Saturday, April 11, 2009

Dennis Leone: Wait till the active teachers find out (OEA)

From Dennis Leone, April 11, 2009
Subject: RE: Letters: Stop the STRS Board
I have received 207 letters and emails in the past 4 weeks from ACTIVE STRS members, and 206 of them oppose ANY bonus checks going to STRS staff in years that we lose money in the stock market. Jim Stoll is correct: The board soon will be voting on $3.3 million in bonuses for the current fiscal year. Many of these bonuses will be in excess of $100,000. And these bonuses will be for an investment staff that ALSO receives a average base salary of over $150,000 (plus spectacular benefits) – no matter how poorly STRS does in the stock market. I get a little tired of the “please don’t blame ME” attitude of the investment staff members when the stock market goes down and STRS assets go down. However, they sure expect to be thanked and rewarded with gigantic bonus checks if the stock market goes up and STRS assets go up. Perhaps the time has come, in the event the Board awards FY 2009 bonuses, for legislation to be pursued that will put a stop to it in the future in times like these.
OEA says it supports a bonus suspension and doesn’t want bonuses awarded in down years, but it also says it is proud of the very OEA-backed board members (Meuser, Myers, Ramser) who publicly did NOT support these STRS actions. Wait until active teachers find out the truth about this. OEA is now doing the same thing it did in 2003 when it embarrassed itself by writing that assertions of board/staff wasteful spending were “destructive” and were “misrepresentations.”
Dennis Leone

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Laura Ecklar responds to Lloyd Knudsen re: space for write-in candidates

From Laura Ecklar, April 11, 2009
Subject: RE: STRS elections
Thank you for your e-mail. There is a place for write-in candidates on the ballot because it is required in Section 3307.07 of the Ohio Revised Code. As you might imagine, out of the thousands of votes cast in Retirement Board elections, there are very few write-ins. I hope this answers your question. Have a great weekend!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Lloyd Knudsen to Mike Nehf and STRS Board: Why the space for write-in candidates (and other ballot snafus)?

From Lloyd Knudsen, April 10, 2009
STRS elections
To our STRS Executive Director and Board,
Once again STRS retirees are receiving election ballots from VR Election Services. How many STRS elections do we have to have to get a ballot that does NOT include spaces for "write-in" candidates. There is no such thing as a write-in candidate for an STRS Board election, correct? Either you have qualified for the ballot by getting at least the minimum number of required member signatures or you have not, correct?
Is it VR Elections or STRS that can't seem to get this ballot thing right?
Voting is hard enough for us "old" people without bogus write-in spaces and directions that state completely fill in the box, don't use just a dot in the box, don't put a check in the box or don't put an x in the box. If these directions don't persuade members to vote by phone or over the internet, I don't know what will.
One final thought. Is there maybe an Ohio-based company out there that does elections? If there is -- I think we should give them a try. Unless the problem is us and not them!
Lloyd Knudsen
STRS retiree

A Word of Caution re: STRS election for retired seats

From John Curry, April 10, 2009
Some retirees are writing in the name of Jim Stoll on the "retired" ballot. Even though CORE understands the popularity of Jim Stoll, the fact is that retirees can't vote for Jim as he is not a candidate for the "Retired" open seat (2) on the board. Jim can only be voted for by "active" educators!
Also, when voting by paper ballot, make sure to blacken (black pen or soft lead pencil) in the box associated with the candidate and DO NOT USE AN "X" OR A CHECKMARK IN THE SQUARE ON THIS BALLOT. This has led to some confusion among voters. If you vote using the phone option, your vote can't be misconstrued.

Bob Stein on bonuses

From Bob Stein, April 10, 2009
[Quoting from a previous e-mail]
Bob's website:
I would have voted to eliminate the current PBI plan but I would also seek to eliminate the process that created it in the first place. The current plan was ill-conceived and the board should have known as much at first reading. The PBI plan set indexed goals and left unstated that the board and members expected an absolute positive return. The entire compensation package, including PBIs, should be revised. It should be understandable to both the members and the investment staff and reflect the fact that the members expect positive returns before bonuses are paid. I personally have no problem paying a staff of rare and highly qualified people for outstanding performance in any field. I have tipped people in just about every field for exceptional work -- contractors and doctors generally are surprised. But, given the right tools, investment staff should be able to consistently make money in any market condition. I understand an occasional moderately losing year or two as long as there is a reasonable plan to ameliorate the situation. I become very concerned when we take a 40% loss and then I hear STRS representatives say in presentations that "this economic situation is unprecedented" and "nobody saw this coming", but conclude that "everything is OK because losses like this were part of our plan". When people put statements like these together it is fairly clear that they are engaging in a delusion of attribution and they probably don't understand the "plan" that they apparently think they have. Was it part of the plan to drive the fund to periodically to the point of fiscal emergency? If investment staff can produce high and consistent returns under the conditions outlined above then they deserve good pay and bonuses voted on a year to year basis, probably at year end. If they can not, we need to make changes in their education, methodologies, or the staff. (...)
Long-term investment strategy is my campaign focus because it is the single area of experience and training that clearly differentiates me from the other candidates. It is a single issue that nearly everyone agrees is an area of STRS under-performance and the one that will make or break STRS over the next five years. Failed STRS investments = No health care, No expense discussions, No COLA discussions, problems paying pensions, etc.
Note: Bob website also includes his statement regarding bonuses.

