Friday, April 23, 2010

ORTA Flashback - 3 Years Ago.....ORTA didn't back him then, either!

From John Curry, April 23, 2010
A 2007 letter from Dennis Leone re: ORTA's refusal to publish his column; Seamon, Bright & Hanning don't even respond to his inquiry on WHY
Hey, duh!! GREAT LEADERSHIP over there......and the beat goes on!!
Dennis Leone to Ronald Catron, April 11, 2007
Subject: Re: Letter To The ORTA Executive Committee
Thank you, Ron, for sending me a copy of the letter you wrote to ORTA. Here are 3 other amazing things regarding this issue:
1. I asked ORTA publications director Tom Seamon to please tell me why I wasn't informed that ORTA expected me to keep secret any column I write until AFTER ORTA publishes it. ORTA could not accept the fact that in the 6-8 weeks I am supposed to wait for it to appear in print (after I submitted it) that I shared with some retirees and RTAs that asked me to speak. The point is that I was never told about any gag order..........had I been told, I would have agreed, even though the whole notion is silly. I have not received a response to my question.
2. I asked ORTA President Don Bright if the rejection decision could be reconsidered given the above. He never responded. I also told him that I felt either he or Ann Hanning could have shown a little respect by calling me regarding this entire matter. In fact, neither have contacted me about anything in my first 19 months on the STRS Board -- not about any of the motions and initiatives I pushed for and advanced.
3. I asked ORTA's Ann Hanning, in writing, if I could write another column as a substitute since this one was rejected. No response. This is proof to me that ORTA really did not want to publish what I wrote in the first place.
I recall when I wrote my first column, ORTA had a disclaimer notice next to my column -- saying that my comments did not reflect an ORTA position. However, when fellow retiree Jeff Chapman wrote his column three months earlier, there was no such disclaimer statement with his column. After I complained about this, ORTA then put a disclaimer statement with Chapman's second column.
Dennis Leone
From Tom Curtis, April 6, 2007
Subject: 040607 To The ORTA Executive Committee
April 6, 2007
To The ORTA Executive Committee,
I received my ORTA newsletter yesterday and found that the column Dr. Dennis Leone, (one of two retiree representatives on the STRS board) submitted to ORTA for publication this quarter had been omitted.
Shame on all of you who made this decision! This is such a travesty on your part and shows that ORTA is clearly only a social organization and nothing more. This act is the final straw in a long series of failures to support the one person that had the courage and knowledge to step forward and begin a reform process that might save our retirement system from insolvency in the not to distant future.
This decision is a childish act by each of you who perpetrated such a cause. It clearly shows that the mind bank running this organization does not have the capability or vision of being anything greater then a lunch group. ORTA has continually shown me that it is not a strong advocate for the retired teachers’ benefits, simply by not supporting Dr. Leone on the many changes he has brought about to date. If it were not for Dennis Leone, our retirement system would be in a far greater financial situation then it is currently, as other states that have had poor management throughout the years.
Those of you that voted for this decision are a disgrace to your profession and violate your statement for existence as an organization. I have lost complete confidence in the ORTA leadership and will strongly advise people to join the only true advocate for STRS retirees, which is CORE (Concerned Ohio Retired Educators).
ORTA Life Member,
Thomas Curtis
Stark County

Dennis Leone's report which ORTA refused to publish, yet wouldn't give him a good explanation as to why (March 2007; the beat goes on.....)

Ohio Retired Teachers Association (ORTA)
By Dennis Leone,
STRS Retiree Board Member
March, 2007

After my last column was published in October of 2006, the Board agreed to re-visit a motion I made months earlier to prohibit Board action on vendor contracts unless the Board first had an opportunity to review a summary of the proposed contracts. My original motion, as you may recall, was defeated 8-2, with only John Lazares joining me in support. Many retirees, in the months following, expressed their consternation over the 8-2 vote.

I am pleased to report that on October 20, 2006, the Board voted 7-2 to approve a motion I made (seconded by Lazares) that will require the STRS staff to provide a summary of all proposed contracts for services provided directly to the Board, and for any proposed contract in excess of $100,000. Former Board member Geoffrey Meyers and current Board member Mark Meuser voted against this initiative.

