Saturday, June 05, 2010


From John Curry, June 5, 2010
Does one note the conspicuous absence of the OEA in the statement below by CTU official, Meryl Johnson, I the only one???????? Where were you, OEA?????????
"Where was The Plain Dealer in 2001, when several education groups, including the Ohio Federation of Teachers, the Ohio AFL-CIO, the Ohio School Boards Association and the Ohio PTA, filed a lawsuit charging that Ohio's charter school law is unconstitutional because, among many other reasons, the new schools operate with little oversight by local school boards and taxpayers?"

* * * * *
From Rich DeColibus (former president of the Cleveland Teachers Union) June 5, 2010

Plain Dealer largely silent over the years on charter school abuses; thanks for taking a stand now
June 4, 2010
Kudos and best of luck to the 10 charter school boards that have filed a lawsuit against White Hat Management, David Brennan's for-profit charter school company. As a result, The Plain Dealer finally decided to make recommendations on desperately needed changes to Ohio's charter school legislation.
But where was The Plain Dealer back in 1999 when the Akron Beacon Journal's series "Whose Choice?" brilliantly chronicled how Brennan used his political ties to push a pro-charter school agenda, which in 2004-05 awarded him profits of $4.16 million on revenues of $116.95 million (Education Voters, November 2008)? And while the profits continue to flow into Brennan's pockets, school buildings close and teacher and paraprofessional layoffs occur.
Where was The Plain Dealer in 2001, when several education groups, including the Ohio Federation of Teachers, the Ohio AFL-CIO, the Ohio School Boards Association and the Ohio PTA, filed a lawsuit charging that Ohio's charter school law is unconstitutional because, among many other reasons, the new schools operate with little oversight by local school boards and taxpayers? The majority Republican Ohio Supreme Court ruled against them in 2006.
And where was The Plain Dealer when the Education Voters Institute produced a very detailed report in 2008 that included the following statements: 1) Charter schools are allowed to group significant types of expenditures under a single category called "administrative expenditures"; and, 2) the state's taxpayers now provide more than $586 million annually to support charter schools?
Those courageous charter school board members will have a hard time getting a victory; Brennan and his wife "gave a combined $733,000 to state candidates and Republican organizations in 2007, including $400,000 to the Ohio Republican Party" (Plain Dealer Politics Blog, July 1, 2008). But I am pleased that The Plain Dealer finally decided to do what it should have done many years ago -- responsible editorial writing.
Meryl Johnson, Cleveland
Johnson is the director of community engagement for the Cleveland Teachers Union

Fw: Another twist...suing the state for failure to fund the STRS

From RH Jones, June 5, 2010
Subject: Re: Another twist...suing the state for failure to fund the STRS
Dave and all:
As a retired teacher and also a local taxpayer, I know dollars will come to my local public schools if my tax dollars were not going into charter schools, and the like. Even the 1% that goes to "home schoolers" takes away from the 2.5% employer increase that thinking people are requesting to help our OH STRS; also, it is no mystery to me, as to why we all should properly fund our traditional public school systems. As Abe Lincoln once said, well over 100-years ago to the effect that, '" we will not lose our freedom from without, it will be lost from within". As voters leave their air-conditioned homes in the luxury of their air-conditioned vehicles to drive to their polling places to vote in the primary, and on Tuesday, November 2, they have no choice but to support education. For if we (they) do not, the alternative is too difficult to even imagine. Read on.
Some financial sacrifices to educate our youngsters is necessary to better our society, and our civilization. When I was in Korea during the Korean War, I saw Korean children eating out of garbage dumps and living on the streets; in rags for clothing, some were carrying their little brothers or sisters on their backs. Is this what Americans, and Ohioans in particular, want for their children and grandchildren? My dilemma is why school boards and those who sit on the STRS board do not understand this. Without our long and grand tradition of public school education, in one short generation, we can be living in total chaos, our offspring living like wild animals.
In stating the truth clearly and without concealing anything, or sparing somebody's feelings, it is no accident that, as stated in the media today, out of the last 12 spelling bees, eight of the winners have been of East Indian descent. Is that an accident? I do not think so. India is an ancient civilization, as is China and Japan. Their cultures value education, while ours, being only a little over 200 years old, obviously does not quite grasp that we are no longer in the frontier days. We have over 300 million people, and growing. Most live in cities, and to thrive in a city one must be educated. Prisons are for the uneducated, at a cost of about $50,000 per inmate per year, and most are repeat offenders. Farms are even industrializing, and require an education to stay in business. Therefore, we have no choice but to fully support education, and that includes a decent retirement for the college educated professionals who are the most desired teachers in our classrooms. Would you not want your children and grandchildren to have the best educators teaching your descendants? Taxpayers and educational board members who wish to skimp on that do so at the risk of being uncompetitive with foreign powers, especially Asia -- look at Singapore -- we can no longer hide behind the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Being provincially ignorant and by foolishly cutting education -- and our teacher retirement -- is part of the whole package, whether taxpayers like it or not: our survival depends on education. To ignore that is to be ignorant.
Robert H. Jones, retired OH STRS teacher stakeholder

