow poor children "trapped" in struggling public schools to escape to successful private ones.

In an accident of timing, the Republicans ended up rolling out their plan immediately after the federal Department of Education released a report showing that, on average, public schools perform as well as or better than private ones. Voucher critics - largely aligned with Democrats - used those results to assail the GOP's voucher announcement this week as pure partisanship. To press for vouchers in the wake of such a damning report, one complained, proves that Republicans don't care about students.

The silliness of that comment should be self-evident, but in case it's not, consider two key points: First, the Education Department report compared schools on average; a voucher affects a particular student at a particular school. Second, the Republicans' proposal specifically targets students in schools that have posted abysmal scores for several consecutive years.

Which is not to say the GOP eschews politics. For one thing, representatives acknowledged this ballyhooed proposal is not likely to be voted upon until after November's election. For another, federal officials have done little to enforce existing laws establishing public school choice or free tutoring for students in failing schools. Indeed, various studies have shown that at least two-thirds of districts with eligible students failed to notify families of their options; no wonder, then, that only about 1 percent of eligible students have taken advantage of the choices.

Several states, including Ohio, have voucher programs of their own, while Congress already has approved its own voucher measures for Washington, D.C., and for areas that were affected by Hurricane Katrina. So far, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings has not said whether private schools that participate in a national voucher program would be subject to the federal accountability measures that apply to public schools. So, let's be clear: Any institution that takes public education money must comply with public rules; the abysmal performance of many charter schools in Ohio has shown quite clearly the dangers of a laissez faire approach.

Before Congress tries to add any more provisions to the federal government's already mammoth federal education program, lawmakers need to figure out how to give meaning to ones they've already passed. Otherwise, they will have done little but add to the waves of rhetoric already aired on these issues.

From John Curry, July 20, 2006
Subject: My hometown rag has "done us proud!" - or - How the pillmakers and Congress thumb their noses at NAFTA!

Note from John - when a newspaper editor of a rural newspaper in conservative northwest Ohio recognizes a need for reform of our nation's current "giveaway" to the pill makers - THERE IS HOPE! I will mention that Mr. Laney didn't mention the other "giveaway" to big Pharma which is the millions of your and my taxpayer dollars that aid these U.S. pharmaceutical manufacturers in the development of their wares via the National Institute of Health. We pay to invent the pill that we pay through the nose to buy. Way to go, William Laney!
Congress needs to revisit prescription drugs from Canada
Managing Editor
Wapakoneta Daily News
July 20, 2006
Congressional leaders need to open the gates for seniors to receive their prescription drugs from across the border — if America is truly about competition.
The truth of the matter is it is more about protectionism and political special interest groups and lobbying.
Seniors should not be receiving threatening letters from U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents when they seek mail order drugs from Canadian pharmeutical companies that are filling their prescriptions, but that is exactly what is happening.
Not only do they have to worry about being bullied by border patrol, they have to worry about ever receiving their prescriptions — including high-blood pressure medication.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida introduced legislation that would prohibit U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents from seizing prescription drugs imported from Canadian pharmacies by mail or carried over the border.
A measure in the House would allow the importation of pharmaceuticals from any country.
This is not a time for haggling or stalling legislation that would prove most beneficial to American’s in most need and who are the most vulnerable — seniors.
Seniors living on fixed incomes are spending billions of dollars each year on medications. Seniors and others purchasing drugs from Canada are saving an average of 50 percent on the same medication purchased in the United States, some drugs can be purchased at an 80 percent savings.
This is a huge advantage and would pit American companies against other companies and programs in Canada and around the globe — isn’t this the purpose behind the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to encourage competition to drive down prices.
The difference is U.S. lawmakers and politicians wanted to defend pharmaceutical companies who use the extra money for research and development and paying the high salaries of chemists and other researchers. It undoubtedly also goes to pay for above average salaries for upper management.
Congressional leaders need to take a page from Canada and allow Washington to negotiate the purchase of drugs in bulk. It also needs to open the borders for all pharmaceuticals.
This legislation moves the country in the right direction, a step it should have taken years ago.

From John Curry
Sent: Monday, July 17, 2006 7:40 PM
Subject: We have a symbol, how 'bout a flag?

CORE has a symbol (you know, the apple partially eaten), now - how 'bout a flag. I suggest we name it the "Stratton Flag" after Sondra Stratton - the CORE member who filed the official complaint with the Ohio Ethics Commission. Remember the first CORE shirts? They were in black letters with a yellow background - they were also created and distributed by Sondra. To her we all owe a debt of gratitude. John

[Flag picture will be posted separately – easier & faster. KBB]
"American seniors deserve to hang onto as much of their money as they can. And they certainly shouldn’t be subsidizing the bulk of drug research and development that is benefiting the rest of the world. That burden should be shared by all who buy the drugs."

Canada goose
Congress should let Americans buy cheaper drugs north of the border
Monday, July 17, 2006