I am also pleased to report that 13 changes I desired in the Board’s travel and expenditure policies were adopted 9-0 on February 15, 2007. The changes were long overdue. Here are some highlights:

  1. There will be no reimbursements for meals in the future unless itemized receipts are provided. This is the only way to make sure that pension money is not being used to purchase alcohol.
  2. Airplane tickets must be purchased 30 days in advance, and Board members who choose not to do this will pay the difference in cost between the two tickets. Also, Board members – not STRS – will personally pay for any additional fees charged by the airline if ticket reservations are changed for personal reasons.
  3. The previously adopted $6,000 maximum for individual Board members to spend on out-of-state trips per year did not include the conference fee for registration or tuition. Now it does. Board member Conni Ramser last year spent well over $6,000 on out-of-state trips, but this was not in violation of Board policy because her conference registration fees weren’t part of the calculation. They will be now.
  4. Meal reimbursements are now limited to $10 for breakfast, $15 for lunch, and $25 for dinner. Previously, Board members could spend up to $60 per day, which meant that if Board members passed on breakfast and received a free lunch, they could – and did – spend $40 or $50 on a single dinner. My original proposal called for spending limitations of $5, $10, and $20, but the majority disagreed.
  5. No overnight lodging will be provided by STRS on the day that Board meetings end or the day after conferences conclude. I will never understand why the previous policy permitted this. It was so wrong.
  6. Board members will not be reimbursed for expenses while attending in-state meetings unless they are a formally invited speaker or an official participant at the meeting, or unless the Board votes to approve attendance in advance. There were examples in the past when some Board members would decide on their own to attend an association meeting and expect to receive a travel reimbursement.
  7. STRS funds will not be used ever again to purchase credit cards, fax machines, fax lines, or lap top computers for Board members. Also, Board members cannot expect STRS to pay for their personal long distance phone calls when they are attending meetings. It was an embarrassment that Board policies permitted these things, and that – up until a few months ago – several Board members still were contending that such expenditures and reimbursements were reasonable. 

*This report will not appear in the ORTA Quarterly, as originally planned, as ORTA is refusing to publish it. 

Two points of irony regarding the above changes:

No. 1: Three weeks to the day after the Board adopted the revisions, Gov. Strickland ordered a meal reimbursement freeze for certain state agencies like the Ohio Board of Regents – a group that used taxpayer money for a $1,000 dinner. (Sound familiar?)

No 2: My push for the travel policy changes was triggered after Gary Hollow, from OEA-R and NEOEA-R, made a public records request for the travel expenditure report of one Board member – me. He did not express any interest in seeing what the other Board members were spending. He wanted to see what only Dennis Leone was doing. Damon Asbury then produced a travel expenditure report for all board members. What did it show? Credit cards had been purchased for Board members Conni Ramser, Michael Billirakis, Jeff Chapman, Mary Ann Cervantes, and Steve Puckett. A fax line, with a monthly fee, had been purchased for the home of Michael Billirakis. STRS paid for the long distance phone calls Steve Puckett made when he attended a conference in Orlando. Single meals costing in excess of $40 existed for several board members. I wonder how Mr. Hollow and OEA would have reacted if the travel reports for only Dennis Leone or John Lazares had shown these types of expenditures? I think I know.

I wish to explain why John Lazares and I were the only board members who voted no on November 16, 2006, when the board set the reimbursement rates for Medicate Part B retirees, and therefore increased the out-of-pocket costs for said retirees. We both felt: (A) The Board needed to first consider other options for change, like the $1.4 million dollar premium fee STRS pays yearly to provide a small $1,000 life insurance plan for all retirees; and (B) We couldn’t support such an increase for Medicare retirees when STRS money still was being used for things like Board member credit cards, fax lines, lap tops, and phone bills. ORTA, in my opinion, should have supported Lazares and me on this issue.

Finally, I have an obligation to share with retirees why I disagree with published projections by STRS that our current 47-year unfunded liability is projected to hit the desired 30 years by 2009. Note the charts below:

(Click image to enlarge.)