AG Cordray speaks in D.C. re: lawsuits for Ohio retirement systems

From John Curry, May 29, 2010
As Congress Hashes Out Financial Sector Reform, Cordray Gives the Ohio Backstory
5/27/2010 (News Release)
(WASHINGTON, D.C.) — At the invitation of legal leaders in the nation's capital, Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray today spoke to the District of Columbia Bar Association about Ohio's decision to sue Wall Street rating agencies Standard and Poor’s, Fitch and Moody's for their role in the global economic crisis.
Both houses of Congress have recently passed financial reform legislation, and legislators are now considering two amendments that would regulate the rating agencies.
Ohio filed suit against the rating agencies in federal court last November on behalf of five Ohio public employee retirement and pension funds. The lawsuit alleges the agencies provided false and misleading ratings of mortgage-backed securities in exchange for lucrative fees from the securities issuers. According to preliminary estimates, the improper ratings cost Ohio’s public pension funds in excess of $457 million.
Congressional hearings have documented that 91% of the AAA subprime residential mortgage-backed securities issued in 2007 and 93% of those issued in 2006 have now been downgraded to junk status.
In the speech, Cordray described the role of states in holding Wall Street accountable and promoting reform:
“Ohio’s pension funds are some of the largest institutional investors in the world, with over $150 billion in assets. We are fighting for their members – the firefighters, police officers, teachers, public servants – and for the many others who were hurt by the wrongdoing that came with Wall Street’s binge. A sound pension to see a person through their retirement years – the keeping of promises made to the participants over many years or even a lifetime of steady work – is the very essence of economic security.
“As lawyers for some of the largest institutional investors in the world, I believe we are in a good position to try to unearth misconduct that causes them to lose money, as Congress recognized in shaping the federal securities laws.
“Ohio and the other states play a vital role in policing the marketplace. Indeed, during the troubled times of the past decade, the state attorneys general were practically the only cops on the beat who took seriously their responsibility to protect average American households who cannot afford their own lawyers.
“For this reason, during the current Washington debate on Wall Street reform, we have fought tenaciously against legions of lobbyists who are seeking to preempt state authority in order to remove attorneys general from our traditional role. We are heartened that the effort to sideline state authorities in the financial reform bill seems mostly to have failed, at least so far.”
For background on Ohio’s other securities cases, visit

Would STRS adopt this gold standard?