April CORE meeting to be held Friday, April 24, 2009

From Mary Ellen Angeletti, April 10, 2009
Once again the STRS meeting agenda for April is UNCERTAIN! No information has yet been released by STRS other than the fact that the meetings will be held the week of April 19th. We do not have word on what topics will be discussed on what days. However, we have heard a rumor that the two topics of most interest to retirees (Health Care issues and Staff Benefits (bonuses) will be scheduled on Friday, April 24th. For this reason, we plan to hold our April CORE meeting on FRIDAY, April 24th.
We made this decision in the interest of giving our members as much time as possible to plan for the changes from our usual CORE meeting day. So CORE (Concerned Ohio Retired Educators) will hold its April meeting on FRIDAY, April 24th at the STRS Building at 275 East Broad Street in Columbus. Parking is free in the STRS parking garage behind the building. Map/directions to STRS, 275 E. Broad St. Columbus, OH 43215
We encourage you to attend the regular STRS meeting which usually begins at 9:00 a.m. in the meeting room on the 6th floor but this beginning time varies from month to month. For this reason, we encourage you to check the STRS website ( to confirm the time & the agenda. It is assumed that the Thursday, April 23rd STRS meeting will occur at the usual 9:00 a.m. time BUT we suggest you check this information on the STRS website if you plan to attend the Thursday STRS meeting. We also encourage those attending on Thursday to sign up to speak during Public Participation.
CORE meeting attendees usually leave the STRS meeting around 11:30 in order to go to the cafeteria on the 2nd floor to get our lunches. We then take our lunches to the small cafeteria room behind the Sublett Room where the CORE meeting will begin promptly at 11:45 on FRIDAY.
If you have suggestions for the April CORE meeting agenda, please let John Curry know ( He will relay this information to CORE President, Dave Parshall.
At this meeting, CORE plans to hold important discussions with the membership concerning STRS Board election updates and email voting which have occurred mid-month by the CORE trustees and officers. Plan to attend and bring a friend. STRS Board election flyers and CORE pamphlets will be available. Visitors are always welcome!
If you cannot attend the Thursday or the Friday STRS meetings, please phone Laura Ecklar at STRS at 614-227-4077 or email her at to request the recorded CDs of the STRS meetings which she will send to you.
Link to CORE membership registration form:

Missouri's counterpart to the 'old' Ohio STRS model...

From John Curry, April 10, 2009
Those involved in and/or familiar with the Leone-initiated reform at Ohio STRS will certainly crack a smile when they read about another retirement system housecleaning in its infancy stage. At least now we can almost say, "Been there, done that!" Almost......but not quite!
Bonuses given to all employees at Mo. state agency
Friday, Apr. 10 2009
JEFFERSON CITY — Investment staff members weren't the only employees at the state government's pension system who received bonuses last year.
All 72 employees at the Missouri State Employees Retirement System — from the records equipment operator to the deputy director for operations — drew bonuses, even as the system's stock market losses mounted.
The 58 operations staffers received about $160,000 in one-time "incentive payments" last June. Employees got the money — up to 10 percent of their salaries — if they and the agency met certain targets, such as processing pension applications promptly.
The Post-Dispatch reported Sunday that the system's 14-member investment team pulled down $300,000 in bonuses in February. Last year, the system's investments lost $1.8 billion. But the portfolio fared better than the market over the last five years, triggering the payments.
The bonuses surprised Gov. Jay Nixon and have cast a spotlight on the obscure agency, known as MOSERS. While funded from tax dollars, it operates without the usual public scrutiny.
Its salaries are not listed with state employees' wages in the Official Manual or the online Missouri Accountability Portal. Legislators have little say over the agency's operating budget.
Critics are calling for more oversight and transparency. Nixon has vowed to change the "smoky system" that shielded the employees' bonuses from public view.
"They get state health care, they get benefits from the state, they manage public money," Nixon said. "Setting up a smoky system where they get to hide behind some odd bonus program does not comport itself to the openness that government service should have."
Both Nixon and Senate Appropriations Chairman Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, said they opposed rewarding administrators when the pension fund lost 23.9 percent of its value. This week, Nodler's committee reduced MOSERS' appropriation by $300,000 to send a message that the bonuses were inappropriate.
Headquartered in a modern building outside Jefferson City, MOSERS usually draws little attention. The Legislature sets pension levels, but an independent,
11-member board oversees the system, which covers about 55,000 state employees and 30,000 retirees.
State employees make no contributions to their pensions. The system is funded entirely from tax money and investment income. Thus, taxpayers pay more when stock market returns decline.
State law requires the Legislature to appropriate enough money to pay the pensions. The board sets the amount, expressed as a percentage of the state payroll for participating employees. Next year it is 12.75 percent, or about $260 million. Folded into that budget is about $7 million for salaries and benefits for the staff members who run the program.
MOSERS officials contend that by setting goals and awarding bonuses, the agency is following a successful business model that helps retain talented employees and improve performance.
"Having some portion of your pay at risk is a motivator," said Gary Findlay, executive director of MOSERS. The bonuses "aren't a gimme. It's something people really have to earn."
Findlay cited surveys that have ranked the agency at the top of similar systems for customer service and cost-efficiency. The surveys measure everything from how many newsletters are sent each year (four) to how long callers must wait when they telephone the agency (65 seconds).
But at a time when the term "bonus" is a dirty word nationally because of executive pay at bailed-out companies, the pay boosts have hit a nerve in the Capitol. Because of declining tax revenue, the state's rank-and-file employees will get no raises in the next budget year.
Some legislators said MOSERS should be brought in line with the rest of state government.
"It's not good to treat those (MOSERS) state employees fundamentally differently from other state employees," said Democratic Rep. Chris Kelly of Columbia, a member of the House Budget Committee. "There is widespread concern about that."
Most state agencies have no authority to give out bonuses. Their workers are part of the merit system, which uses a standardized pay grid.
MOSERS, by contrast, sets its pay levels and conducts a market study every other year to update salaries to keep them competitive.
For example, last year, Deputy Director Karen Stohlgren got an 18.7 percent raise. Her salary now is $127,847. The across-the-board raise for the state rank and file, signed by then-Gov. Matt Blunt, was 3 percent.
Stohlgren also got the largest bonus of all the operations employees last June — $10,767.
The bonuses for operations staff began in 2005. A different program rewards investment staff for beating a market benchmark. Over five years, Missouri's annualized return was 3.9 percent; the benchmark was 1.84 percent.
The investment staff got bonuses in February. The largest check went to Chief Investment Officer Rick Dahl, whose bonus of $114,000 was half of his regular salary of $228,000.
Board members said Dahl is well worth the money.
"I've just got all the faith in the world in him," said Rep. Bill Deeken, R-Jefferson City, and one of four legislators on the board. "When the bottom falls out of everything and we still do better than anybody else, there's a reason for that."
At least one other state agency offered performance-based incentives this year. The constitutionally independent Missouri Department of Transportation distributed $1.5 million to 16 percent of its staff members, who were deemed "exceptional" or "outstanding." The average bonus was $1,348.
At MOSERS, Findlay, the executive director, said incentives help maintain a stable staff, avoiding the high cost of constantly retraining employees. Turnover this year is running only 4 percent.
Sen. Tim Green, D-Spanish Lake, a MOSERS board member, wasn't surprised.
"The thing I have learned is, that's the place people want to work," Green said. Along with the Conservation Department, which benefits from an earmarked tax, MOSERS is known for "the dream jobs in state government."

