Saturday, December 13, 2008

Our newest STRS Board member

From John Curry, December 13, 2008
Subject: Our newest STRS Board member...quite a resume!
Check out her list of "Selected Publications," including one entitled, "The Myth of the Unbiased Director." I think I like this lady already! The link to her bio is below: John

RH Jones: Do moral obligation and common sense need legislating?

From RH Jones, December 12, 2008
Subject: Re: 3 news items from today's STRS Board Meeting [posted below under Dec. 11, 2008]
To all:
Re: Do moral obligation & common sense need legislating?
Since banks and Wall Street are open on this work day (the day after Thanksgiving), I think that our STRS misses out on trading opportunities. The STRS closing for a vacation day could, therefore, have disastrous consequences for STRS funding. Consequently, not only could it hurt active and retired teachers, lost opportunity is a loss for staff as well. In this case, is it too much to ask that common sense be used by those we have hired to do the investment business for us? After all, both we educators and STRS staff benefit by robust healthy funds.
Concerning this, and other recent poorly thought out actions, corrective state legislation will probably be considered by legislators. If the majority on the STRS board is not capable, or willing to show levelheaded leadership in correcting this misstep, does the legislators have to come in once again? Do we have to have them to monitor our STRS employees ? Personally, I think legislative correction is not required, or wanted, or be necessary, if only the board would reverse this executive mistake. Everyone makes mistakes, especially me, but active and retired teachers cannot afford such blunders as our STRS closing on a bank and Wall Street work day.
This is my opinion,
RHJones, retired teacher

RH Jones to Rep. Brian Williams: The Board's responsibility to oversee our funds, not allow exploitation by STRS staff