The increase of about 3,500 retirees per year is what we expect. However, the average decrease

of 1,626 active teachers per year over the past three years was not expected. Another decline not expected has been the payroll growth in the past three years. STRS budgets for an anticipated payroll growth of 4.50% per year – not the 2.71% average we’ve received over the past three years. The staff projects only a 2.50% increase for fiscal year 2007. What’s keeping our heads above water? The fantastic investment returns we’ve received – averaging a whopping 14.45% over the past three years. Through eight months in fiscal year 2007, we’re receiving another 12.50%. (STRS budgets for returns totaling 8.0%.) My point is simply this: Absent a continuation of the great investment returns, we will not offset the realities (if they continue) of the other three areas shown above. I am hopeful my fellow board members will be agreeable to approving a contingency plan to minimize the negative impact of a significant stock market downturn. More on this, and my recommendations for such a plan, later………

From CORE member Linda Meinelt re: STRS Rx...... Save your postage

From Linda Meinelt, April 22, 2010
Subject: Save your postage
If you have a physical and receive renewals for your prescriptions, don't mail them in until you're ready to fill.
I sent mine in so they would be on hand when I needed them, and said, "hold and I will call when ready to fill." They returned all to me and said send in when you're ready to fill.
I called STRS and they concurred this is the policy of Express Scripts. I also told them that I was able to get one of my prescriptions for considerably less at Costco, and the response was that probably I could get a lot of them for less or free locally.
I also asked if we had gone together with OPERS to get prescriptions and was told yes, we negotiated together; however, our prescription plans are not the same. I tried to determine why we couldn't have the same plan if we negotiated together but got no answer except we are two different systems and that OPERS is a larger system than STRS.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

How the Health Care Bill Impacts Retirees

From John Curry, April 22, 2010
By Emily Brandon, April 5, 2010
The health reform bill, signed by President Obama on March 23, increases the services Medicare provides and reduces some prescription drug costs for seniors. The legislation also creates a voluntary long-term care insurance program and changes the ways doctors and hospitals are paid for providing services to Medicare patients. Here's a look at how the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will impact retirees.
Free preventative care. Patient cost-sharing for preventive services such as cancer screenings will be eliminated on Jan. 1, 2011 for Medicare beneficiaries. Government payments to doctors for preventative services will be increased. Coverage of an annual wellness visit that includes a comprehensive health-risk assessment and a personalized prevention plan will also be added to the services covered by Medicare. "It gives people an incentive to get a preventative service that they might not otherwise have done," says Jack Hoadley, a health policy analyst at Georgetown University. "Getting things taken care of early and regularly will cut the overall cost."
Prescription drug rebate. Most Medicare part D prescription drug plans have a coverage gap--often called the donut hole--during which beneficiaries must pay the entire cost of their prescription drugs. The gap begins once a senior has spent $2,830 on prescription drugs in 2010 and lasts until catastrophic coverage kicks in when a patient has spent $4,550 out-of-pocket on medications. The new legislation provides a $250 rebate to Medicare beneficiaries who reach the Part D coverage gap in 2010. "More than 3 million people with Medicare have spending in the donut hole and those seniors will see an immediate reduction in their out-of-pocket costs," says Tricia Neuman, director of the Medicare Policy Project at the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Donut filling. The donut hole will be gradually filled in before completely closing in 2020. Beginning in 2011, pharmaceutical manufacturers will be required to provide a 50 percent discount on brand-name prescriptions in the Medicare Part D coverage gap and in 2013, federal subsidies for generic prescriptions will also be phased in. The out-of-pocket amount that qualifies an enrollee for catastrophic coverage in Medicare Part D will also be reduced beginning in 2014 through 2019 until the donut hole is completely eliminated in 2020.
High-income retirees pay more. High-income retirees already pay higher Medicare Part B premiums than other Medicare recipients. While most retirees who signed up for Medicare in 2010 paid $110.50 each month, premiums for wealthier retirees ranged from $154.70 for individuals earning between $85,000 and $107,000 annually to $353.60 monthly for single tax filers with income topping $214,000 annually. These income thresholds typically increase each year, but the new legislation freezes the income thresholds from 2011 through 2019 at 2010 levels. "They are freezing the income threshold so, given inflation, it will start to affect more people over time," says Hoadley. Medicare Part D will now also charge high-income beneficiaries higher premiums. The health bill reduces the premium subsidy for individuals with income above $85,000 and couples who earn more than $170,000 annually.
Early retiree coverage. The health bill creates a temporary reinsurance program for employers that provide retiree health insurance coverage to former employees age 55 and older who are not yet eligible for Medicare. Starting 90 days after the bill is enacted until Jan. 1, 2014, companies that provide health benefits to early retirees and their spouses and dependants will qualify for reimbursement of 80 percent of the health costs between $15,000 and $90,000. These payments must be used to reduce costs, such as premiums or deductibles, for employees and retirees in the health plan. "Maybe this will help to slow down when the employer decides to raise that co-pay," says Hoadley.
Long-term care insurance program. The new legislation will establish a voluntary long-term care insurance program called Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS). Citizens who pay premiums into the program for at least five continuous years become eligible for payouts for community living assistance services if they become unable to perform the activities of daily living for a period of 90 days or more. The payouts will average at least $50 per day, vary based on the functional ability of the participant, and will have no lifetime maximum.
Medicare Advantage plans. Many provisions of the health legislation change how Medicare Advantage plans work. New rules prohibit Medicare Advantage plans from imposing more expensive cost-sharing requirements than those charged for traditional Medicare. Rebates for Medicare Advantage plans will be reduced beginning in 2011, while high-quality Medicare Advantage plans will receive bonus payments. "It's hard to say how plans will respond to changes over time but they are likely to make adjustments once the payment changes take effect," says Neuman. "Medicare Advantage plans are required to cover Medicare benefits, so any cuts to Medicare Advantage plans will be extra benefits such as contributions toward eyeglasses or fitness club memberships." Beginning in 2014, Medical Advantage plans will be required to spend at least 85 percent of the health insurance premiums collected on providing health care to their customers.
Changing payment structure. The health bill changes the ways doctors are paid for the services they provide Medicare recipients. For example, hospitals with excess numbers of preventable patient readmissions will receive reduced Medicare payments for the services provided beginning in 2012. And beginning in 2015, hospitals will receive 1 percent lower payments if patients develop hospital-acquired conditions. "Patients will not see the cuts that are made to providers," says John Holahan, director of the Urban Institute's Health Policy Center. "My guess is it will largely be absorbed." Rewards will also be offered to doctors who work in the public interest. For example, primary care physicians and general surgeons who choose to practice in areas of the country with health professional shortages will receive 10 percent Medicare bonus payments beginning in 2011. The idea behind these payment changes is to reward care that helps seniors get and remain well. "I have no reason to suspect that my mother's quality of care will diminish," says Jonathan Skinner, a professor of economics at Dartmouth. "I have not warned my mother." much is the OEA settlement with their former employees going to cost?