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Tom Curtis on ORSC report: Another reason to vote for Jim Stoll and Bob Stein

From Tom Curtis, April 9, 2009
Subject: 040909 ORSC Comparison of STRS investment performance!
Hello STRS Stakeholders,
The information below is really interesting. [] The STRS paid the 89 investment staff employees roughly $6 million dollars in bonuses recently. This amount is huge compared to what the investment people were paid at the other 4 Ohio pension systems.
Actually, there is little comparison. 3 of the other four do not have an in house investment staff. OPERS, who has twice as many stakeholders as does STRS, paid their investment people roughly 1 million in bonuses. OPERS did not lose as much value as did the STRS.
Now look at the performance from these STRS investors, compared to the other 4.
Need I say more?
Please keep in mind that 5 union-supported board members (3 OEA & 2 OFT) voted NOT to suspend the bonuses. What are these board members thinking? It is time for change on the STRS board.
I urge you to vote and to contact others and ask them to vote for the two non-union supported candidates.
Jim Stoll for actives
Bob Stein for retirees

Labels: , , , , , ,

Tiberi, Jordan would prevent some Ohio retirees from paying unexpected taxes

Error In “Making Work Pay Tax Credit” Will Cause Unexpected Taxes For Pension Recipients
E-mail communication from U.S. Congressman Pat Tiberi
April 9, 2009
U.S. Congressman Pat Tiberi (R-OH) recently joined U.S. Congressman Jim Jordan (R-OH) in sending a letter to U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-NY), with copies sent to IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman and Ways and Means Ranking Member Dave Camp (R-MI), regarding an unintended consequence of the implementation of the new “Making Work Pay” tax credit.
This consequence came to light after IRS officials released to employers the new withholding tables to implement the credit. Withholding tables indicate the amount of payroll tax that should be withheld from an employee’s paycheck. The IRS also instructed that the new tables be used for withholding tax on pensions. Under the law however, the “Making Work Pay” tax credit does not apply to pension payments.
“This is another unintended consequence of Democrats pushing through the Stimulus so fast. No one had a chance to read it and fully understand what was in the bill,” said Congressman Tiberi. “If we don’t fix this now, millions of retirees that receive pensions will get a larger than expected bill come tax time next year and that’s just not right! Pension recipients will receive the credit, even though they are not supposed to and then come April 15th the tax man will demand they pay it back. We’ve got to fix this, that’s why Congressman Jim Jordan and I are sending a letter to Secretary Geithner, and Chairman Rangel asking them to rectify the situation as soon as possible.”
The National Education Association, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, and other pension systems also wish to see a quick resolution to this problem.
The “Making Work Pay” tax credit was included in the 2009 Stimulus bill that was signed into law earlier this year. The text of the bill numbered more than 1,000 pages and was only made available to members for few hours before the final vote was called.