From RH Jones, December 12, 2008
Subject: It's what's in the prelude to Ralph's 3 minute speech that really grabs one's attention!!!!!!!! See if you agree! [Referring to Ralph Roshong's speech to STRS Board, December 11, 2008, posted 12/11/08]
Dear Ohio Rep. Brian Williams:
Re: the allowance of another vacation day for the STRS staff.
Once again, the actions of the Executive Office of the STRS of Ohio has taken the liberty to violate Sec. 3307.15 of the Revised Code. The function and focus of the hired staff, including the executive officer, is to make money for our system. Without the STRS board approval, the action of arbitrarily adding an expensive staff vacation day is beyond comprehension, and could be thought of as excessive abuse of power. A thoughtful and responsible STRS board should rescind this ill conceived give-away our money. After they have just lost so many billions of our dollars, the staff has not earned another day of vacation days. How does giving the day of after Thanksgiving make money for the system? Note: Active educators have the day off after Thanksgiving but that is because they work with children. The STRS staff work with adults.
And, further, it is obvious that Mike Nehf is out of touch of the reality of the deep economic recession that is affecting Ohio and America; and therefore, how can he lead our retirement system with such lack of concern for the system's members: both the active and the retired teachers. When will this ever stop! After the recent bonus awards, this is an additional public relations disaster, that will probably be used to even further convince the Ohio School Boards Association (OSBA)and the Ohio Association of Business Officials (OABO) of the necessity to not to giving HB 315 a chance of passing the legislature -- the passage of which is vital for the future funding of our STRS for members, and their hired staff. The OSBA and the OABO associations have said: Why send the STRS money when they will not use it properly. Therefore, to move STRS forward, anyone to think that this vacation day giveaway is a responsible decision is blatantly mistaken.
Note: Personally, I do not regard this message as a complaint. It is not that. What I am trying to do as a retired career teacher is to educate folks that do not seem to understand that the STRS is a retirement system. It is not to be exploited by staff who may think that they are entitled to excess pay and benefits. It is the boards responsibility to oversee, not just to blindly allow staff to exploit STRS funds with the thought that staff is just entitled to excesses.
Representative Williams, when the governor, the senate and the legislature is looking to cut state funding of education, will you, therefore, step in for me, a constitute of yours, to inform the board that the timing of any STRS award is off . Everyone, is taking cuts now days. The STRS staff should be included, starting at the top! It is apparent that Mr. Neft is unaware of the recession. Everyone knows that some in the media lay in wait of anything that may be controversial. For anyone to think that, in this time of open electronic communications, this judgment failure will not be made public, and will not shock the sensibility of the Ohio public has sadly miscalculated.
This is solely my opinion as a retired teacher member of the Ohio STRS,
Robert Hudson Jones
Exodus: The Golden Calves
A modern day parable...
[Click graven image to enlarge]
1 And the Lord said unto Doses: "Tell the teachers to take up collections for me, and I will promise to make them safe and happy in the waning years of their lives. From every man you shall accept the contribution that his heart and the Ohio General Assembly gives to me and I shall keep it safe." Doses said: "Yes, Lord, it will be done." And behold, generation after generation, it was done. The Lord was pleased, and the teachers prospered.
2 And the Lord looked upon his people and it was good. The Lord said unto Doses: "Find me ten who are righteous with me and bring them before me." Doses went out and selected the ten most righteous he knew of, and brought them before the Lord. The Lord addressed them: "All shall now call you Boardites. Hear me well, o' Boardites. I charge to you safekeeping of the contributions I have received from the people. You will guard the contributions, cherish them, treat them as your own, and keep them safe from all manner of evil. Hear this and obey." The ten fell down before the altar and spoke unto the Lord: "We hear you, O Lord, and we shall honor your word."
3 Many years later, the Lord said unto Doses: "Come to me on Mt.Broadstreet." Doses obeyed, and climbed Mt.Broadstreet, with Joshua. Near the summit Doses was enveloped in a misty gray cloud. For forty days and forty nights Doses and Joshua fasted, prayed, and waited for the Lord. On the morning of the forty-first day, a deep, resonant voice sounded before him. "Hear me, Doses, I am who am. The people have kept the faith, but the Boardites have sinned a mighty sin. Had I not made clear they should not carve idols for themselves in the sky above or on the earth below or in the waters beneath the earth. For I, the Lord, your God, am a jealous God."
4 "Perhaps, Lord," said Doses, "It was only a mistake. Have mercy on them, they know not what they do." The ground trembled, lightening flashed, and the Lord said: "Then I will give you a law to follow, a rule to obey. Stand back and marvel at the power of God." And a flaming finger of God thundered out of the sky and etched into the granite stone of Mt.Broadstreet: "Thou shalt preserve capital". Doses trembled in fear; the ground shook and trembled. The heavens themselves were riven asunder. "Lord," cried Doses, "What is the second law?"
5 A deafening voice roared from the sky: "You need no more. Go, see to your people. The Boardites have sinned a terrible sin. Obey the one law, it is enough." When the Lord had finished speaking to Doses on Mt.Broadstreet, he gave him the tablet of the commandment, the stone tablet inscribed by God's own finger.
6 When the Boardites became aware of Doses' delay in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around and said: "Come, we shall make gods of gold who will be our leaders; as for the man Doses, we do not know what has happened to him." They took the people's contributions and cast 88 molten calves of gold to worship. Then they sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to revel and worship the golden calves. There was great singing and dancing and all manner of sin.
7 As Doses descended the mountain, he heard a great noise rise up from the camp of the people. Joshua said to Doses, "That sounds like a battle in the camp." But, Doses answered, "It does not sound like cries of victory, nor does it sound like cries of defeat; the sounds I hear are cries of revelry." As he drew near the camp, he saw the 88 golden calves, the wild dancing and drunkenness, the licentious acts of the naked, and all other manners of evil worship of the golden calves. With that, Doses' wrath flared up, so that he threw the tablet down and broke it upon the base of the mountain.
8 A voice deep and powerful then rolled down from heaven over the camp, making the ground tremble. "Hear me now teachers of Ohio," sayeth the Lord. "You have sinned a terrible sin. You were warned not to worship carved idols, yet I see 88 golden calves worshipped afront me. You have broken the great commandment. I am a jealous God, and now you will know punishment for your wickedness." When the Lord finished speaking, the ground started to shake and tremble and cracks appeared in the earth itself.
9 "Wait," cried the people as one. "It was not us who made the 88 golden calves, nor led their worship. It was the Boardites. They said we had to worship the golden idols, or be lost. They took our contributions and melted them down to make the 88 golden calves. They warned us unless we worshipped the golden idols, the calves would punish us and leave us destitute upon the land. Pestilence would cover our bodies, our flocks riven red in blood by wolves, our children and their children enslaved by cruel enemies. Some of us warned the Boardites of the evil they do, but we were spurned as ignorant and unworthy. What could we do?"
10 "It matters not," the voice from heaven rumbled. The Lord continued: "It has been done. The sin committed. Now you, the people, shall be punished. The way of the world is harsh and unforgiving; worship of golden idols forbidden. Go forth, and learn from this." The shaking of the ground grew violent, and the people cried in fear. The golden calves fell, one by one, into the bottomless crevasses, and so also all the gold, silver, and jewels of the people plunged into the bottomless chasm. Boardites and some teachers, cast by the hand of God, were hurled screaming into the black abysses of a wrathful God, and were lost forever.
Translation from Ancient Boardspeak
(October 2008 STRS Newsletter)
by Richard A. DeColibus






Click image to enlarge.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Value of STRS Assets Dec. 2006 - Nov. 2008

.Click image to enlarge.
Click here to view bar graph version.
Click here to see actual figures.