The poor and elderly of the United States long have paid through the nose for prescription drugs, while pharmaceutical-industry profits remain among the highest of any industry in the world. Meanwhile, drugprice controls in other nations mean that Americans are paying far more than their fair share.
The drug industry needs plenty of money to continue to develop medicines that work miracles. But Americans shouldn’t have to shoulder the bulk of the burden for the research and development necessary to come up with those medications. Preventing Americans from buying their drugs from the cheapest supplier is an unjust restriction on their freedom. It also violates free-market principles.
Congress should stop playing nanny and allow Americans to buy their prescription drugs from Canada, where, because of price controls, drugs are usually less expensive than they are in the United States.
The Senate voted on Tuesday to allow Americans to do this. The House has not yet acted on it but has approved similar plans in recent years.
But the House acts, past experience suggests the provision will be killed when the two bills go to a House-Senate conference committee because Republican leaders oppose the idea. Republicans have long championed free markets as the engine of innovation and prosperity, yet some seek to hold those same beneficial forces in check when it comes to pharmaceuticals.
They warn that the importation of drugs presents a safety problem. This is a bogus argument.
Canada has a drug-safety agency on par with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. And many of the medications sold in Canada are made in the United States or are identical to medications sold in the United States.
The FDA says it cannot guarantee the safety of imported drugs. That’s true. It can’t guarantee the safety of drugs sold in the United States, either. Anyone who remembers the Tylenol scare of 1982, when seven Chicago residents died after ingesting capsules that had been tampered with and laced with cyanide, knows that.
There are no guarantees in life. However, the drugs being sold in Canada and the United States are as safe as reasonably possible.
Some might wonder why American seniors would need to buy from Canada when they have a new Medicare prescription-drug benefit.
The benefit is complex, confusing and in many cases costs more than simply buying from Canada. Congress says one of the reasons there are so many plans in the program is it wanted seniors to have choices.
Having one more choice – Canadian drugs – would benefit seniors even more.
A Canadian study conducted last year showed that 85 percent of American seniors would save more buying from Canada than they would buying through the Medicare program, with an average savings of $565 a year.
Some people find themselves in the doughnut hole – the gap in benefits when a person’s drug expenses reach $2,250 to $5,100 in a year. Enrollees in this situation still have to pay premiums but receive no benefits. If a person reaches the gap near the end of the year, it might be cheaper to buy drugs outside the plan, perhaps from Canada.
American seniors deserve to hang onto as much of their money as they can. And they certainly shouldn’t be subsidizing the bulk of drug research and development that is benefiting the rest of the world. That burden should be shared by all who buy the drugs.
If enough Americans buy Canadian drugs, drug makers will be forced to lower their prices here or to stop selling at a discount to nations that have price controls. Perhaps that would impel those nations to rethink price controls. The less interference with the free market, the better.
Last fall, U.S. border agents stepped up confiscations of foreign prescription drugs from elderly Americans who are just trying to keep themselves healthy by shopping for the best price for their medication. This should not be part of the border agents’ job description.
Congress should fix this situation by allowing the Canadian drug imports.
Note from John: This editorial mentions that we subsidize the pill makers by paying the some of the highest prices in the world for Rx produced in the good 'ol US of A. The author forgot to mention that many of the dollars that pharmaceutical companies spend on research comes to them complements of our own tax monies under the guise of the National Institute of Health. Not a bad deal for them - we give them tax money so that they can develop a product and turn around and sell it to us with a price that is significantly higher than they charge the rest of the world. We not only get goosed once - we get goosed twice! What a deal!! The U.S. Border Patrol Patrol and U.S. Customs have better things to do than being The Pill Police and shaking down seniors trying to save some shekels.
From John Curry, July 16, 2006
Subject: A "Supreme Act" and a Forgotten History - Educator Protection in the State of Ohio

From time to time, Dr. Dennis Leone "catches hell" from some at the OEA and even some on the STRS Board re. his reforms at STRS. Had they forgotten the Supreme Court ruling below that has and does protect the rights of active teachers? May they have chosen to forget? Active teachers all across Ohio should read and understand the depth of this Ohio Supreme Court ruling in which Dr. Leone fought for their dignity and protection. Will they read it or are they too busy? At the end of this summary, the chief legal counsel for BASA gave praise for this decision - where was the OEA's praise for this Leone initiated protection of the classroom educator - or - maybe I missed it! If I did, please forward it to me and I'll be glad to distribute it and give credit.

Some will say that $100,000 is a lot of money to spend out of a school system's coffers. To them I say, "What is the price of justice and protection from frivolous litigation against educators? Sometimes final justice comes at a cost and it 'ain't' cheap." Of course, there are some who feel that $ 1,000,000 isn't even significant enough to warrant the Board's prior approval before the money is spent!

Sensel v. Leone: On March 31, 1999, the State Supreme Court ruled 7-0 in Leone’s favor to reverse a 2-1 decision issued in 1997 by the Twelfth District Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. The high court supported a decision Leone made in 1995 to discard unsolicited and anonymous hate letters he received about a teacher/coach. The case involved a parent who wanted a basketball coach fired after he benched her son. She organized a hate letter campaign and Leone received about a dozen letters – half of them anonymous – that heavily criticized the coach. Leone decided it was inappropriate to put the letters in the teacher’s file, so he discarded them. The parent made a public records’ request for the letters she organized and filed a lawsuit for records’ destruction when she saw the letters were not in the teacher’s personnel file. The Common Pleas Court judge ruled in Leone’s favor saying that the parent was attempting to use the Open Records Law to cause a statutory fine for records’ destruction. The judge described this as “gamesmanship” on the parent’s part. The judge also determined it was the superintendent’s right to determine what was, and what wasn’t, a record for the teacher’s personnel file. The parent admitted at trial that she was hoping the letters would cause the district “to create a new file” on the teacher. Leone was asked at trial if he had ever previously discarded letters about a teacher (prior to this case). He said yes and explained how a year earlier a parent improperly accused a first-year teacher in writing of having a romance with a high school girl. Leone said he discarded the letter because he knew the parent had made a terrible mistake and did not realize that the first-year teacher actually was dating the high school girl’s 21-year-old sister (who was a senior at Miami University). Leone told the court he could not allow a potentially career-ruining letter like that to go in a teacher’s personnel file. What was interesting about this case is that the Appellate Court in Cincinnati ruled against Leone and reversed the Common Pleas Court decision, 2-1. This meant that until the State Supreme Court ruled 7-0 in Leone’s favor in 1999 (in support of the Common Pleas Court decision), there was a two-year period in Ohio (1997-1999) when school administrators were expected to file all letters received – whether or not they were anonymous. Leone’s school district spent a total of $100,000 on this case.

SENSEL v. LEONE FOOTNOTE: Following the court decision, Kimball Carey, the chief legal counsel for Buckeye Association of School Administrators (BASA), published the following in a BASA newsletter: “The good news in the Sensel v. Leone decision is that the parents’ unsolicited letters were found NOT to be “public records” because they were never actually used in any decision-making process…….clearly this is one of the most sensible decisions on public records that our State Supreme Court has ever issued.”

Dennis Leone on Fisher's departure

From: Dennis Leone
To: Mark Fredrick
Subject: Re: GOVERNOR: Governor's Appointee Resigns From State Teachers Retirement Board
Date: Thu, 20 Jul 2006
I may be wrong, Mark, but it may be -- due to the language in Senate Bill 133 (passed 6-16-04) -- that the gov is required to appoint someone who has demonstrated experience and expertise in investments. Three appointees are officially called "investment specialists." What was NOT considered in the language consideration for SB 133 is the fact that such a "investment specialist," unfortunately, may be lacking and inexperienced in the other areas that apply to being a board member at STRS. Such was the case with Judith Fisher. She was completely unable to understand the functional difference between a public board and a private/corporate board.
Dennis Leone

Cathy Burner's e-mails, July 14 - 23, 2006

From Sondra Stratton
Sent: Friday, July 14, 2006 3:36 PM
Subject: Fwd: The resignation

Ms. Ramser, Ms. Fisher, and Governor Taft,

I highly concur with Mrs. Cuthburt! As one who has been involved since the beginning of learning of the STRS abuses, I find the continued arrogance and incompetence appalling!! Governor Taft, you listened to those in your party who had also done wrong by the retired teachers in OH by line item vetoing the investigation of STRS by the Inspector General. Ms. Montgomery and Mr. Petro had much to loose by said investigation. MS. Ramser, you are OEA and still do not understand what has happened at STRS and I seriously doubt you really care. You ( and Dr. Brown)
have been underhanded at the things you have tried to pull to keep discussions from occurring. You should be the next to step down!