Ballot Information from STRS

From Laura Ecklar, April 9, 2009
Subject: Blog Posting
Dear Ms. Bracy,
It has come to my attention that there is a posting on your blog from Lenora Wood regarding the Retirement Board election. In it, she incorrectly states that if voters mark their ballots with an “X” or a “check mark,” the vote will not be counted.
VR Election Services prefers that the voting box be completely filled in by pencil or black ink because this facilitates the scanning of the votes. However, check marks and an “X” can also be read by the scanner. In addition, after each mail ballot is electronically scanned, it is also physically looked at by a VR Election Services employee, who compares the actual ballot with the scanner report to ensure each vote was correctly recorded.
Finally, when the board of tellers meets at STRS Ohio following the conclusion of the election, the tellers have an opportunity to spot-check mail ballots with the voting reports.
I hope that any further questions about the election will be directed to me so that we can ensure correct information is provided to STRS Ohio members.
Thank you for your consideration.
Laura Ecklar
Director, Communication Services

Ryan Holderman responds to Laura Ecklar re: Ballots

From Ryan Holderman, April 9, 2009
Subject: Ballot concerns
Dear Ms. Ecklar:
Thank you for your clarification of the concerns expressed about the STRS Board ballots.
As you can see from the attached scan, Dr. Wood's concerns about the counting of the ballots was certainly justifiable. The examples provided on the ballot clearly state that a completely darkened square is "right" and that a check mark, X or dot are "wrong".
Given the intense scrutiny that elections have come under in recent years, it should not be surprising that one would assume that a ballot marked in the "wrong" manner would be disqualified.
The squares containing Xs on both the front and rear of the return added to the confusion.
I would suggest that the Election Committee forward the concerns raised by Dr. Wood to VR Election Services.
Ryan Holderman
Click image to enlarge

ORSC comparison study: STRS investment performance a real eye-opener -- and they STILL get huge bonuses? Something's wrong with this picture!

From Ryan Holderman, April 8, 2009
Subject: ORSC Comparision of STRS investment performance!
Dear One & All:
The attached chart was released today by the Ohio Retirement Study Council, the group that oversees all five of Ohio's public retirement systems.
It compares the investment performance of each group over the following past intervals:
.....2 Quarters (STRS came in 5th)
.....1 Year (STRS came in 5th)
.....3 Years (STRS came in 4th)
.....5 Years (STRS came in 1st)
...10 Years (STRS came in 2nd)
It is also worth noting that this report covers the periods ending December 31, 2008. One can only imagine what effect the losses of the past three months have had!
This makes it even more difficult to understand why the STRS Board voted only to suspend performance based incentive bonuses rather than eliminating them as STRS Board candidate Jim Stoll has pointed out, "The Board, however, voted only to "suspend" (as opposed to eliminate) these outrageous bonuses, which topped out at $259,200 for one of our Investment Associates. It has come to my attention that many members are under the misconception that the bonuses have been eliminated – this is not true. In fact, the Board is planning to pay "7/12" of the 2009 Bonuses in September 2009 (some as high as $165,000) .......... for losing more than thirty billion dollars ($30,000,000,000) of our pension assets."
We need candidates who are willing to speak out, like Jim Stoll and Bob Stein, on the STRS Board!
Click image to enlarge. (page 69)

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

ORSC Comparative Performance Study Released Today: Where does Ohio STRS stand?

From John Curry, April 8, 2009
Where does Ohio STRS stand in comparison to Ohio's other retirement systems? Here's the report released today by the Ohio Retirement Study Council. Note, It is a 90+ page study in Adobe Acrobat form. It took me about 3 seconds to download on my high speed connection. I would estimate that, with a telephone modem, it would take several minutes. This is good reading. Here is the link:

Shirlee Zerkel to Mary Ann Cervantes: Please explain your stand

From Shirlee Zerkel, April 8, 2009
Subject: PBIs, bonuses, retention money!
Dear Ms. Cervantes:
At a time in our economy when bonuses that corporations give are frowned upon by all, STRS is still discussing and giving bonuses and raises to some staff members with the reasons being given as value -added, exceeding the benchmark, or retention.
I am puzzled and angry by your opposition to the suspension of investment staff PBIs in the present economic climate. You only changed your vote after Mr. Nehf said that he could live with it. This tells me that you are more interested in taking care of the STRS staff than following the ORC and doing what is right for the retirement system and the retirees.
I also noted that you voted 'no' to the motion that staff put in a 40 hour week at the same pay. Why aren't these suitable measures to take when other employers in the country are laying off staff, reducing wages, freezing bonuses in order to stay afloat, yet it appears that you and some other board members do not want the STRS staff touched in any way by this downturn.
Get real! The system has lost 33 billion dollars of our total assets. We, according to the staff, have to cut retiree health care by $81 million for the year 2010. Our pensions at this point in time are not secure! But STRS staff and board hold many discussions about bonuses, raises, etc for the staff. But when the STRS staff presents cuts in benefits to the retirees, I hear no questions or discussion on the topic from you. It appears to be 'let's follow what the staff says is needed.'
You were elected to the board to be the watchdog of the teachers' funds, not give bonuses to the staff and watch the retirement system go down the tubes. By trying so hard to be a good board member to the staff, you are screwing yourself and your fellow educators out of benefits and maybe even a future pension.
If the above is not the reason for your opposition, please explain your stand to me, other retirees and actives.
Shirlee Zerkel
From Jim Stoll, April 8, 2009
GM General Motors - Lost 22 Billion - Fired CEO Rick Waggoner and probably bankrupt
Bernie Madoff - Lost 60 Billion - Going to Jail for a Long Time.
STRS - Lost 33 Billion - Giving 83 Investment Associates Huge Bonuses.......
Are we the only ones who see a problem here?