Molly Janczyk to Sandy Knoesel re: Who gets insured by STRS

From Molly Janczyk, December 12, 2008
Subject: QUES:: Sandy: STRS Question
HOW much do folks in this position pay for premiums? How long is their eligibility? WHY is this SPOUSE allowed to enroll a husband? Neither were educators. One is a spouse and only benefits to her should be considered as written. Since when do we get to bring others into our shareholders? I have some relations and friends who could use some help? Can I enroll them?
Subject: Sandy: STRS Question
Date: Fri, 12 Dec 2008
This is outrageous, if true. Is the below true: The below came from another source:
"I'm not sure if you know the answer to my question but maybe you know someone that could answer it. Got a call from a friend today and she told something that really made me mad. This can't be true can it? The friend is a widow of a teacher. She couldn't collect benefits right after his death because she was only in her mid forties. A few years later she became eligible for his retirement benefits as a survivor. She later remarried a man that worked for a company outside of STRS. Due to problems, the husband's insurance benefits have been cut drastically at his company outside of STRS. The friend contacted STRS and was told she could get benefits for her and her husband through STRS. They even told her that if she pre-deceases her second husband that he will be able to continue his insurance through STRS. If this is true how the hell can STRS justify insuring two people who spent not one day in education. If this is true we need to get somebody to pursue getting it changed pronto. I didn't spend 35 years paying into STRS to have them insure people that didn't contribute a dime. Let me know if you can find out the answer. Thanks!!"

Molly Janczyk: STRS and Ethics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Click image to enlarge.

Paul Boyer honored with a memorial tribute from STRS Board

WHEREAS, the Reverend Paul L. Boyer was a member of the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio, serving students as both an industrial arts teacher and guidance counselor before retiring with 18 years of service in 1985; and
WHEREAS, in his retirement, he was an active member of the Lima/Allen County Retired Teachers Association and a founding member of the Concerned Ohio Retired Educators, also known as CORE; and
WHEREAS, his concern about his profession and educators both young and old resulted in his giving many hours of his time in support of initiatives to improve the financial security of retirees; and
WHEREAS, his sincerity and significant involvement earned him recognition from his colleagues as "The Core of CORE"; now therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED, that the State Teachers Retirement Board convey to his family its gratitude and appreciation for the valuable service their father, grandfather and great-grandfather, the Reverend Paul L. Boyer, provided to Ohio's public educators; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that this resolution be made a part of the minutes of the December 11, 2008 meeting and that a copy be given to his family.
Presented by Mary Ann Cervantes (reader), George Doyle and Dave Parshall

Ralph Roshong's speech to STRS Board, December 11, 2008

From Ralph Roshong, December 11, 2008
Subject: December STRS Board meeting
Friends, Just a note on the Board meeting today. I attended, first time in about 6 months. Guess what, nothing has changed. New Exec Dir but the same old tricks. If you can believe this, he unilaterally gave all employees the day off on Thanksgiving Friday. No Board approval. Cost, $175,000. Then I find out, he did what his predecessors did, continued the culture. I cannot fathom this. I gave them the below statement and paraphrased it to them verbally along with several comments.
Ralph Roshong
Board Members of STRS: Mary Ann Quilter Cervantes, Mark H. Meuser, Jeff Chapman, Taiya L. Hayden, Dennis Leone, Tim Myers, Constance K. Ramser, Deborah Delisle, Craig C. Brooks, Exec. Dir. Michael J. Nehf
I am a retired member of STRS since 1991 and have attended numerous public meetings of the STRS Board over the last 4-6 years. I have been most appreciative of your allowing me to present comments to you along with hundreds of other retired and active STRS members. Most have expressed very passionate pleas to you concerning the Board’s actions and inactions over the past 10 years or so. Most of those pleas concerned inactions by the Board and were directed toward actions taken by the administrators of the STRS unilaterally and not questioned or monitored by the Board.
I would like to present to you a reminder that your responsibilities to the membership of STRS is of the utmost seriousness. I personally feel that over these past 10 years the oversight of the Board over the actions of the Executive Director have been seriously negligent. You have not always provided the oversight and questioning of the administrative team’s actions that is commensurate with your responsibilities.
You do not have to be reminded in detail of the financial catastrophes that are besetting the companies of this country. Most, if not all, have been the result of Board’s of Directors NOT exercising their responsibilities of monitoring the actions of their administrators in or of companies such as Lehman Bros., Bear Stearns, AIG, Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, Citi Corp., etc. You are our Board of Directors, and I want to be assured that you will be diligent in exercising your fiscal duties of oversight.
You must question the operations and procedures of your administrators in depth as to what and why various actions have been taken or should be taken. If you do not feel qualified, interested, or willing to do this, then you should leave the Board as soon as possible and allow someone who is responsible to replace you. You must know and understand what the policies of compensation are and approve them for action by the administrators. You must be sure policies in place are well written, approved by you, and implemented as written. You must be aware of the details of large contracts with large price tags before they are implemented and hopefully approved by you prior to implementation. ASK THE DIFFICULT QUESTIONS of the administrators BEFORE an action is taken not after, and then the membership will not have to ask the difficult questions after the fact.
You have to address the bonus issue for our investment personnel. Bonuses should not be automatic. You pay salary consulting firms very large sums to tell you our staff is not paid competitively. Our staff can do that comparison themselves. Consultants are really paid to keep themselves in business by upping salaries everywhere and keep the race going upward. There is always someone in the last quartile but consultants move them up, others move to the lower quartile, and they then get them moved up. That’s their game. Milestones are probably set by our own staff or some other consultant and always in a range which will always generate a bonus. If you are going to pay bonuses, have the investment person justify to their supervisor why their performance should deserve a bonus and how much. Then the supervisor presents their recommendations to the Board, and the Board supports their judgments or asks for corrections. No set scales.
The Board still allows too many compensation determinations to be made by the Executive Director unilaterally without any discussion with the Board and Board support. This should be reviewed promptly and policy corrected accordingly.
Thank you for your patience to hear my concerns and best wishes in representing the retirees in the most responsible manner.
Ralph R. Roshong
STRS retiree