Ms. Ramser, I believe if Ms. FIsher wanted the reasons, etc. know about her resignation, it should have come from her mouth. I believe you have really hurt yourself and if I were on the board, you and I would have serious trouble from here on out! I doubt that will be the case with Dr. Leone as he is there to see that STRS gets fixed, not to be petty with other board members. Perhaps, it is you who needs to be an "adult" for your behavior has not been very adult-like. Ms. Fisher's resignation further shows that she was NOT aware of all the problems at STRS and the resolve of retirees to get them solved!!!!!!!! It would seem the same is true with you, Ms. Ramser.

Thank goodness Ms Fisher has given up and resigned! She has not been a credit to STRS in the first place and I sincerely hope that you, Gov. Taft, will choose someone who has the fortitude to follow the law and represent retirees ( and actives) in the manner in which they wish to be represented!

Please consider Tom Hall for this position. We will never get this system back on track without people who understand where we retirees are and how we live must live. We MUST have some who is compassionate and seriously concerned about the welfare of STRS and retirees present and future!!!

Retirees are going nowhere and will stick this out until every board member who is there for other reasons than following 3307.15 are gone and this system is fixed. If we have to SHOUT to make those who pretend to be deaf, hear,
then so be it!

Sondra Stratton
CORE member and organizer
past Pres. of Brown County Retired Teachers Association
From: Evelyn Cuthbert Subject: The resignationDate: Fri, 14 Jul 2006 12:03:36 -0400Dear Ms Ramser, Ms Fisher and Governor TaftI am the wife of a retiree and have been involved in educating myself for the past several years in the operations at STRS since the loss of our 13th check, the outrageous cost of our healthcare, and after reading Dennis Leone's list of facts and outrageous expenditures at STRS.I was appalled at the reason, Ms Fisher, you gave for your resignation. I have only known Dr. Leone for the past several years but I have found him to act only in a professional manor and in many types of circumstances. He is not the type to display actions that would jeopardize his credibility. He has done so much good and is well known. It's only because of Dennis and John Lazares that changes were made at all at STRS. I will, however, say he is probably passionate about doing things the right way to prevent any other catastrophies from inept decisions. He is looking to the future with 20-20 hind-sight.I find that some women in positions of power don't often embrace someone who has such passionate feelings toward their responsibilities and in this case fiduciary responsiblities especially women who have never been in a position of power before. An example may be cautioning the approval of contracts without having the contract in hand or reviewing the contract and taking at face value the Director's mere explanation of it's contents-yet approving the contract. This to me defies logic and common sense. Some women look at such passion and expertise with cool reserve and do the opposite of what is necessary since those suggestons may not have been initiated by the women themselves or they may feel that a man is telling them what to do and they don't appreciate the expertise.In my opinion if you felt "driven to resign", you must not have possessed the confidence in yourself necessary for the round table and your ability to debate the issues. This makes you sound unable to cope. There is alot of pressure there and there should be--tens of thousands of people and billions of dollars depend on your decisions and many of us who know about the outrageous expenditures do not trust most of you--you have not proven yourselves to us. It's not all baseball games, broadway shows and trips to Alaska anymore. What you do may cause even more lawsuits from those who are hired to serve us and not vise versa.I guess it also depends on what frame of reference you serve as a board member. From what I have seen and heard, Dennis' main goal is to prevent further injury to the system and prevent any further inept decisions that will cost us more in millions like the handling of the lawsuit from the STRS employees.When it comes to respect, in my opinion that there are 2 kinds. The respect one has for human life and people in general and the respect for a colleague and their professional expertise. Respect in the latter is something that is earned through actions.
Paul Boyer Writes Re: CORE meeting July 20 at STRS:
To all who may be concerned about adopting a constitution and by-laws to make CORE a more formal organization, please remember that what Ryan will be handing out at the meeting is only a suggestion. It is up to the membership to make the constitution what you want it to be by amendments, changes that can be done right in the meeting by a vote of those present.

I urge ALL who can to attend this meeting. I will do all that I can to be there even though I should not take the time from getting ready to move. IT IS IMPORTANT. When you come, do not be bashful; speak out your concerns.

I would love to see such a crowd at the meeting that we would have to move into the main Sublett Room. Molly, I am glad that you are going to be there. Tom, we will miss you and your wisdom; I guess your computer is back on line now.




Retirement plan is in need of a tweak
Saturday, July 15, 2006

Dispatch Public Affairs Reporter James Nash’s recent article on Ohio’s public pension systems left out some important facts about the state of educator retiree health care and the proposal to stabilize its funding for the future. Currently the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio projects funding to continue the healthcare program through 2021. Even so, the trust fund that funds this benefit will begin depletion in 2009, signaling a virtual end to health care for STRS retirees.
So the proposal to put in place a dedicated revenue stream to fund educator retiree health care for the long term represents a responsible approach to this complex issue. STRS Ohio provides health care to over 111,000 retired teachers, university professors and their spouses and dependents. Some 6,500 disabled educators receive their health care from STRS Ohio. Without STRS Ohio health care, many of these retirees and future retirees would become a new class of uninsured Ohioans.
Since 2004, the Health Care Advocates Coalition has worked closely with STRS on a member education and engagement campaign designed to inform members about the costs of health care in retirement and to encourage them to save for these costs. The coalition includes membership from Ohio’s public higher-education institutions, school administrators, retired teachers, higher-education faculty and Ohio’s largest teachers unions. Beginning in 2005, the coalition and STRS mailed brochures to 190,000 active educators, conducted more than 20 regional meetings and communicated with more than 10,000 members. In these conversations, we learned that active educators are supportive of the proposal to increase member and employer payroll contributions by 0.5 percent each year for five years to be dedicated to health care. In recent months, we have reached out to Ohio’s school districts. We want to make sure that they understand the full range of costs associated with the health-care program and the impact if it is ended.
Working with members of our coalition, we have learned that Ohio’s public higher-education institutions are concerned about the STRS Ohio health-care program. This important service is a valuable tool for recruiting and retaining higher-education faculty. Research conducted collaboratively by Ohio State University and the Ohio Education Association concluded that concerns about health care in retirement are a primary factor in the decision to delay retirement by Ohio’s active teachers. Without health care in retirement, it is likely that all educators will teach much longer, driving up wage and health-care costs for all of Ohio’s public-education institutions. This proposal is the most costeffective way to continue a healthcare benefit for retirees who have dedicated their working lives to the well-being of the children in Ohio’s communities.
Co-chairman Health Care Advocates Coalition for STRS Columbus
Date: Sun, 16 Jul 2006
Dave Parshall said the same thing; no need to get formal; just contacts for organizations to know how and who to reach; I think we must be mindful of however most feelFrom: Al Rhonemus>Subject: RE: Date: Sun, 16 Jul 2006 18:45:33 -0400>>I respect both Paul and Ryan; however, I feel that we are just about to do>something that we have advocated against. It may go into another ORTA>controlled few, or an OEA with controlled few. Therefore, I do not think>that this is the time to organize so to speak. This is Al's personal>thinking. I am unable to be at the meeting because of local obligations.>God Bless and I will abide by whatever decision is made. Pray that the>Governor will listen to us and appoint Tom Hall.