Labels: , , , , ,

Dennis Leone: ORTA has been invisible

From Dennis Leone, April 8, 2009
Subject: Re: An open letter to Ann Hanning, Exec. Dir. of ORTA
What's worse, Bob, is this: In the past 4 years, I have advanced some 12-15 reform-oriented motions at STRS Board meetings, and ORTA has NEVER "been there" to help -- not one time. Some were common sense issues like requiring the board to receive summary documents of big contracts before the board votes. Another was suspending the bonus checks. Another was making sure the staff's travel restrictions and guidelines were a board-adopted policy instead of an administrative regulation (which would give the executive the power to change things any time he desired). Another was to take away the executive director's power to adopt his own future policies without the board even knowing what he was doing.
In all of these cases, and many more, the board initially rejected the motions 8-2 (when Lazares was there) or 9-1 (after Lazares left). Then, in all cases -- after there was blood on the sidewalk, anger, and hatred -- the board ended up approving the motions, usually 6-4 or 7-3.
Where was ORTA when all this was happening? Just sitting there, never saying one thing. Never once did ORTA speak to the board and say: "You know, Dennis is really should review a summary document BEFORE you vote on things." It would have been so helpful. ORTA has been invisible.
Has ORTA done good things? Yes, they have. Has ORTA been a watchdog for retirees? Absolutely not, at least not on STRS issues.
D. Leone

Jim Stoll to active teachers: STRS Board now exploring changing and/or cutting YOUR BENEFITS while planning to pay huge bonuses with YOUR MONEY

From Jim Stoll, April 8, 2009
Dear Fellow Teachers:
If You Were Planning to Retire after 30 or 35 years Full Benefits and Medical Coverage - You Need To Read This Before Voting In The STRS Election!
Those of you who are active teachers and contribute to STRS already have received or will be receiving ballots to elect a new member to the STRS Retirement Board. CORE as well as former STRS Board Member and one of the original educators who revealed STRS spending malpractice in 2003, John Lazares, has endorsed me, James A. Stoll, for this position.
Like many of you, I have contributed to the STRS fund for more than 20 years. During the past several months, I have been actively encouraging the STRS Board to limit their frivolous spending, which needed to start with eliminating the "Bonus" Plan (PBI) for STRS Investment Associates. I exposed the enormous STRS salaries and bonuses by disclosing the attached schedules to teachers and retirees throughout the State. Thereafter, the STRS Board responded to pressure from members. The Board, however, voted only to "suspend" (as opposed to eliminate) these outrageous bonuses, which topped out at $259,200 for one of our Investment Associates.
It has come to my attention that many members are under the misconception that the bonuses have been eliminated – this is not true. In fact, the Board is planning to pay "7/12" of the 2009 Bonuses in September 2009 (some as high as $165,000) .......... for losing more than thirty billion dollars ($30,000,000,000) of our pension assets. For those who are interested, I have attached a spreadsheet of the 2009 base salaries and 7/12 bonuses. The STRS Board has not published this information -- I had to make a public records request to get it! You have the right to know how your retirement funds are being spent.
We have all heard the phrase, “No Good Deed Goes Unpunished.” It appears that my persistence has ruffled the feathers of some at the STRS and the OEA. My disclosure of the enormous losses and inexplicable expenditures has been characterized by the OEA as a "cynical exploitation of the Emotions of Educators." Let me assure you that there is nothing cynical about me or my desire to fix this problem that is jeopardizing our futures. Let me also assure you that I do not care how many bureaucrats get upset in the process. As for “the Emotions of Educators” – I submit that the Educators in Ohio certainly should be emotional about this travesty.
Here is my response to those at the STRS and OEA who chose to criticize me. Educators do have a "Right To Know" how 10% of every one of their paychecks is being spent. Taxpayers do have a right to know where 14% of their School Board's dollars are going. Teachers, Principals, Superintendents, School Board Members, Retirees and Taxpayers have a "Right to Know" that 83 STRS investment associates are going to receive this 7/12 Bonuses in September unless a CHANGE is made. Some of these bonuses will be as much as $165,000, despite a loss of over $30,000,0000,000 in the past 18 months.
In its March ENews to teachers and retirees, the STRS sent the following message and I quote: "This means that, unless changes are made, the system would eventually be unable to PAY members earned benefits. As a result the (STRS) Retirement Board needs to look at options, other than higher investment returns, to strengthen the solvency of the pension fund. These options could include, changes to contributions, the minimum retirement age, early retirement factors, cost to purchase service credit, the retirement formula, cost of living (COLA) or how final average salary is calculated."
IN OTHER WORDS: The Board is exploring changing and/or cutting your benefits while at the same time planning to pay huge "Bonuses" to their staff. Interestingly, in the vote to suspend the bonuses (a 6-3-1 vote), OEA-endorsed Board Members Tim Myers and Mark Meuser voted AGAINST suspending the bonuses and Connie Ramser abstained.
I would love your vote, but only if you agree with me and believe that paying these outrageous salaries and bonuses, while planning to cut our benefits, cannot be tolerated.. If you want what I want -- to rein in spending, keep benefits as they are, and hold investment staff accountable for losing 40% of our pension assets -- then I would encourage you to vote for me, because that is what I intend to fight for.
I am providing the following links for those interested to read for some unbiased media reports of STRS so you can form your own opinion and not take my word or the word of others.
Just this week, there were reports of Governor of Missouri speaking out about similar atrocities occurring in that State’s public pension system. Governor Jay Nixon called the bonuses “unconscionable” after the Post-Dispatch brought them to his attention. He stated, “It defies common sense that these folks would preside over the loss of almost $2 billion and receive bonuses,” he said Friday.” Nixon said it was “especially galling” that the investment staff received five- and six-figure bonuses in a year when the rest of the state work force is getting no raises. “This bonus system is clearly broken, and we’re going to fix it,” Nixon said.
Fellow Educators, our system is broken and I intend to do everything in my power to help fix it. I appreciate you taking the time to read this message. If you want to take direct action I'd encourage you to Email STRS Exec. Dir. Mike Nehf and the STRS Board and tell them to "Eliminate the Bonuses." Feel free to cc me on the email if you wish.
James A. Stoll
Director of Athletics
Sycamore High School
STRS Board Candidate
7400 Cornell Rd.
Cincinnati , Ohio 45242