Shirley Zerkel to Mike Nehf and STRS Board re: That staff vacation day -- compliments of the retirees?

From Shirley Zerkel, December 11, 2008
Subject: Staff should follow Board approved decisions!
Dear Mr. Nehf and STRS Board:
I understand that the staff at STRS have 10 approved holidays and that the day after Thanksgiving was not one of them. Yet, the vast majority of staff were given that day off with pay! Some more of the retiree and actives' money was spent, but not for the benefit of members.
I have heard complaints in the past that certain board members were micromanaging and that they should stick to making policy and then allow the STRS staff to carry out that policy! Well, if the Board makes the policy, then the policy should be followed by the administration of STRS. As I see it the staff does need to be micromanaged! That day with pay was allowed by Mr. Nehf and did not have Board approval! Board members, what are you going to do about a director who did not follow policy?
I see two solutions to this breach of Board policy: First, one of their other paid holidays should be taken away from the staff so as to not waste any more of the retirees' money on items that do not benefit retirees. A second solution might be that Mr. Nehf should cover from his wages the pay for all staff who were given the day off.
The board needs to do something about this because you are the watchdogs of the pension funds and that expense does not follow the ORC. Don't tell me that you can not do anything. You made the policy; it was not followed. Most of you on the Board need to stand up and stop such actions or leave the Board tomorrow.
Why do most of you on the Board follow what the STRS staff tells you to do? Listen to what the STRS staff has to say, then question, discuss and think about your decision. Remember that staff is not just thinking of the retirees, they are thinking of what is best for themselves as well. Their retirement system is not STRS.
The STRS staff does not have to worry if the system folds. How would the staff of STRS feel if they found OPERS gave away some of their retirement funds so that the OPERS staff could have an extra day off with pay. You are the people elected and appointed to be the fiduciaries of the funds. Most of you will one day be recipients of the system too if there is any left when you leave the Board. Please make decisions based on the ORC. Don't let this type of disregard for your policies continue.
These are my personal opinions,
Shirlee Zerkel
Retired 2002

3 news items from today's STRS Board Meeting

From John Curry, December 11, 2008
1. Allen County's Paul Boyer was given an honorary [memorial] presentation.
2. A new Governor's appointment to the STRS Board was seated today at the Board. She is Regina Burch - Associate Professor of Law at Capitol University.
3. STRS associates were given a paid holiday for the Friday after this recent Thanksgiving. The banks were open, and so was Wall Street on that day but...apparently not STRS! This holiday was over, above, and beyond the Board approved 10 paid holidays.........this additional day was NOT board approved.
We are in difficult financial times, aren't we?

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Ryan Holderman: A suggestion on bonuses