Al Rhonemus>
Molly Writes:

I do agree with Nancy's analysis with rotating schedules for supporting and monitoring STRS.VERY IMPORTANT! I feel the officers are name only and meant as Dave P. said, a clear contact for CORE as some have not known where or with whom to speak. Beyond that, I fear giving control or power or anything close to anyone other than majority membership.
John Curry Writes:

Due to my work schedule, I will also be unable to make the meeting. I do have an opinion - for what it's worth: I would like to wait for a vote for reorganization until the summer is over. We have a difficult time getting a large group together during the summer (and also during the bad weather in winter). Fall seems (to me) to be the best time for a large gathering on a vote concerning an important decision. I don't wish to be counter productive and do understand that the "show must go on."
From: Shirley Zerkel
Sent: Monday, July 17, 2006 6:27 AM
Subject: Opinion concerning re-organization

I will be unable to attend the CORE meeting on the 20th due to family commitments. This is my opinion. Summer is a busy time for families and vacations and winter weather prevents travel. Since so many essential CORE people will be unable to attend the July 20th meeting, would it be possible to postpone the vote on such an important topic as re-organization till August or September. September has always been a time for new beginnings for teachers.
Maybe that time of year will bring forth the best ideas on what direction CORE should take.
School consulting deal skirts state rules on pensionBy RYAN BAGWELL, Staff Writer
July, 2006
The county Board of Education is considering a contract with a Crofton firm that would allow school officials to skirt state pension rules and give lucrative paychecks to retired administrators.
The two-year, $1.4 million deal would allow Nancy M. Mann and two other former administrators to start consulting jobs through a little-known human resources outsourcing company that has handled school employees for years.Those familiar with the arrangement with Human Resources Inc. said it is a tool to hire retired administrators and give them big pay while they continue to draw full state pensions."I don't like it," said school board member Konrad M. Wayson. "If I can't do it for a teacher, I shouldn't be able to do it for an administrator."Superintendent Kevin M. Maxwell, who started two weeks ago and just learned of the contract, still wanted the deal approved. The system's previous five-year agreement with HR Inc. ended June 30.But on Wednesday, school board members extended the current deal for a month and froze hiring on the contract while they review the proposal.Along with Mrs. Mann, Dr. Maxwell said he planned to hire Kenneth Nichols, the school system's former acting deputy superintendent, and Leslie Mobray, the district's former acting director of student safety and discipline, through the HR Inc. contract. Both retired after years with Anne Arundel schools. Now that plan has been put on hold while the school board looks into the deal, Dr. Maxwell said.Specific pay for the three consultants wasn't discussed, but Dr. Maxwell said it would be comparable to what they earned when they were paid directly through the school district.Mrs. Mann made about $700 each day she worked as interim superintendent. She stepped down on June 30.The state's Retirement and Pension System limits the amount a retired school employee can make with the district they retired from. Generally, retirees can make up to the difference of their yearly pension and their final salary.But if they are hired through a subcontractor like HR Inc., retired employees can make unlimited amounts, according to Anne Budowski, a spokesman for the state's retirement system.That doesn't seem right to the Maryland Public Research Interest Group, a state government watchdog group."If they are double dipping, I think that warrants concern and should definitely be looked at," said Johanna Neumann, a MaryPIRG policy advocate.Tim Schaffer, HR Inc.'s president, could not be reached for comment.Ms. Budowski did not know if other Maryland school districts use subcontractors to get around state pension regulations."This is the first we're hearing about it," she said. "We would have to do an investigation and make inquiries."The school district's relationship with Human Resources Inc. started more than 10 years ago. They've often used the contract to hire employees in demand, like speech therapists and construction project managers when funding windfalls have come from the county, said Deborah S. Groat, the school system's director of purchasing.Only six employees are presently employed through the contract, the school system said. They make between $20,000 and $80,000 a year. Ms. Budowski said four of the six are drawing a state pension.It was unclear what their jobs are. Florie Bozzella, director of human resources for Anne Arundel schools, did not return calls for comment on Friday.In the last school year, Human Resources Inc. made $65,000 on the deal to handle six employees.Under the proposed contract, HR Inc. will charge 26.5 percent of the employee's salary for jobs like clerical and administrative positions. For skilled labor, they'll charge 30.5 percent.It's more than what was proposed by Metropolitan Technology Solutions, a Virigina-based firm that also bid on the contract. They offered 10 percent fees for administrative positions, and 20 percent fees for skilled employees.But its proposal was rejected early on because it was "technically incomplete.""If it was not technically complete, then they wouldn't have asked us in for an interview," said Russell Henderson, of Metropolitan Technology Solutions.Ms. Groat said the committee that reviewed the proposals scored Metropolitan low because they weren't local, and new employees probably would have had to travel to Virginia to fill out paperwork.HR Inc. also had more experience than Metropolitan, she said.
July 17, 2006
John Curry Wrote:

Please click on the link below and then click on July 17, 2006 for the Wastebusters feature concerning STRS. I tried the email feature and discovered that it isn't available (yet). I will call the station tomorrow - meanwhile, you still can still view the presentation.

P.S. A special "thank you" goes out to CORE member Sondra Stratton who filed the "official" complaint with the Ohio Ethics Commission which started this criminal ball rolling!

John - today, an especially PROUD CORE member
The message is ready to be sent with the following file or link attachments:Shortcut to:
Sent: Thursday, July 13, 2006 5:11 PM
Subject: Drawing fire!