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Ballot confusion! (Retiree ballots)

From Lenora Wood, April 8, 2009

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

RH Jones: An open letter to Ann Hanning

From RH Jones, April 7, 2009
Subject: An open letter to Ann Hanning, Exec, Dir, of ORTA
As a Life Member of the ORTA, I feel that I have a responsibility to give praise to you, and the ORTA leadership, when it is deserved, and to offer advice when I think that you, or the leadership, may need it.
Today, my praise to you is that, Ann, you did a pretty good job of writing the: “From the Executive Director” article in the ORTA Quarterly, Spring 2009 Edition. Keeping our Defined benefit pension plan is extremely important, as is, also, your statement of: “retiree health care and pension benefits need to be seen through the same lens”. The sample letter -- with a background of lavender color -- on the GPO/WEP was good, but I would like to have seen in it a mention of our interest in them not approving any mandatory Social Security. To your credit, you did mention the negatives of mandatory Social Security in the “Letter to the Subcommittee on Social Security.” Thank you.
However, I still remain disappointed that the ORTA does not endorse Retired Board Candidates for our STRS. Having the wrong candidates win office works to our disadvantage. For instance no 13th check, health care cuts, and a board that allows terrible losses in the billions and then turns around and rewards bonuses to those who lost it! If this STRS board does not stop this idiocy, retirees, active educators, and the STRS employees will all be hurt. They must realize, we are all in this together or like the Titanic, the ship goes down.
As far as the survey mentioned on the back page, my thinking is that there would be no need for a fee, or surcharge for the ORTA Quarterly, if the editor would just stick to articles that relate to our STRS issues -- only. The frills, we can do without. Our STRS did it with the STRS Ohio News; you should, too.
RHJones, a PUFL (Paid Up For Life) member

Linda Meinelt to Governor Strickland: Stop the bonuses!

From Linda Meinelt, April 7, 2009
Governor Strickland As an STRS retiree, I write to you expressing my concern about the continuing practice of awarding bonuses to the Investment Staff at STRS. The fund has lost over 30 billion dollars on its investments and yet huge bonuses were awarded to the Investment staff. For the first 9 months of the current fiscal year, returns are -29.7%. This merits a bonus? I THINK NOT! I urge you to intervene to stop the payment of these bonuses, not just suspend them. STRS Bd. Policy and statutes give the Board the ability to TERMINATE the programs at any time. Pressure from you on Mr. Nehf and the Bd. can make this happen. If the STRS investment staff had their pensions through STRS rather than OPERS, I feel confident they would be far more cautious in their investments and concern for the security of the STRS fund. Several other states have mandated the elimination of bonuses from their pension fund, and I urge you to do the same.
Thank you,
Linda Meinelt
STRS Retiree - Worthington

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

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

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,

Monday, April 06, 2009

To Governor Strickland: Stop the STRS Board

To the Honorable Governor Ted Strickland
April 6, 2009
Dear Governor Strickland,
As a retired teacher who is receiving my pension and health care from STRS Ohio, I am shocked and greatly disturbed that while our pension fund lost nearly $34 BILLION in the last 18 months, many on our pension board still favor paying out millions in bonuses to the investment staff.
This is not RIGHT -- times have changed; too many people are hurting, and there is NO PLACE for greed today. Something needs to be done. I am appealing to you and to the state legislature -- if there is anything you can possibly do to stop this board from doing further damage to the welfare of the STRS stakeholders, please do so as soon as you can. Many are already living on bare-bones budgets as it is; they don't need to be made poorer while making the rich investment staff that much richer when times are tough. The bonuses need to be saved for the GOOD times.
Katherine B. Bracy
Columbus, OH

To Representative Kevin Bacon: Stop the STRS Board

To the Honorable Representative Kevin Bacon
April 6, 2009
Dear Representative Bacon,
I am writing you because I am deeply disturbed that my pension board at STRS Ohio continues to pay out millions of dollars in bonuses to its huge investment staff when the fund has lost nearly $34 BILLION in the past 18 months. This has got to STOP, and nobody is stopping it! Too many pensioners are hurting as it is, and will hurt even more if their money continues to be used to fund these already rich people on the investment staff.
Nobody objects to bonuses in good times, but this is pure greed in times like this, when so many people are hurting. I have appealed to Governor Strickland and to Senator David Goodman, and I appeal to you now: if there's anything you can possibly do to stop our pension board from making the horrible mistake of further rewarding our investment staff when we have lost so much, please do. Thousands of retirees will be most grateful to you.
Katherine B. Bracy
Columbus, OH