From Ryan Holderman, December 9, 2008
Subject: A suggestion
Dear One & All:
Let's see...
The $6 million in bonuses for the fiscal year ended June 30 came because the pension fund lost 5.44 percent of its value, whereas the market as a whole lost 5.79 percent, pension officials said. By doing better than the market as a whole, the investment staff saved $215 million, according to the system's calculations.
So, let's give the investment folks a 0.35% bonus!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Report Card - Fall Semester
Student: STRS Retirement Board
Teacher: Richard DeColibus
Gender: Mixed
Current GPA: 1.83
Date: 12 Dec 08
Subject: Mathematics..... Grade: C+
Comments: Does a nice job getting data organized and collated. Understands the necessity of accurate information. Very weak on estimation and prediction.
Subject: English..... Grade: C
Comments: Newsletter writing is clear and unobtrusive. However, some passages in essays are clearly opinions disguised as facts, and obviously manipulative. Masterful ability to write with technical accuracy while concealing unpleasant realities.
Subject: Personal Relations..... Grade: A+
Comments: All STRS personnel seem to be exceptionally personable, willing to be gracious in the face of disagreements, and polite. Couldn't be better.
Subject: Economics 101..... Grade: F+
Comments: While a few bright spots remain, the facts are horrific, namely:
(a) Total Fund Market Value..........May 2008: $74,634,000,000
(b) Total Fund Market Value..Nov. (est.) 2008: $51,460,000,000
(c) Loss of Market Value over 7 months:.........$23,174,000,000
Subject: Personal Responsibility..... Grade: F
Comments: Student's explanation for failure in Econ 101 is that STRS is merely a helpless leaf caught in a rushing torrent of flood water losses on Wall Street, and no one is to blame. Your instructor would like to point out someone had to decide which stocks and bonds to buy, and someone had to decide which stocks and bonds to sell, and when it was all that happened. Your instructor believes that is called accountability. If we are merely a leaf caught in the current, then the investment department has no reason to exist. If the investment department did the investing, then it seems logical it should be responsible for the results. The fact is, each investment associate lost an average of 1.82 ($126,847 v. $70,000) times as much money as his bonus was, and did it every single day for seven straight months. Maybe it's time for the leaf to start rowing.
Subject: Debate (Advanced)..... Grade: B+
Comments: The argument we should pay the investment associates a bonus averaging $70,000 each, while losing $30 billion of asset value, is utterly brilliant. Never in the history of modern debate has a student taken such a completely illogical and ludicrous position, and then refused to reconsider despite being drowned in an avalanche of facts, figures, and other information, all to the contrary. Student will be nominated for the "I Don't Care What the Facts Are" Modern Debate Award. Competition is stiff since so many members of Congress are also in the running. Student is encouraged to listen to the other side of the debate, not just leave the lectern and go home after speaking.
Subject: Health..... Grade: Inc.
Comment: Given the losses above, we shall see what state our Health Care Stabilization Fund is in soon. It used to be good until 2021. No doubt, if we have invested wisely, that number is still good and, hopefully, destined to go up.

Donna Seaman to STRS Board: What are you thinking?

From Donna Seaman, December 10, 2008
Subject: "tweaking"
Board members: What are you people thinking of? Do you pay any attention at all to the e mails and contacts from retired teachers (Personally I have had virtually no responses from you!) Do you ever hear us or listen to our suggestions or concerns? Are you taking any of your fiduciary responsibilities seriously? Will it always be a continuation of the status quo?
According to Tuesday's Columbus Dispatch (Dec. 9): "One board member of the retirement system, retired Chillicothe schools Superintendent Dennis Leone, wants to scrap the bonuses in years when the fund loses money. But others defend the bonuses as the best way to encourage good performance. . . . Leone suggested suspending the payments beginning Jan. 1, but the idea found no support among fellow board members."
I observe your behavior at your monthly board meetings, but still I cannot believe it! You continue to ignore Dr. Leone's suggestions and leadership; instead you disregard his solutions and occasionally even ridicule him! And he is the only STRS board member genuinely concerned about retirees!
Dr. Leone's suggestions at your Monday sub-committee meeting which met to "tweak" the performance benefit incentive program received virtually no support from other board or committee members in attendance. That is shameful!
Why are you listening to suggestions from the investment department? Well, hello, why would they suggest eliminating or reducing their own bonuses?
As I have written before, you, the board, initiated the pbi policy. You, the board, can abolish it. Consider it!
Donna Seaman, 2002 retiree
(These opinions are my own and do not reflect those of any organization.)
Click image to enlarge.

Evelyn Cuthbert: This board a gnat's eyelash away from.....

From Evelyn Cuthbert, December 10, 2008
Subject: RE: Dispatch coverage of STRS bonuses
How in the world would giving bonuses to people who lost money encourage good performance? Seems to me the geniuses on the board are doing the opposite. If I were to get money for failure, why would I need to do better for a slightly bigger bonus..........I think not. This is so sickening. This board is a gnat's eyelash away from the board that thought the fund was their money.