Dear One & All:

I've been sitting here in front of my computer screen dumbfounded by the comments attributed to STRS Board President Constance Ramser and member Judith Fisher! They've stooped to the now all-to-familiar tactic of attacking the messenger when they cannot refute the message. It reminds me of those who attack the patriotism of anyone who dares raise their voice in opposition to our present national leadership or questions the motives of anyone who questions the actions of those in leadership positions.

The STRS board is not a social organization. Board members were not elected so that they could attend ball games, enjoy a few rounds of golf, take in the latest theater production and bond over a lovely meal! Board meetings are supposed to be the forum where the oversight of our pension fund is discussed, ideas are exchanged, and decisions in keeping with the charge of ORC 3307.15 are voted upon and executed. Invoking "civility" as an reason for stifling frank discussion is a pathetic attempt to intimidate and demean anyone with the valiancy to speak against the majority!

The open discussions that have taken place since John Lazares and Dennis Leone were elected to the STRS Board have increased the transparency of the Board's actions, stimulated careful examination of the way business is conducted, and guaranteed that the rubber stamping of items brought before the Board will be met with resistance by those who have pledged to protect our retirement funds.

The vitriol hurled at Dr. Leone is hurled at all who dare challenge those who are entrenched in a business-as-usual mindset. Anyone who advocates reform is targeted as a "malcontent" or "trouble-maker". Changes in the rules for participating in the public speaking sessions at the STRS Board meetings, attempts to quash responses by Board members to those who address the board and attempts to limit the discussion of motions before the Board have all failed to silence those who engage in discussion, dissent, and criticism.

Ohio's teachers, both active and retired, will be heard. We will continue to elect representatives to the STRS Board who will speak loudly, insistently, and forcefully in their effort to move forward and bring reform to our retirement system. Dennis Leone and John Lazares have dared to do just that. I challenge other board members to step forward and support their efforts and defend their right to speak their mind.

For too many years STRS was governed by individuals with an imperial attitude and ingrained sense of entitlement.

Never, never, never again!

Ryan Holderman


Dennis Writes Molly G.
From: Dennis Leone>To: Molly G>Sent: Thursday, July 13, 2006 1:57 PM>Subject: Re: Fisher & Ramser>>>Thank you Molly, for your words of encouragement. John L says it best when >he says that we are not on this board to develop buddy friendships with the >other board members. In fact -- if the truth be known -- John and I don't >even socialize together. We are just 2 people with similar concerns.>>Thank you again for your kind comments.>>Dennis Leone> ----- Original Message -----> From: Molly G> To: Dennis Leone> Cc: John Lazares> Sent: Thursday, July 13, 2006 11:11 AM> Subject: Fisher & Ramser>>> Gentlemen:>>> I just read that insulting rhetoric spewed by Connie Ramser and Judy >Fisher ... esp Ramser. Please do not surrender to their mean-spirited >tactics. The work you are doing is historical in nature and must continue. >This has to be discouraging, but you're made of stronger stuff and you have >so many teachers backing you. Hang in there guys.>>> Sincerely yours,>>> Molly Ganz**********************************************************

Molly Writes Jim Wagner Re: CORE

I understand Jim. I also feel some of the strength has been in being able> to remind us all that no one is the leader and that membership majority is> the voice.> I worry that it can evolve into a 'board and officers' doing what other> boards and officers of other organizations do: say well this is what we > are> elected to do-decide the course.>> Dave Parshall understands that is not the purpose and that it is a> figurehead position to be the contact and spokesperson for majority> decisions.> I fear becoming what we have stood against.> THAT is WHY it is necessary to attend and be part of the decisions.> It is very important to have safeguards against the above dangers.>> It will be very divisive if such a situation develops-not attractive to> gaining membership as that is what we have fought against.>> Dave Parshall didn't really see the need for formalizing it but some do > and> there are pts for that.> I just think we must be very cautious and very able to change items if> misuse arises.>> We have to think longterm for future persons serving as our goals and> thoughts may erode with egos and personalities.>> Sticky I think. This has absolutely nothing to do with Paul 's and Ryan's> stellar efforts and they are honorable and ethical and doing what has> arisen. They are to be commended and perhaps I am being way to overly> cautious being so burnt by the other organizations and what their> interpretations of duties became over time. Paul and Ryan are doing > nothing> that would contribute to this happening. Titles are just tricky things> giving far more imagined power than meant. Careful selection of who fills> that role is essential but some where down the line, I know, someone will> someday get carried away with it. There is no doubt for me.> Human nature.>>>>From: Jim Wagner>>To: "Mollly Janczyk" >>Subject: formalizing core>>Date: Sat, 15 Jul 2006 20:32:40 -0400>>>>Ask your retired teachers - beginning with your e-mail list.>>>>Personally, I think it would be disasterous to CORE.>>>>When you have a problem you want to get rid of you put a label on it.>>>>And coping requires labels - so what are you going to do.>>>>I think the power of CORE has been the disorganization since it cannot be>>penetrated and controlled.>>>>>>Jim Wagner>>*************************************
Duane Tron Writes:
Subject: STRS Date: Sat, 15 Jul 2006 15:12:20 -0400>>Molly,>>Watch the news Monday! FYI>Nothing else I can say now!>>My best advice?! We don't need people on OUR retirement board who are >impressed with themselves, and using a board seat as a stepping stone, to >enhance their Vitae, or stroke their egos.>>We need people who are going to represent ALL of us. We need people who >are going to do what is right and in the best interest of retirees.>>I'm tired of the so-called experts, the high roller politicians, the people >with impressive credentials, and on and on.>>I want someone to represent us who has OUR best interests, and welfare at >heart, and I want someone who is honest and will do the right thing for >retirees, and for the right reasons.>>Judith Fisher had fancy credentials, connections, lots of schooling, and on >and on and she's a total bust! We need someone from among us who knows >what's going on and what has taken place at STRS.>>I'm sorry but over the years I have come to NOT trust people from academia >and some sectors of Corporate America. Why? They don't live and operate >in the "real" world.>>The news Monday will be tied to the word, "scandal." As I have pointed out >to you many times I have been quite busy working behind the scenes. I am >very sorry that I can't perform miracles and it angers me that the system >works so slowly! On the other hand the system still does work.>>We have been battling with people I describe as "bad" people. They have >done a lot of bad things and they will be removed and dislodged from >positions of power and prestige over time. Note, I said over time?>>The good news is the honesty, character and tenacity that people like >yourself have brought to this battle. The positive news is that in the >long run "good" will triumph as a result of people like you and many others >who have fought and cared so passionately about this issue!>>DuaneTron>*********************************************
Mary - I have a hunch that it will be "Wastebusters" by Jim Otte. He is doing a series re STRS. For all who read this - Mary is talking about Channel 7 (WHIO-TV) Dayton, OH. Those watching on cable will have to cross reference their cable channels to see if they do receive this Dayton channel as if it is "Wastebusters," it is ONLY broadcast on Channel 7 Dayton and no other (CBS) affiliated stations - it is a LOCAL show only.
----- Original Message -----
From: Mary Jordan