From John Curry, April 22, 2010
Here are the exact words from the attorney's website.
* * * * *
"Prater v. Ohio Education Association, 505 F.3d 437 (6th Cir. 2007) (granting appeal of dismissed claims by class of OEA retirees seeking restoration of contractual retirees' health benefits under LMRA 301) (Class cert. granted 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 88511 (S.D. Ohio June 2008). (Settlement for damages and funding of future benefits pending, valued in excess of $50 million.)"

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

RH Jones: Effects of 1% COLA take-away cut

From RH Jones, April 21, 2010

To all:

First, I believe that any take-away of our promised COLA and the past HC/Rx cut is unconstitutional. From reading the ORTA Spring Quarterly, 2010, as every ORTA member knows that those who are in positions of authority there have gone along with the HPA (HC Pension Advocates). Also, the OEA, OEA-R, OFT, STRS board, and the STRS executive staff, are allowing this thoughtless cut to go unchallenged. Especially, in relation to the unions mentioned above, I would like to quote form Adele Mathias and Elaine Spondike affiliated with the SERS: “If you do not defend your rights you have no rights.”

In relation to the inequality of the 1% COLA takeaway: I conclude that the STRS retired members can be divided into thirds according to their needs. The first 1/3rd are the Senior Retirees, second 1/3rd Mid-level, and the third 1/3rd are Recent Retirees. Those most in need of the full 3% COLA, that is calculated on their retiree’s individual base, is the Senior Retirees -- they have the smallest bases and the largest HC/Rx expenses due to their advanced ages. The Mid-level retirees are in the gray zone, some are still employable, and some are not, but can afford cuts more than the seniors. Lastly, the Recent Retirees are most able to take the 1% cut without as much hardship -- for they retired at more than twice than either the first 1/3rd or the 2nd.

Of course long-term solvency is the goal of all STRS members. But to put blame onto Senior Retirees is especially unreasonable, as well as blaming past STRS retired members who negotiated Ad hoc, COLA and the HC/Rx enhancements in good faith. Without these enhancements, many retired educators would qualify for other government poverty enhancements.

Employers have escaped a raise in their contributions for over 25-years. They are responsible for their share of providing a properly funded retirement. Retired members have therefore, supplemented public school districts and state funding with our HC/Rx cuts and now these political groups want us to supplement the STRS with, once again, another cut; this time in the form of 1% COLA of our flat COLA. Employer failure and avoidance of their responsibility to honor promises made to career retired professional educators should be, and probably is, constitutionally compulsory at the national level.