Rich DeColibus: Links to letters, articles, etc.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Dispatch coverage of STRS bonuses

Pension fund's bonuses debated
Columbus Dispatch, December 9, 2008
By James Nash
Leaders of the pension system for retired Ohio teachers took a few tentative steps yesterday toward tweaking a system that funneled $6 million in bonuses to investment officers even as the pension fund lost billions of dollars in value.
The bonuses, topping out at $259,200 for one senior investment manager, have outraged some retired teachers at a time when pension systems are suffering because of the Wall Street downturn.
In all, the State Teachers Retirement System, which serves 449,000 current and retired teachers, paid $6 million in bonuses to 89 investment officers this year, with 10 making $200,000 or more.
Last year, when the pension system made money, investment officers took home $8.2 million in bonuses.
One board member of the retirement system, retired Chillicothe schools Superintendent Dennis Leone, wants to scrap the bonuses in years when the fund loses money.
But others defend the bonuses as the best way to encourage good performance.
During a meeting yesterday of a committee studying the bonuses, Leone suggested suspending the payments beginning Jan. 1, but his idea found no support among fellow board members.
Board member Steven Puckett, a former assistant state superintendent of public instruction, said he's willing to explore changes but does not want to act rashly.
"My concern is that the board will make a premature left turn into a strategy that will result in lower fund performance and therefore risk jeopardizing benefits to our retirees," Puckett said.
The State Teachers Retirement System is Ohio's second-largest public pension fund but is by far the most generous with bonuses. That's because most of its investments are managed in-house, officials with the fund say.
The system is structured to pay bonuses even in down years, as long as the teachers' investments fare better than the market as a whole.
The $6 million in bonuses for the fiscal year ended June 30 came because the pension fund lost 5.44 percent of its value, whereas the market as a whole lost
5.79 percent, pension officials said. By doing better than the market as a whole, the investment staff saved $215 million, according to the system's calculations.
While most pension leaders said they were unwilling to dump the bonuses, even in down years, some said the payments could be lowered, with the possibility of reciprocal increases in bonuses during rich years.
Consultants and pension officials are to explore the options during the next month.
Click image to enlarge.

Want to see how much our pension fund is worth?

Click image to enlarge.
Figures as of 12/9/08

Psssst...wanna read a REAL retirees' association newsletter?

From John Curry, December 7, 2008
Pay particular attention to John Gilchrist's Legislative report on page 2 (continued on page 6). This organization has some teeth and cajonas! John

Molly Janczyk: Questions re: STRS Board appointments

From Molly Janczyk, December 8, 2008
Subject: State Super Rep and 2 Investment Appointees
I have been told the STRS Exec Direc has met with the Gov. office regarding the Gov. STRS appointee to the STRS Board.
2. Is the State Super going to appoint a new rep or keep Puckett who is entrenched in OEA voting patterns?
WHO holds them accountable for following the placements according to SB 133???
Molly J.

Evelyn Cuthbert to Molly Janczyk: Is Dennis running for STRS Board again?

From Molly Janczyk, December 8, 2008
Subject: RE: So...who has taken out a petition to run for STRS Board so far??? You may find some names familiar!
One of the more succinct replies.
No, Dennis is not.
From Evelyn Cuthbert, December 8, 2008
Subject: RE: So...who has taken out a petition to run for STRS Board so far??? You may find some names familiar!
Heaven help Dennis running again?

So...who has taken out a petition to run for STRS Board so far??? You may find some names familiar!

From Molly Janczyk, December 8, 2008
Subject: FW: So...who has taken out a petition to run for STRS Board so far??? You may find some names familiar!
Jim McGreevy applied for candidacy for a retiree seat on the STRS Board. Jim is a nice man. I am sure he is a good man. BUT, Jim is entrenched in OEA directives and positions. I feel Jim will add a firm and solid vote for all things OEA sanctioned. He will, in my opinion, provide little debate for positions sought by Ramser, Meuser, Myers and Chapman (who will probably run. I hear Mary Ann Cervantes has little heart to continue). There will be a wall of block votes in the same mentality, I strongly feel. Over the years of debate with Jim, he has remained completely and staunchly behind OEA and OEA-R on their positions.
OEA will stand for Jim and put all their resources behind him. I feel sure ORTA will support Jim whether openly or behind the scenes. No doubt CEA and OFT will certainly not oppose if they don't also come out for him. I have no doubt he will win the election. If Tim Myers could win, Jim will be a shoe in. With all the organizations supporting a candidate, individual independent candidates stand little chance. I personally like Jim. But, I feel he is unable to see outside - beyond the OEA walls always finding reasons for any bad behavior on their part. I do feel he feels he always tries to do the right thing. I question that he can really see beyond the decades of entrenched OEA policy, however. My opinion only.
Laura Ecklar to Tom Curtis, December 8, 2008
Subject: Election Question
Good morning, Mr. Curtis. Your e-mail to Eileen Boles was forwarded to me as I oversee the Retirement Board elections. I have attached a list of individuals who have requested petitions for the upcoming Retirement Board elections as of Dec. 5. There may be additional petition requests; in addition, I anticipate that some individuals will drop out. At this time, no incumbents have requested petitions. The deadline for the return of petitions to STRS Ohio is Feb. 27, 2009. I hope I have answered your questions. Thanks!
Requests for Retirement Board Election Petitions (as of Dec. 5, 2008)
Contributing Member Seat
Sharon Enright
256 Fenway Road
Columbus, OH 43214
Work phone: 644-6814
Employer: Ohio Department of Education