Sent: Saturday, July 15, 2006 5:30 PM
Subject: re: The News

Hi John,
On Friday's Channel 7 news from Dayton at 5:00 they said to watch Monday's 5:00 news for news about STRS. I am anxious to hear have they have ato say.
Mary Jordan

Jim Kimmel
Sent: Saturday, July 15, 2006 4:05 PM
Subject: Re: VSP ALERT

When I first retired Judy and I opted out of dental and vision insurance. The vision did not look like it was giving you much for the price. I can go to Sears and get a pair for $99.00 as they have sales a couple of times a year- even lineless bifocals. As far as the dental is concerned I asked my dentist just before I retired what he thought of the plan and showed him the brochure. He said it was the worst one he had ever seen ! Old Doc Rosenthal is now no longer with us but I always have trusted his judgment.

Jim Kimmel
From: Mary Ellen Angeletti >>Date: June 27, 2006 9:53:31 PM EDT>>To:>>Subject: Steve Puckett's vote>>>>Dr. Zelman, I was dismayed at the STRS Board meeting on June 15th to >>witness Steve Puckett's vote against restraining the STRS Executive >>Director's spending of retiree funds without the okay of the STRS Board. >>The Board must be KNOWLEDGEABLE about the money the Executive Director >>spends and also the contracts he makes and must VOTE on the spending and >>the contracts. This is the fiduciary responsibility of each and every >>Board member. Puckett's vote against is irresponsible and I am furious >>that he represents the Ohio Department of Education. I would appreciate an >>explanation.

Mary Ellen Angeletti, STRS retiree


Bob Speers Writes:

We recently visited Europe, and were able to compare their plight with the opulent living of some people in the USA. The old top-down and lack of free speech and right to assembly governance system of Russia led to grief for many. Democracy and freedom of speech are the cornerstones of our great society.

Keep up the good work that you and the rest of CORE folks are doing. Free spending without immediate oversight is bad for STRS.