Retirees who were employed in jobs within the OEA have been compensated with a court settlement from OEA. Will the same outcome come about if those mentioned above are held responsible for retiree cuts after having to go to court, I wonder? OEA in particular cannot afford another court settlement. It is best for them, and the others, just to provide the necessary funding for the STRS solvency and leave retired members unadulterated.

And, again I say the 1/3rd most senior have been and well be most affected. This should not be the case because they cannot possibly live for too much longer, especially male educators who have a shorter life expectancy than their female counterparts. For the both, where is compassion?

RHJones, a Senior Retired Member of OH STRS

The OEA...before and after.........

From John Curry, April 21, 2010

Jan. 24, 2005:

3) Retired Staffers Sue Ohio Education Association. For years, NEA state affiliates have been blaming staff retirement benefits for their budget deficits. Some have taken drastic steps to deal with the problem. Now the Ohio Education Association (OEA) may be the first to feel the backlash.

A group of retired OEA staffers have sued the union over termination of health benefits. The Coalition of Retired Employees (CORE) of OEA claims the union violated guarantees in the staff collective bargaining agreement. OEA claims it has no obligation to provide benefits beyond Medicare Part B reimbursement to retired staffers over 65, and that any additional coverage they had been receiving was not authorized by the contract. All additional coverage was terminated last August, prompting the CORE lawsuit.

In concert with the lawsuit, CORE is also treating OEA to a bit of labor activism, picketing the union's representative assembly last month with a sign reading "OEA Cheats Retirees," publishing a newsletter, and setting up a web site (


April 20, 2010

1) Ohio Education Association to Pay $3.75 Million in Damages to Retired Staffers. The Ohio Education Association (OEA) settled a class action lawsuit filed in 2004 by retired employees who charged the union with cutting off promised health benefits (for background, see EIA's story, item #3 here).

Under the terms of the settlement, OEA will pay $3.75 million in compensatory damages to the retired staffers, plus pay into a Voluntary Employee Benefit Association (VEBA) that will fund healthcare benefits to retired staffers beyond the age of 65. The proposal is for the VEBA to purchase "a Medicare Supplement Plan along with additional prescription drug coverage. In order to receive the benefits provided by the VEBA, class members may be required to pay an amount expected to be not greater than ten percent of the premium costs for the supplemental insurance coverage."

OEA's annual contribution is set at $375 per retiree (aged 65 and older) per month plus a pro-rated portion of any future increase in premium. The benefit will continue for as long as they live.

There are approximately 118 retired OEA employees in the class, which means the initial annual payment could exceed $500,000 - fluctuating in subsequent years based on how many current retirees reach 65 and how many pass away.

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio will hold a hearing on April 29 to decide whether to give final approval to the settlement

Monday, April 19, 2010


"I was told that when inflation is low, as in the past few years, we would get nothing. 2%, established in law, is likely to be more beneficial than a variable COLA. And you can be sure that if the Legislature ever gave the STRS Board the authority to establish the COLA on a yearly basis, they would cap it at no more than 3%."
* * * * *
"Perhaps a variable COLA would work to the advantage of the retirees. When inflation is high -- we get more COLA!"

Q. So...what's the OEA class action lawsuit all about?

A. Benefits that were taken away from former OEA employees who were retired.
There are many pages in the settlement and it would require significant time to read the entire settlement. I will relate a "summary" that is included in the definitions that pretty well sums up the reason for and outcome of this settlement. Yes, it is an out of court settlement and supposedly there are no winners as guilt is not established. The bottom line.... when your side has to fork over millions of dollars as part of the settlement (as the OEA will have to) .....I know who the loser is in my 'bout you? I wonder if the dues will go up next year?
"The Class Representatives [OEA retirees] claim in the lawsuit that the OEA is not entitled to modify or terminate the medical or prescription drug benefits (hereinafter referred to as "health benefits") of Class Members. OEA claims that these health benefits are neither vested nor guaranteed and that it has the contractual and legal right to change, modify or terminate these benefits at its discretion.
In 2004, OEA announced its intention to discontinue providing health benefits to Class Members beyond their 65th birthday. The Class Representatives then filed this lawsuit challenging the OEA's actions in the U.S. District Court in Columbus. The Court previously
granted summary judgment to OEA, finding that OEA had the right to terminate the benefits and that the Collective Bargaining Agreements did not require OEA to provide the benefits the Class Members claim. The Court's decision was reversed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, and remanded to the Court for further proceedings."
The above two paragraphs were taken from pages 2 and 3 of the document that can be viewed by clicking on the following link.