Retiree Seats
Tony Armocida
3980 Beachwood Drive
Bellbrook, OH 45305
Phone: 937-848-2254/937-532-6809
Ruby Burney Bell
88 Dodge Ave.
Akron, OH 44302
Phone: 330-253-5438
David (Kim) Bonewit
P.O. Box 1
The Plains, OH 45780
Phone: 740-541-3768
Ron Brahler
2005 Red Coach NW
North Canton, OH 44720
Phone: 330-309-0636
Wallace Chandler
1191 E. 22nd Ave.
Columbus, OH 43211
Phone: 614-532-5741
Cell phone: 614-204-7498
Dave Gaskell
P.O. Box 54147
Cincinnati, OH 45254
Phone: 513-646-0740
Ronald R. Green
12739 Orville St. NW
North Lawrence, OH 44666
Phone: 330-832-3267
James McGreevy
5150 Wilshire Drive
Zanesville, OH 43701
Phone: 740-455-3550
Jim Robertson
1680 Morgan St.
Wooster, OH 44691
Phone: 330-263-0129
Paul E. Sallada Jr. (Withdrawn)
4418 Pinecroft Drive
Cincinnati, OH 45211
Phone: 513-244-4819
Bob Stein
9708 Fair Road
Strongsville, OH 44149
Phone: 440-234-0274
Maureen Weissenrieder
3 Hillcrest St.
Athens, OH 45701
Phone: 740-592-6108

Jim Wagner and Molly Janczyk re: Decisions!

From Molly Janczyk, December 8, 2008
Subject: RE: Decisions!
Times have changed. All businesses and pension systems need to reflect the current downturn with sensitivity and cutbacks in operations. The BIG 3 auto companies have been forced to accept this and so should every type of employer along with their employees. To do otherwise shows harsh distinction and greed to shareholders hurting, trying to find employment, struggling to survive. It matters not what business practices are during opulent past inflated times.
From Jim Wagner, December 8, 2008
Subject: RE: Decisions!
Molly, Donna's comments [Donna Seaman to Nehf and Board: Decisions!, posted 12/7/08] reflect my opinion exactly. I am just old enough to remember the BIG DEPRESSION. There are many differences: one is the large number of us who are retired. Every step that we take to endanger that stability takes us one step closer to a Big One. We are already headed in that direction. We must STOP until we can get turned around.
Jim Wagner
(retired '85)

Tom Curtis: Letter to STRS Board

From Tom Curtis, December 9, 2008
Subject: 120908 Curtis To STRS Board
Board members,
As time passes, it becomes blatantly clear to many stakeholders that all but one of you cannot make a decision unless someone else (management) makes it for you. You obviously are not listening to your stakeholders and the people that support our schools, the taxpayer.
This indecisiveness continues to substantiate my statement to many of you personally. You do not have an adequate background and the knowledge about business and finance to be on the STRS board. It also appears that you do not even possess good common sense. Tough times call for tough decisions and none of you seem to have the heart for it.
It is worth expressing once again; the majority of you are there because two unions, the OEA/OFT personally and financially backed your election, which resulted in your being elected. You did not and would not have been elected to a board based upon your credentials. This is a very sad scenario and has cost our pension fund dearly for many decades now.
The apathy of most educators, concerning the election of our board members and the operation of the STRS, has placed our pension system at the doorstep of possible extinction for those actives in the profession.
With few stakeholders' realizing it, our health care stabilization fund is probably near extinction, at this very date. When that is gone, how much stress will that place on those who depend on that health care system for their only possible medical care existence?
That possible result can be squarely attributed to the lack of leadership and vision of the OEA. Their elected representatives, who have held the majority vote on the STRS board for decades, have failed to find the dedicated flow of income needed to support the health care stabilization fund. Collectively, they have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of our funds supposedly being educated about such. We certainly did not get value for our dollars spent in this scenario, did we?
The OEA/OFT/STRS certainly know how to spend the dedicated flow of income they receive through educators' payroll deductions, but have little concept of how to adequately fund the retirement and health care system.
This is a travesty! I hold each of you responsible! Either lead, follow good leadership, or get out of the way!
Thomas Curtis, ret. 1998