Posted on Wed, Mar. 29, 2006

Blackwell aide close to charter
By Dennis J. Willard and Doug Oplinger
Beacon Journal staff writers
COLUMBUS - Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell's chief of staff has had an ongoing relationship with the state's largest charter school, receiving income and gifts from the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow while the school at times overcharged the state millions of dollars.
Sherri Dembinski is third in charge in Blackwell's office, which oversees the chartering of nonprofit organizations. ECOT is a nonprofit organization.
Blackwell also oversees reporting of campaign contributions. Managers of ECOT -- including Dembinski -- collectively have contributed about $330,000 to Ohio Republicans since the founding of the school.
ECOT has been embroiled in controversy since the fall of 2000 as it attempted to start a publicly funded online school that would educate children in their homes on computers.
In 2002, the school was found by Department of Education auditors to have overcharged the state as much as$7 million for children it could not verify as on the rolls.
And three times, state auditors have questioned expenses by the school and its close relationship with the for-profit management company that oversees ECOT -- both of which were founded by Columbus businessman William Lager.
= [100.0]Lager and Dembinski's husband have been friends since high school.
Dembinski was on ECOT's board from its inception until March 2004, when she resigned and moved into a new role as vice president of a foundation related to ECOT -- a foundation whose beneficiaries include students and organizations affiliated with ECOT.
Dembinski said Tuesday that she checked to make sure there was no conflict of interest to serve on the board.
``I actually had the conversation with general counsel at the time I got on the board to make sure there was no conflict of interest,'' she said.
Dembinski said she resigned from the board because the school hired her son, Christopher.
``I felt that was a conflict of interest,'' she said.
Ethics question
A review of ethics disclosure records by the Akron Beacon Journal shows that she does have a problem.
She reported her relationship with ECOT to the Ohio Ethics Commission for 2000-2003, but failed to do so for 2004. A review of ECOT records shows that in that year, she received $3,000 as board president and $2,000 as a parting gift to buy a computer.
She also did not report in previous years that the school provided her with the use of a personal computer.
``It was definitely an oversight, and I will be filing a report with the Ethics Commission trying to explain that to them,'' Dembinski said of the 2004 omission.
She said the filing occurred while she was off work taking care of her husband, who had been diagnosed with cancer. An aide filled out the disclosure statement, ``brought it out to me and I signed it.''
She also said she didn't view the computers as gifts. Initially, all board members received computers so they could e-mail each other about school business, she said.
The second computer, she said, was a bonus.
Ohio Ethics Commission Executive Director David Freel said he could not comment specifically about Dembinski, but said that a person in her position is required to report sources of income, gifts, creditors, debtors and real estate.
If the commission were to investigate, it would ask whether this was an oversight or an effort to conceal her relationship, he said.
He also said that the investigation would have to determine whether the computers should be considered gifts.
Brian Hicks case
In July 2005, Brian Hicks, Gov. Bob Taft's former chief of staff, came under investigation for not reporting gifts that he received from Toledo coin dealer and Republican fundraiser Thomas Noe.
Hicks agreed with prosecutors to plead no contest to charges that he knowingly filed a false financial disclosure statement with the Ethics Commission.
In 2001 and 2002, Hicks did not report that he stayed at Noe's Florida vacation home. Hicks was fined the maximum $1,000. He avoided a maximum six-month jail sentence and was not placed on probation.
In all, Dembinski received $30,000 in board pay, $2,000 to buy a computer and the use of a computer of unknown value for her tenure with ECOT, according to records.
When she resigned from the ECOT board, she was making $92,000 in the Secretary of State's Office.
This year, ECOT enrolls about 6,500 students who study at home via computer, for which the school will receive about $39 million transferred from school districts that the students would otherwise attend.
Dembinski said that there was no conflict for her regarding the secretary of state's role in granting nonprofit status to ECOT.
Nonprofit status
Groups wanting to create a nonprofit organization submit their applications to Blackwell's office. The secretary of state has no legal obligation to test the legitimacy of an application, said spokesman James Lee. The office merely handles paperwork, and it's up to other agencies to enforce laws regarding nonprofits, he said.
ECOT has twice received nonprofit status from Blackwell's office. Nonprofits can use that status to be exempt from Ohio taxes.
However, the Ohio Department of Education encourages charter schools to also qualify for federal tax exemption under tougher Internal Revenue Service regulations. The IRS prohibits for-profit management companies from having influence over charter school boards and prohibits tax-exempt charter schools from political activity and lobbying.
Of the more than 250 publicly funded charter schools in Ohio, ECOT was one of a dozen last year that did not receive the federal tax-exempt status.
In three state audits, auditors raised questions about ECOT's relationship with the for-profit management company, Altair Learning Management, run by ECOT founder William Lager. And an e-mail between two state auditors quotes a former board member as saying it's understood that payments to Altair include political contributions and lobbying expense.
``I have no idea about that. My affiliation was with ECOT. The big expenditures for ECOT were the (computer) servers, PCs, delivery (of computers), teachers and software,'' Dembinski said. ``My focus was on the ECOT side. That sounds like a very incorrect statement to me.''
Records show that Dembinski attended meetings and communicated with ECOT's lawyer when they discussed the school's ability to meet the tougher federal requirements. She also was on the board committee that negotiated Altair's management contract.
As for political contributions, Dembinski said there was no concerted effort by her and three other ECOT-related individuals to donate in the same week to state Rep. Jon Husted, the legislature's strongest advocate for charter schools.
According to records kept by the secretary of state, Dembinski's $250 donation occurred within days of three other contributions totaling $4,000. She said she made the donation after talking to a friend.
On Husted's campaign report, she is identified as a ``self-employed consultant.''
Making school change from the top>> Charters not following the law?>> By selliott Friday, May 19, 2006, 10:29 AM>> A coalition of charter school critics, led by the Ohio Federation of >Teachers, has released a new study of Ohio charter schools and how they >comply with state laws. Here's their summary. Let me know what you think::>> Although charter schools are defined by Ohio law as public schools, >those operated by educational management companies claim their teachers are >not public employees. Charter schools are required to have independent, >non-profit boards, yet boards assembled by management companies exercise >little independent oversight.>> A new study of the four largest charter school chains provides new >evidence that many Ohio charter schools do not operate as public schools, >contrary to state law. The research, conducted by the Braddock >Organization, reveals that charter schools are tightly controlled by their >management companies, which prefer secrecy over public accountability.>> The research refutes assertions by a charter school attorney in oral >arguments before the Ohio Supreme Court. On Nov. 29, 2005, Chad Readler of >the Jones, Day law firm, told the Court that charter schools ".carry every >indicia of a public entity." (*Transcript of Nov. 29, 2005, Ohio Supreme >Court hearing on Case 2004-1688, Ohio Congress of Parents and Teachers v. >State of Ohio Board of Education et al.)>> But, charter schools operated by National Heritage Academies, the Leona >Group, Summit Academy Management and White Hat Management (the largest >operators of charter schools in Ohio) refused to provide public information >when requested by Braddock. All but 2 responses to 71 public information >requests came from management company officials or attorneys, not the >charter schools themselves. All consistently declined to provide contracts >of teachers employed at the schools. Each said the teachers are employees >of the private management company and not public employees of the schools >themselves. Therefore, they responded, information about the teachers' >contracts is private.>> One board member also noted in his response that contracts of teachers >employed at the school are unavailable even to its board members.>> Yet, the schools make contributions to the State Teachers Retirement >System (STRS), a pension fund for public school teachers, in apparent >contradiction to these claims.>> The Ohio Supreme Court recently ruled on a similar public records issue. >On April 6, the Court ruled that the records of private or nonprofit >entities are public when the services they provide are the traditional >province of government and financed with public money. The ruling was made >in a case that dealt with the public records of Oriana House, which >operates private corrections facilities funded by public tax dollars.>> Private management companies will receive a majority of the nearly half >billion tax dollars the state pays to charter schools this year.>> In an effort to determine whether charter school boards exercise >meaningful oversight of the schools, Braddock researchers requested minutes >for charter school board meetings held in 2005. The documents provided >reveal a pattern of boards assembled and controlled by management companies >rather than by independent boards.