More info on class action lawsuit.....

.....go to Google ( and enter "Class action lawsuit against the Ohio Education Association."

A Dispatch column on pension reform and comments from retirees

From RH Jones, April 19, 2010
Subject: Reject cutting retired educators!
To OH Leg. Educ. Chair, Brian Williams and all:
It's time that the HPA, STRS officials, and the others in power over our STRS retired educators, to stop cutting, and trying to cut, our retiree delayed compensations. We who are already retired, and have already experienced cuts to provide seed money for investments and sometimes even for imprudent "investments", need subsidized -- not cuts! It is noted that those of us who have been retired for many years are unemployable; and we cannot endure STRS cuts any longer. Further, those recent retirees have experienced tremendous HC/Rx costs, as well, and cannot they afford cuts either. This is fact, not fiction.
Brian, my friend, will you please respond to this message. I know that you are a fellow retired Akron educator, and as such, may have a legislator's "conflict of interest" but you are the Legislative Education Chair of Ohio and have a position of power to help fend off these insensitive attacks to our fixed income. Can you help us? And, if so, how?
RHJones, a Summit County retired teacher
From John Curry, April 18, 2010
Subject: Re: $6- billion in savings has already been done
Bob, Jim and others,
I can offer a suggestion for an approach that the majority of the other state retirement sytsems have and are going to....a two-tiered approach. One in which the current retirees and actives won't be affected (or only slightly affected) and one in which the most significant burden will fall on those not-yet-hired. They are the ones who have a lifetime to adjust to such a system's changed benefits choose not to enter the teaching profession if they feel that the benefits are not suitable.
This approach will now be used by the Illinois public retirement systems(all 3 of them) that are in far worse shape than Ohio STRS. Do we have time to go that route? Well, according to a quote from Laura Ecklar in the Columbus Dispatch yesterday, it appears we do:
"State Teachers Retirement System spokeswoman Laura Ecklar said the delay isn't likely to harm the system. It isn't planning for any of its changes to take effect until July 2011, which would mark the first phase of an increase in employee contributions, so there's no urgency just yet, Ecklar said."
Sometimes, one has to think "outside the box." The two-tiered approach would be more "friendly" to Ohio's legislators as they would offend far fewer voters if we did go this route. Then again, while our legislators have been "kicking the can down the road," the other states' legislators have been legislating.
From RH Jones, April 18, 2010
Subject: $6- billion in savings has already been done
STRS Ohio Board Member, Jim McGreevy:
The new STRS investment department's incentives has helped bring our assists now reach $61-billion. In addition to the incentives, however, the investment staff is now growing the STRS assets in the large part due to the 3% seed money that the STRS board took away from us retired educator's HC/Rx 4% fund -- leaving just 1% left to support it ; and, then, transferring those dollars to provide seed money for the general investment fund. As you can clearly see, since that retiree HC/Rx cut, they certainly could have made up the $6- billion. I know, for that change has cost me personally around $1,300 per year(one out of the thousands of others who were now not getting spousal HC/Rx). Multiply that by others in that "same boat", plus the HC/Rx cuts for all retired members, one can see that $6-bil goal has been achieved.
On Apr 17, 2010, at 1:31 PM, Bob Jones wrote:
To all ORTA members:
Every ORTA member needs to get on the phone, or the computer, to protest ORTA's support of the 1% cut in our fixed, flat, COLA. Never, should the ORTA Director Ann Hanning and the leadership of ORTA set back and say, and do, nothing when retired educators are being threatened with any type of cut. If ORTA does not aggressively defend our interests at the STRS, or else, they are doing the members a disservice that will in the long-term hurt membership when it is most sorely needed.
Note: Some of us can not attend meeting ORTA meetings for a variety of reasons, but that does not mean that we should not have a voice in ORTA do nothing policy. Traveling around the state means nothing. Monitoring our STRS means everything!
RHJones, PUFL ORTA member
From John Curry, April 17, 2010 12:08 PM
Subject: Dennis speaks..........................
Yes, Dennis....ORTA sat there and did their usual thing....."silence." It sure doesn't do anything for their membership nor retirees, does it?
Election delaying pension reform
Bill on funding of state workers’ retirements expected after Nov. 2
Saturday, April 17, 2010
By James Nash
Election-year politics are holding up a solution to the funding woes faced by Ohio's public pension systems, the state's second-largest retirement plan said yesterday.
A bill that would stabilize funding for retirement systems for hundreds of thousands of retired teachers, police officers, school custodians, budget analysts and other government employees probably won't be introduced until after the November elections, according to the State Teachers Retirement System.
State pension leaders had hoped to have the bill on the floor early this year.
"This is a correction to the pension systems that is going to have some implications for current retirees, future pensioners, current taxpayers and future taxpayers," said state Rep. Todd Book, D-Portsmouth, who plans to sponsor the bill. "When it gets introduced, my goal is to get it right."
The economic downturn that began in 2008 battered the bottom lines of the state's five public pension systems. Even before that, some of the pension systems were struggling to keep up with costs related to the retirement of baby boomers, increased life expectancies and health care. Three of the pension systems - the State Teachers Retirement System, the Highway Patrol Retirement System and the Ohio Police and Fire Pension Fund - are out of compliance with the state law requiring them to have enough assets to cover their obligations for 30 years.
The legislation is supposed to ensure the long-term solvency of the retirement plans through a variety of measures, some unpopular. Existing teachers and school districts would be required to pay more toward teacher pensions. Cities and counties would pay more toward police and firefighter retirements, as would the employees. Retirement ages would be raised for nearly all public employees.
The proposed changes have been approved by pension-system boards but have drawn opposition from some Republican lawmakers and the Ohio Municipal League. They object to squeezing cities and school districts for higher contributions.
In a regular update to members, the State Teachers Retirement System said the pension fixes likely will be delayed for months.
"Because of the politics surrounding the November elections, it is becoming more and more unlikely a bill will be introduced before November," the message said.
Book, who must leave the House because of term limits, said he's unaware of any specific political holdups. But he acknowledged that the pension fixes could be held hostage as the governor and other statewide officeholders are up for re-election.
State Teachers Retirement System spokeswoman Laura Ecklar said the delay isn't likely to harm the system. It isn't planning for any of its changes to take effect until July 2011, which would mark the first phase of an increase in employee contributions, so there's no urgency just yet, Ecklar said.
The Ohio Police and Fire Pension Fund, on the other hand, had planned for the first phase of the increase in employee contributions to kick in this year.
Aristotle L. Hutras, director of the Ohio Retirement Study Council, which advises the state and public officials, said the pension systems remain in solid fiscal health, boosted by the recent upturn in the stock market.
"Eventually, this is going to happen," he said. "This is the prudent and necessary thing to do. Is there an emergency? No."