John Bos: Numbers for Tim Myers

John Bos to Tim Myers, December 7, 2008
Subject: "Better off" addendum***CORRECTED This is a verbatim email that I received from one of my brokers regarding 9/11 market compared to today.
Here is the ENTIRE message that was sent to me. Regardless of whether I heard you correctly or incorrectly, we have a MAJOR PROBLEM with STRS Assets. I hope that this market turns around quickly. STRS Associates can make all of the statements regarding the market turning. I agree that it will probably turn quickly and decisively, but there is no guarantee. We have a big mess that has been created by Wall Street, Washington, Greed, and yes, Columbus. This message is not sent to be hostile, but rather to show you that many ot hers have MAJOR concerns regarding the United States Economy.
I hope that these statistics help you to understand the issues regarding the "CRISIS" that we all face You, Me, and STRS!!!!!!
I am working on several other projects regarding STRS and will share them with you and others in the near future. I need data from Mr. Nehf to complete the new project.
John Bos

Subject: FW: "Better off" addendum***CORRECTED
While the September 11, 2001 attacks did have a heavy emotional and economic impact, I too have to agree with you that what we are living through now is much worse. It could be that I feel the impact of the 09.11.01 attacks were somewhat geographically localized. This is not.
If you remember, the markets did not open on September 11, and the markets remained closed until September 17.& nbsp; When the markets opened, the DJIA was off 684 points. That represented a 7.1% decline. By the end of the week, the DJIA had fallen 1369.7 points or 14.3 percent. We often see how the attacks hampered New York City's productivity, infrastructure and economy. Today, we are dealing with historic declines in productivity, economy, housing and manufacturing for this country as well as the global community.
[Click images to enlarge.]

As far as being "better off now (as of the October downturn than we were prior to 9/11" 2001, I cannot find one statistical measure that would validate his statement. Even today's ISM factory index contracted in November at the fastest pace in 26 years. The ISM factory index dropped to 36.2, the lowest level since 1982. Maybe it is the unemployment number of 6.5% to which he is referring. Although unemployment is now higher than the peak following the last recession in 2001, it is still well below the peak unemployment rate during the 73-75 recession when it peaked at 9%; or, the 10.8% we experienced in 81-82. It is currently still below the 7.6% average peak during the ten recessions in the past 60 years Consumer confidence as measured by the Conference Board dropped in October to the lowest level since their survey began in 1967. This just means that consumers are feeling worse than they did during other eco nomic cycles when unemployment was much higher and inflation was a big problem. I do not recall the credit markets seizing in September 2001. The Federal Reserve and the United States Treasury were not in the markets daily.
The twenty-four completed bear markets saw an average decline of 36.7% and an average length of 15.8 months. Post WWII, there have been eleven completed bear markets with an average decline of nearly 29.3% and 14.1 months in length. The current bear market that began in October 2007 has now declined 42.3% (this figure is as of mid-November) and has lasted 12.7 months.
I do not mean to be a doom and gloomer, as I remain optimistic and hopeful in the leadership of the United States of America and in the people with whom we share this great nation. I hope that I have provided to you some information to formulate a counter to his broad based and nebulous "better off" comment.
You can't control the markets. Let's talk soon about what you can control.
...~Kathleen Stephan, Wachovia Securities, LLC
The information expressed herein has been obtained from sources believed reliable, but are not necessarily complete and can not be guaranteed.
*** This is the addendum that he sent me objecting to my original wording.
The correct statement is that “we are better off now (as of the October downturn) than we were prior to 9/11.” Please make that correction in your question to the blind cc’d recipients.
Your email address on this communication is blind intentionally. I had a meeting on Saturday afternoon with a board member of the Ohio State Teachers Retirement System (Mr. Tim Myers) who is a resident of the Lima Area.
He made a statement that I would like you to respond. According to Tim Myers, the recent correction in the market (drop, or whatever other term you wish to use) has been much less than the reaction to the 9/11 incident. I do not agree with his statement. My reason is that this correction has been a long, slow, and broad change that appears to extend into the future. The 9/11 correction was a quick drop and a quick recovery. Was the 9/11 market drop to a lower level that the current 2008 bottom? Obviously neither you, nor the STRS Board Member, or I know if we have indeed reached the bottom of this current market. There are a lot of issues that are on the table and probably a few that are under the table. I do not recall the massive government intervention following the 9/11 terrorist attack on America. Perhaps my memory is fading in the twilight of my life.
Please give me your reaction to his evaluation of the market changes. I request that your "evaluation" be honest and able to substantiate with valid statistics that defend your position. Your response will be shared with others but your name and title will be kept confidential. There is a possibility that your response will be printed for many others to read on the Internet. You are welcome to consult or copy information from your investment staff to reply more accurately to my request.
Thanks for your kindness in helping me to better understand the "expertise" of the new Ohio State Teacher Retirement System Board Member.
I also wish to thank you for your personal assistance to my wife and myself during the past 12 months. This has not been an easy time for your profession, for STRS Ohio, or for me as a private investor.
John Bos
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