To Senator Goodman: Stop the STRS Board

To the Honorable Senator David Goodman
April 6, 2009
Dear Senator Goodman,
I am writing you because I am deeply disturbed that my pension board at STRS Ohio continues to pay out millions of dollars in bonuses to its huge investment staff when the fund has lost nearly $34 BILLION in the past 18 months. This has got to STOP, and nobody is stopping it! Too many pensioners are hurting as it is, and will hurt even more if their money continues to be used to fund these already rich people on the investment staff.
Nobody objects to bonuses in good times, but this is pure greed in times like this, when so many people are hurting. I have appealed to Governor Strickland and to Representative Kevin Bacon, and I appeal to you now: if there's anything you can possibly do to stop our pension board from making the horrible mistake of further rewarding our investment staff when we have lost so much, please do. Thousands of retirees will be most grateful to you.
Katherine B. Bracy
Columbus, OH
By Virginia Young
April 5, 2009
State pension fund managers rewarded despite losses
JEFFERSON CITY — As the stock market tanked last year, the investment portfolio held by the Missouri State Employees Retirement System plummeted by nearly $1.8 billion.
Even so, the system's 14-member investment staff received nearly $300,000 in bonuses. The biggest check went to Chief Investment Officer Rick Dahl, who drew $114,000 early this year. The next-largest bonus was $29,400 for the system's hedge funds manager.
Why were state employees rewarded for a decline in investments?
Because the system's fund did better than the market. MORE POLITICAL NEWS See all our political coverage The Political Fix keeps you on top of local, state and national politics.

Retire This Bonus System!

From John Curry, April 6, 2009
Retire this bonus system
Editorial, April 6, 2009
Picture the well-paid players on your professional baseball team exchanging back slaps and high fives at the end of the game — because they lost by fewer runs than anticipated.
The boos would be deafening.
The Missouri State Employees Retirement System has earned similar scorn by using cash bonuses, not back slaps, to celebrate a losing performance.
The taxpayer-supported system lost nearly $1.8 billion in the stock market last year. But its board has handed out nearly $300,000 in bonuses, claiming that, hey, things could have been worse.
The retirement fund, which covers most state employees, declined by nearly 24 percent in 2008. That’s dreadful, yet still better than most state retirement funds. And it beat the internal benchmark that is supposed to justify bonuses for the 14-member staff.
The chief investment officer, who makes $228,176 a year, received a $114,000 bonus. The second-highest bonus was $29,400, to the hedge fund’s manager.
It’s good that the pension fund has talented administrators. They save the state money, as Executive Director Gary Findlay told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which first reported the bonuses.
But in a year in which state employees are looking at flat salaries and layoffs, bonuses for the administrators of a losing investment fund are ostentatious and unseemly. The pension fund’s 11-member board of elected officials and appointees should rethink its practice of awarding bonuses based on a formula that weighs the fund’s performance against a blend of stock market indicators.
Most state retirement systems don’t reward their administrators with bonuses. And no system’s board should be bound by a formula to hand out bonuses in a year when the fund’s performance is poor and the public is simmering over a dismal employment picture and cuts in state services.
If the board isn’t willing to adopt a more sensible policy, Gov. Jay Nixon and legislative leaders should consider replacing members.
A 24 percent dip is nothing to celebrate — even if the rest of the market did worse.

You wanna give $300,000 in bonuses? OK, then you get $300,000 less in funding! Missouri Senate cuts payments to retirement system!

From John Curry, April 6, 2009
[Missouri] Senate Appropriations Committee wants to cut MOSERS bonuses
By: Virginia Young Post-Dispatch
Jefferson City Bureau
JEFFERSON CITY [MO] — A Senate committee has signaled its strong disapproval of bonuses that a state pension fund recently gave to its investment staff.
The Senate Appropriations Committee voted today to cut $300,000 from the state’s contribution to the Missouri State Employees Retirement System.
Committee Chairman Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, said the committee wanted to send the pension system “a strong message that we don’t approve” of $300,000 in bonuses that the system gave out.
The Post-Dispatch reported Sunday that the pension system gave its 14-member investment staff bonuses totaling about $300,000, even as the pension fund lost nearly $1.8 billion.
MOSERS officials said that while the fund lost money in last year’s stock market meltdown, it lost less than comparable portfolios.
The system’s incentive plan compares the fund’s performance to a benchmark over a five-year period. Over that period, MOSERS saved the state nearly $600 million, according to the plan’s executive director, Gary Findlay.
Nodler said he was “not buying that.” He said managers don’t deserve bonuses when the fund loses money except “maybe in the Alice in Wonderland world. But we don’t live in the Alice in Wonderland world.”
“A bonus should be a reward for an increase, a net gain,” Nodler said.
“I don’t see an appreciable difference in this and the bonuses at the federal level” involving AIG, Nodler added. “It’s basically the same issue — bonuses being given for depleting funds. Most people are offended by bonuses being given to losing propositions.”

[Hmm...maybe we should invite those good folks in Missouri to visit STRS Ohio if they want to see what a REAL wonderland looks like -- sculptures, stairways to heaven, waterfalls and all!]

Want to contact the governor and your legislators about those bonuses? Here's how

Governor Ted Strickland
Governor's Office
Riffe Center, 30th Floor
77 South High Street
Columbus, OH 43215-6108
General Info: (614) 466-3555
Fax: (614) 466-9354
Your State Representative or State Senator:

Jack Vogelgesang: A heads-up for STRS retirees on the new tax tables for withholding $$ from your pension check

From Jack Vogelgesang, April 6, 2009
Subject: STRS
Dear Fellow Retirees:
Your government is out to screw you if you aren't careful. I just talked to STRS and the bulk of their calls at the moment have to do with the new withholding amounts taken from your benefit check. The tax rates themselves have not changed, but the rate of withholding has been lowered so that it looks like you have more money. Well, you do FOR NOW, but come tax time next year, you will have to pony up what isn't being withheld now.
They are very helpful at STRS and will explain at what rate you are now being withheld. To keep from owing money when you file next year for the 2009 tax year, they will mail you a form so that you can get back to the rate of withholding you were previously at.
Talk about "smoke and mirrors."
Their 888 number is listed on your last statement that you got on April 1. [See post immediately below for more information.]
Good luck.
Jack Vogelgesang