>> The Leona Group>> The Leona Group's chain of charter schools includes 6 in Ohio that >enroll 1,027 students. Contrary to the requirement that each charter school >be run independently, one superboard controls operations for all of Leona's >charter schools in Ohio. This superboard conducted business jointly for all >of Leona's charters in one session, including the 6 currently open for >business and 3 more that are in the planning stages.>> Summit Academy Management>> Summit Academy Management's chain of charter schools includes 19 in Ohio >that enroll 2,250 students. Contrary to the requirement that each charter >school be run independently, one superboard also controlled operations for >all Ohio charters run by Summit Academy Management. Unlike Leona's joint >session for all charters, Summit's superboard appears to have convened and >adjourned each charter's business, holding several meetings in succession >on the same day.>> National Heritage Academies>> National Heritage Academies' chain of charter schools includes 9 in Ohio >that enroll 3,510 students. Contrary to the requirement that each charter >school be run independently, National Heritage charter board members >overlap, with the same group of people conducting business for multiple >National Heritage charter schools. Several board members appear to be >interchangeable, serving on multiple boards for short stints throughout the >year.>> White Hat Management>> White Hat Management's chain of charter schools includes 34 in Ohio that >enroll 16,000 students. White Hat runs one superboard and several smaller >groups of people who serve on the boards of multiple White Hat charter >schools. More than half of White Hat's charter school board members serve >on the boards of multiple schools. Three members serve on 18 different >White Hat charter school boards, one member serves on 17 different White >Hat charter school boards, one serves on 10 different boards, and three >serve on 9 different White Hat charter school boards. Eighteen members >serve on 2, 3 or 4 different White Hat charter school boards.>> "It's clear the public has no voice in these schools," said Tom Mooney, >chairman of the coalition, commenting on Braddock's findings. "No one but >the company CEO has any say.">> PTA Executive Director Barbara Sprague said, "Charter schools were >called community schools in Ohio to signify that they would establish >closer ties to the parents and community. They were to be less bureaucratic >and more autonomous than traditional public schools. But these schools are >just the opposite. Board members represent the management companies, not >the community or parents.">> "The central concern of the League of Women Voters of Ohio about >community schools continues to be accountability to the tax-paying public," >said Carol Gibson, co-president of the League of Women Voters of Ohio.>> Permalink Comments (5) Post your comment Categories: charter >schools and school choice>> Comments>> school levy spin and marketing.>> Reader Comment:>> By chartteach>> May 31, 2006 07:56 PM Link to this>> Unfortunately, most charter schools teachers don't have a contract. We >wish we could have a union as well. Most charter school board members are >there for the resume building. They are not involved, nor do they seem to >care about the school they are working with.>
ALRIGHT! BARNET WOLF , reporter for 'The Dispatch.'> That's the kind of detailed reporting WE'RE talking about !!!!!!!!>>> FRONT PAGE: Jack Chapman likes to travel!> Bet/ 2000 and 2002, he took over 3 dozen trips costing STRS $50,000.>> The Reynoldsburg 'teacher' (when he teaches if you can call 1 remedial > math class and then sitting in other peoples' classes as an ass't all a.m. > , then a study hall and home as his lunch and planning period were only pm > periods. as i recall, when i was his sub the principal said 'well you can > go now at 12:30 to 1:30 .approx.this is how they 'don't have to count on > him being there. the kids for his remedial math class never knew when or > when not to attend the several times i was there for him).>> Anyway, back to Dispatch.>> Chapman's travels helped push STRS' travel costs to the highest of the 5 > pension plans.>> Sen. Schuring found Jack's travels outrageous and questioned the purpose > of his extensive traveling.> Jack was the most active traveler of all 5 pension plans.> THIS IS NOT NEW!>> In '95, Jack's trips were reported cost #$36,736 for '94.>> CHAPMAN REFUSED COMMENT.>> Jack missed 75 school days for the past school year and 27 more for P.B., > professional and sick leave to add up to over 1/2 of school days.>> STRS PAYS FOR HIS SUBSTITUTES FOR STRS BOARD BUSINESS (and for the other > 4 'active' board members). For JUST JACK, that totalled $6000 for past yr.>> Jack is also pres. of central Ohio chaptr of OEA (THERE'S THAT NAME AGAIN) > who paid him an additional $21,523 a year in salary and RETIREMENT > CONTRIBUTIONS (bumping up his retirement, it would seem).>> The $218,500 for STRS' travel expenses outside of Ohio for 2000-2002 > surpassed any of the other 4 pension plans.>> The largest of the 5 pension plans , PERS, paid and average of LESS THAN > $20,000 per year for travel beyond Ohio in 2001-2002.>> "OUR BOARD MEMBERS JUST DON'T TRAVEL MUCH" said Tom Sherman, gov't > relations officer for OPERS.>> Schuring IS NOT satisfied with STRS' explanation that travel was necessary > for board's responsibilities to admin. the fund.>> Schuring says that while members may need to learn latest trends, THE > INDUSTRY IS JUST NOT THAT DYNAMIC that so many need to attend so many > conferences.>> Eugene Norris made 25 trips for $42,250. He traveled to Hawaii.>> Sidaway took 24 trips for nearly $38,400. ONE TRIP TO HAWATII cost nearly > $3800. Others included Las Vegas and Matha's Vineyard and 6 trips to the > west coast.>> Gaylord who represented PETRO when auditor, spent $16,312 and when she was > PETRO's rep for OPERS claimed more than $12,000 in travel outside Ohio > attending more conferences than any other OPERS board member.>> Rick Moore who was Betty Montgomery's rep had more than $10,600 in travel > expenses outside Ohio to 'stay in the loop' (under orders ). Only trips > that all other board members took were approved for him.>> A list of Jack's travels to where and why is printed on pg. A2 of the > Dispatch.>> HOWEVER THE QUESTION IS:>> DID HE ACTUALLY ATTEND ALL THE CONFERENCES OR BLOW SOME OFF FOR GOLF?>> I hear he goes nowherre without his clubs and SOME skip conferences to > play golf in exotic locales instead!>> PARTY'S OVER, JACK.>*********************************************
Lima News
LETTER: Charter schools not the answerJAMES PERINE, Lima The Lima News and the Buckeye Institute claim we should fund more charger schools. The Columbus Dispatch just completed an audit of the biggest management company, White Hat; owned by Ken Blackwell’s biggest supporter. White Hat got $109 million in tax money last year to manage 34 charter schools. The state spent $460 million in total state aid last year, but the management firms don’t have to disclose their profits, even though this is our tax dollars they are using. If you are looking for the best education for your children, compare the state’s “academic emergency” list of schools. Of the 264 charter schools operating last year, 60 percent were in this category while 8 percent of public schools were on the list. If this is what the Buckeye Institute claims is a success story, they are clueless. Now the Republicans at the state capital want to open even more charter schools when over half are on the emergency list. If you have time take a day off when school starts and go to school with your children, then you will realize what teachers do every day to help them learn; it’s not easy. There are no easy answers to our school problems, despite what others say.
July 15, 2006
Dear Governor Taft:
With the resignation of Judith Fisher from the STRS Board you have the opportunity to appoint a replacement. Tom Hall should be your choice. He has the expertise,training,
And experience to serve the needs of STRS in this time of crisis for STRS,retirees, amd those who will someday retire. I will not here delineate his many accomplishments and awards. Others, I am sure, have provided that information to you. I should, however, emphasize one of Tom’s qualities which is perhaps the most important. That would be his commitment to operate in agreement with Ohio Revised code as it relates to STRS. Failure to take seriously the basic purpose of STRS- to be good stewards of the STRS fund- has been a serious problem in the recent past,leaving consequences which are impacting the present for retirees as well as the futures of those recently found guilty in court. He also appreciates the struggles retirees experience as they try to pay for necessary medication, pay for extremely high health insurance, and see mismanagement
Of their hard earned contributions to STRS.
Governor Taft, quite honestly you dealt a hard blow to all Ohio educators when you line item vetoed a law which would have empowered the Ohio Inspector General to investigate STRS. Many believe you did this to protect Petro and Montgomery
who were on the STRS Board during the worst of the “ethically challenged” decisions. It is my understanding that they voted for many of the decisions which were not only unethical but very harmful to the retirees. Now that Blackwell is the Republican gubernatorial candidate we would all appreciate it if you would reconsider and allow an Ohio Inspector General investigation. We worked very hard to persuade the Ohio General Assembly to place the enabeling bill before you to sign. When you vetoed it you sent a message to those with the “entitlement” attitude which will encourage them to continue their wasteful and callous ways at STRS. Please reconsider your decision in this matter.
Governor Taft, because of the veto for the Ohio Inspector General you have impeded the rehabilitation of STRS. One way to show that you do indeed have the motivation to help place STRS back onto the right track would be to appoint Tom Hall for Judith Fisher’s STRS Board seat. This time do the right thing!
James O. Kimmel, STRS Retiree

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