From John Curry, June 4, 2010
Wanted: A Gold Standard for Pensions
Public officials who run pension plans should update their rule books.
Girard Miller
June 2010
Girard Miller is the Public Money columnist for GOVERNING and a senior strategist at the PFM Group.
Last year, the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS), the nation's largest pension fund, suffered an embarrassing governance crisis: Marketeers and "placement agents" reportedly paid their way into positions of undue influence. Its board has censured one member, and legislation was introduced to regulate placement agents. California wasn't the only state to deal with such unseemly conduct on the part of its governing body. In New York, the attorney general received complaints of similar abuses and recently entered into settlement agreements with several implicated firms.
The apparent conflicts of interest--and media coverage of them--are shining a spotlight on the little-known world of pension governance. The attention may be unwelcome, but it has led to a call for sweeping reforms in the way public pension plans are run.
The national professional associations have now looked at this issue, and a new gold standard for governance practices has emerged. The Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA), whose membership includes public pension plan officers and thousands of chief financial officers for public employers and plan sponsors, has issued recommended governance practices that provide clear guidance to pension trustees and administrators on how to govern their plans:
It is by far the most comprehensive and thoughtful document now available to pension managers and fiduciaries, and it should be reviewed by every board in the country at least annually. Every new trustee orientation session should include explicit discussion of these recommendations.
The GFOA document starts with three key concepts: duty of loyalty, duty of care and duty of prudence.
The duty of loyalty concept states that trustees must represent the interests of all beneficiaries and the overall plan. They should not represent the special interests of whatever groups might have elected or selected them. Trustees are not instructed delegates, like legislators. They are fiduciaries. Accepting campaign contributions, gifts or gratuities from potential service providers should be a clear violation of the duty of loyalty.
The modernized duty of care concept now says that assuring financial sustainability must become a trustees' responsibility. It's not sufficient for trustees to simply blame structural funding problems on the plan sponsor. If trustees sleep at the switch and allow an unsustainable benefit plan to jeopardize retiree benefits, they are violating their duty of care and should be held legally responsible as fiduciaries. If the law or their charter precludes them from changing the system, they must formally admonish those in power to do so.
The duty of prudence concept maintains that many pension plans require investments to be made with the judgment and care that an informed person would make with their own money for investment and not for speculation--the prudent person rule. But prudence goes beyond portfolio construction and should also include fiscal considerations.
Board composition is then addressed to include the important concept of including enough independent directors free of influence from employee and retiree groups, as well as public employers, to assure balanced decision-making. Pension plans now dominated by labor interests should take heed, and plan sponsors and legislatures should take corrective actions to insert sufficient independent trustees on their boards to assure the public's interests. Personally I would prefer to follow the mutual-fund industry requirement of a majority of independent trustees; the bare minimum would be a controlling bloc of independents that keeps the self-interested parties in check.
The GFOA's language on codes of conduct is also the strongest of all the policy documents now offered by professional organizations and pension associations. The activities of third-party marketers and the control of campaign contributions and finders' fees are addressed directly. Trustees and pension-plan managers looking for more concrete language should also study the proposed code of conduct published by the New York attorney general.
Other national associations in the public pension field would serve their members well by adopting equally informative and detailed guidance on governance practices. State legislatures and oversight bodies would likewise do well to adopt and codify these key principles.