From the April 2009 STRS check memo: An explanation of the new tax tables

Retirees: you will find this info in your April STRS check memo.
New tax tables may reduce federal tax amount withheld
The Department of the Treasury recently prescribed new tax withholding tables to reflect the Making Work Pay credit and other changes resulting from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Effective with this monthly benefit payment, your federal tax withholding was calculated using the new tables and is itemized for you below. If you requested a change to your federal tax withholding to be effective with your April benefit payment, STRS Ohio used the new tables to make the change. If you do not want to have your withholding reduced because your taxable income places you in a higher tax bracket, you may want to change your tax withholding. To change your tax withholding, you may print the Federal Income Tax Withholding for STRS Ohio Benefits form at using the Online Forms feature for Benefit Recipients []. You can also request the form by calling the STRS Ohio Member Services Center toll-free at 1-888-227-7877. Please consult a professional tax advisor for more information. STRS Ohio cannot provide tax advice.

RH Jones: Impossible situation at our OH STRS?

From RH Jones, April 6, 2009
Subject: Impossible situation at our OH STRS?
To all:
Without an STRS board actively following the Revised Code 3307.15, there will always be an incentive by STRS employees to exploit the system. And, until we can get an ORC that mandates that their retirement contribution to go into our STRS rather than their OPERS. And, since Ohio's politicians pay into their OPERS as well, there is no chance of such a law ever passing. They have already said that the STRS is only for educators; and, therefore, STRS employees cannot belong.
Personally, I, as a retired STRS member, would welcome them to our STRS. However, we can conclude that: Their pay is so good that they will never be taken out of OPERS -- and they know it. our OH STRS board and employees get away with so much that it brings bad publicity in the various news media, they are putting themselves and us members at risk of mandatory Social Security. On the national level there are many who would love to get all Americans under Social Security and to do away with all state retirement systems. All of us in STRS and OPERS will then lose.
RH Jones

Some pointed questions from active teacher Sherry Jackson for Mike Nehf and STRS Board re: bonuses, benefits and trust

From Sherry Jackson, April 6, 2009
Subject: Bonuses???!!
Dr. Nehf and STRS Board:
I am writing to question the bonuses that have been given to the following individuals during this time of great financial instability in our nation…are we congratulating them for STRS’s $33 BILLION loss? To give over $2,000,000.00 in bonuses and raises is the epitome of financial irresponsibility…and is beyond belief…because you are using MY retirement dollars, and the retirement dollars of my friends and colleagues, to fund these outrageous bonuses and raises! During difficult economic times, the prudent response should be to tighten one’s belt, as many in our nation are being forced to do, not give away over $2,000,000.00! (And the prudent response should not only be from STRS, but from the people who received these bonuses. If they are men and women of integrity, they should have refused to take this money!!) As well, in light of the fact that this kind of money was given away in bonuses and raises in the midst of uncertain and difficult financial times, I am wondering about the bonuses these people received before the bottom dropped out of our economy…were they more exorbitant that what I see on the chart below? I am appalled; I am distressed; I am disappointed; I am angry.
I would like for you to answer the following questions for me. Because you have been given the charge to handle my money and my future responsibly, I believe that you owe me the answers:
• Whose responsibility is it to make the decision to grant bonuses?
• For how many years have these bonuses been given, and were they as large as the amounts shown below?
• Will retired teachers be receiving a “bonus” in their retirement pay?
• In the light of the current economic difficulties we are all facing, does STRS plan to reduce any benefits to retired Ohio teachers?
• How will all of this affect the current teaching workforce…and will current teachers be able to retire with the same benefits as teachers who have retired within the past 10 years or are retiring today?
I have always felt “safe” about my future because I have always felt good about STRS. I believed that the “responsible parties” who are handling my money were working FOR me, and not AGAINST me. I have lost faith in STRS. You have shown yourself to me to be as greedy as AIG and other companies who have been doing outrageous things with my money. This leads to my final question:
• How do you plan to re-establish trust…what will you do to help me be able to trust that you are using MY money responsibly so that MY future, and the futures of my friends and colleagues, will be secure?
I look forward to hearing your response.
Sherry K. Jackson, Career Specialist
Hamilton, OH 45011

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Click image to enlarge
From John Curry, March 5, 2009
Why depend on what others say that happened at an STRS Board meeting? As a stakeholder in STRS, YOU have a right to hear the monthly board meeting. STRS will aid you by sending you (after about a 10 day delay) the most recent board meeting recorded on CDs AND IT IS FREE -- SHIPPING AND ALL. Now you can hear what really goes on. Just send your request to Laura Ecklar at STRS. Here is her email address:
Laura R. Ecklar ( Director, Communication Services
Don't feel bad that this cost a few bucks (your bucks) to be informed. After all, this is money that could have gone out (in six digits) in the form of a performance bonus to an STRS investment associate.
In case Ms. Ecklar doesn't get back with you, then resend your request to Joyce Baldwin, Assistant to the Executive Director, and she will see to it that you receive your CDs. She has been very cooperative and gracious in the past regarding this matter. Here is Joyce's email address:
[Note: as of 9/17/09, we learned that Joyce is no longer with STRS. To get the recordings, contact STRS directly. The recordings are free.]
Larry KehresMount Union Collge
Division III
web page counter
Vermont Teddy Bear Company