Want to read the actual "settlement" against the OEA that the retired OEA "staffers" won?

Here it is.....
From John Curry, April 19, 2010

Bonus problem is back on the front burner for many pension systems once again!

From John Curry, April 19, 2010
Public funds wrestling with bonus conundrum
Click image to enlarge.
“You could put a blind monkey in the investment seat and he would have done better,” said Mr. Miller.

Source: Pensions & Investments
Date: April 19, 2010
Public pension plans across the U.S. are revamping compensation policies that allowed bonuses for investment staffers and other top officials while the funds were losing hundreds of billions of dollars during the financial crisis.
In the aftermath of the crisis, state officials are dealing with increases in unfunded liabilities for their plans amid budget crises that have resulted in layoffs, program cuts and reductions in cost-of-living increases for state retirees.
Against that backdrop, “bonuses“ has become a dirty word.
“In recession years ... it's very difficult to give bonuses without people being up in arms,'' said Girard Miller, consultant at PFM Asset Management LLC in Philadelphia.
The issue has played to front-page newspaper headlines in Missouri, where Gov. Jay Nixon has called pension staff bonuses “unconscionable” and has led efforts to terminate the state's bonus program for pension system employees.
Read complete article here.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

More information re. the class action lawsuit against the OEA by its former employees....

I'd say the OEA lost this class action suit filed by its retirees, wouldn't you?

3. What benefits will I receive in the settlement?

"The benefits you will receive in this settlement have two components: compensatory damages and future benefits. As for compensatory damages, the OEA will pay a one time lump sum of $3.75 million for compensatory damages accrued between September 1, 2004 and December 1, 2009. Attorney fees are expected to be paid out of the past damages, leaving $2 million in compensatory damages to distribute to members of the class."

Note from read the entire summary of this class action settlement please click on the link above!

Tom Curtis: ORTA is not an advocate for retirees

From Tom Curtis, April 18, 2010
Subject: From Dennis Leone...... Where was ORTA?
Hello Educators,
My involvement with the operation of the STRS has come to an end after 7 years. YEA! So you will not be bothered by emails from me any longer concerning the STRS. Well, maybe not completely, but very, very, very few.
I have also rescinded my life membership with ORTA. Many think that was not wise. The following message [see ORTA! ORTA! ORTA!, posted immediately below this post] from Dennis Leone explains very well, why I chose to do so.
Also, I was recently told that Ann Hanning's contract as director of ORTA was renewed for another 3 years. To me, this is comparable to the senate and the house giving themselves raises whenever they like. I believe Ann Hanning's annual salary is $50K+, but she will not respond to requests for this information from various members.
Should a member not be able to know just what their dues are paying for, other then a quarterly newsletter?
As before, I encourage any current member or prospective member to seriously consider why you would choose to support, or continue to support an organization that has done so little for retirees under Ann Hanning's direction?
In my opinion, ORTA is not an advocate for retirees, as it claims to be. ORTA continually sides with the OEA, another organization that does so little for retirees. Why, because retirees no longer pay their outrageous dues. Enough said! It's your money, please spend it wisely.
Tom Curtis


Dennis Leone to "Duke" Snider, April 18, 2010
Subject: ORTA, ORTA, ORTA!
(Click image to enlarge)
Duke --
I've love to attend the Brown County RTA meeting at 11:30 a.m. on June 24........but at that precise time, I will be on a plane to visit my elder daughter in Denver.
Since ORTA's Ann Hanning will be speaking at the meeting, I sure wish someone would ask her why -- during my 4 years on the board -- ORTA never spoke in support of one single thing I advanced in the best interests of retirees. Not one time.
Often I even would urge the STRS board members to slow down and make sure they understood how proposals might adversely affect retirees. Did ORTA ever stand up and say "Yeah, Leone is right." Never. Did ORTA stand with me (when I was completely alone, initially) to streamline the operating budget, to stop bonuses in years STRS lost money, to freeze salaries? Nope. In fact, I recall that three years ago, I published statements in an ORTA newsletter saying that I was upset over STRS staff and board members telling the world that STRS pensions were secure and nobody had anything to worry about.
Without even knowing what might happen with the Stock Market, I could tell that our number of active teachers and wage contributions (called "payroll growth") had dropped five or six consecutive years. The trend looked obviously bad in my eyes, but not to anyone else.
I publicly criticized Laura Ecklar and Michael Neff for publishing "all is fine" STRS newsletters. One month after I did it for the last time -- during a large planning work session -- STRS announced that we were in trouble absent big changes occurring. Did ORTA stand with me in questioning our financial stability? No sir.
In December of 2008, the Columbus Dispatch reported that I was the only board member who wanted to stop bonuses completely in years STRS lost money. My push to make a change initially failed miserably. When it finally passed (after STRS had lost $30 billion in assets), the vote was 6-3-1, with OEA board members still trying to stop it. Where was ORTA to help? Nowhere.
Finally, just before I left the board, I pushed for 2 more things, but couldn't quite get them (and WOULD have, I believe, if ORTA had helped). I wanted:
1. A board policy requiring Steve Mitchell to inform the board if severe economic conditions, or abnormal external events (like a terrorist attack), might require STRS to pull certain stocks from our passive avoid the embarrassment of Enron, World Com, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The board's passive portfolio philosophy PROHIBTS the staff to pull the plug on single passive stocks (which translates into the staff saying -- when certain stocks take a dive -- "it's not my fault, it's the board's policy"). It is plainly stupid and ORTA did nothing to help me get this changed. Month after month I brought it up (as John Lazares did on concerns with Fannie Mae), but got nowhere. Oh well, said ORTA.
2. The STRS Board thinks it is okay to raise the health insurance premiums of retirees, but it's not okay to do the same, proportionately, for STRS employees. While salaries were finally frozen, the bonus checks stopped (sort of), silly staff perks were dropped (like annual cash reimbursements for unused sick leave), and full-time rehired retirees were finally told they could not have STRS insurance, I got absolutely nowhere on the notion that when retirees have to pay more for insurance, so should the STRS staff.
No help from ORTA.......not ever, on anything.
Dennis Leone
Former STRS Board Member (2005-2009)
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