Friday, June 04, 2010

RH Jones, Dave Speas and some tough funding issues

From Dave Speas, June 4, 2010
Subject: Re: Another twist...suing the state for failure to fund the STRS
To All,
I am a retired teacher and certainly understand the need to find a way to fund the COLA, especially for those who retired longest ago, and the medical component. I also sit on a local school board and wonder if the players in all this understand the pressures on local taxpayers at this time.
In our case, we have a levy coming up in 2012 and two more in 2013. If we pass all the levies as renewals, we will be $1.3 million in debt without major cuts. Since 80% of our budget is salaries and fixed charges and we have no control over gasoline, electricity, gas, and daily costs, and we really only control 6% of the budget outside of all of the above, we are going to have to ask for replacement levies, cut staff, or close a building which will reduce staff along with the closing.
We have been told to expect from a 6% to 22% cut from the state since they are $8 billion in debt. That means we could be $2.6 million in debt by 2012 when we go to our voters.
Cutting teaching staff means less going into the STRS pension coffers and will negate the 2.5% raise in our costs and run us more deeply in debt. It is possible that by 2015, only 12 school districts in Ohio could be in the black if the cuts from state aid continue to diminish funds and voters continue to turn down replacement and new funding levies.
I believe the state is to be a partner in the education funding for all the children in Ohio. The economic downturn has put all education entities in cutback roles as we have cut a million dollars out of our budget in the last 18 months and are fighting to not cut into the educational muscle of a district that has been deemed excellent three out of the last four years.
As a board, we have discussed the dilemma we find ourselves in and have not spoken out negatively about the raise in retirement costs we may be asked to assume. However, it will be very difficult to explain it to our voters when many of them have lost jobs, taken cuts in pay, and find their paychecks frozen.
I only send this to make it clear that this is going to be a tough sell to boards across the state and to teachers who are coming to ask for a raise and find us without funds to reward them for hard work and dedication to our students. We have no money for raises this year as we are in deficit spending and have been for two years as we continue to cut into our education programs.
We must hope and pray for an economic rebound or our schools will be offering state minimum programs at a time our leaders are asking for 21st Century educational standards. How you do that on bare bones funding is a mystery to me.
With respect,
Dave Speas
From RH Jones, June 4, 2010
Subject: Another twist...suing the state for failure to fund the STRS
John and all:
Under the same reasoning, as an average person, it seems to me that the state may be, at this point in time, legally responsible to properly fund our STRS with an employer increase. After all, it has been well over 20 years since the legislature has increased the employer contribution rate. In the meantime, the OH STRS has had inflation to deal with; and, our retired teacher HC/Rx has gone up in price drastically, all the while the STRS cut spousal and dependent care. Also, our simple 3% COLA just can not keep up either.
For Ohio, the economy is recovering, albeit slower than most Ohioans would like; nevertheless, a modest employer increase would show good faith and avoid any expensive "failure to fund" trips to the courtroom.
This is my thinking,
RHJones, retired STRS teacher member.
From John Curry, June 4, 2010
Subject: Here's a new twist.....suing the city for for failure to fund the retirement system!
Baltimore Sun, June 3, 2010
Unions sue city, allege "systematic underfunding" of pension system
[UPDATE, 5:40 p.m.: Here is Julie's initial report, in which the unions claim the current situation is "not an accident, and 10 years does not a crisis make."]
The city police and fire unions filed a lawsuit today against the city in federal court, alleging the mayor and finance director have for years "breached its contract with its police officers, firefighters and retirees by systematically underfunding" the retirement system. Our City Hall reporter, Julie Scharper, is sifting through the 57-page complaint, but here's the union's press release in the meantime:
"After Bringing Several Solutions to the Negotiating Table, Fire & Police Forced to File Suit Against City
City has violated its contractual obligation"
Baltimore, MD—June 3, 2010—Baltimore City has breached its contract with its police officers, firefighters and retirees by systematically underfunding the Fire & Police Employees’ Retirement System (F&P Plan). As a result of its own actions, the City now claims that it must consider Bill 10-0482 and other legislation that would drastically reduce the benefits already earned by members of the F&P Plan that are guaranteed under Article 22 § 42 of the Baltimore City Code. The City’s decision to break its promises has forced Baltimore’s police officers, firefighters and retirees to bring this matter before a Federal Judge.
“For more than a year now, the police and fire labor organizations have submitted proposals to address the funding problems of the F&P Plan, to no avail. Despite filing this lawsuit, the police and fire labor organizations remain committed to continuing discussions with the City,” said Robert Cherry, President of the Baltimore Fraternal Order of Police.
Over the past 14 months, the City has ignored numerous attempts by fire and police representatives to negotiate a compromise. Litigation appears to be the only remaining option. One of the key issues has been the City’s desire to take away the variable benefit in the F&P Plan, which provides periodic benefit increases for retirees. Fire and police representatives have offered to negotiate modifications to the variable benefit in exchange for cost of living increases, which would offer the City an immediate savings of $65 million for the end of FY 2010 and long-term savings.
Baltimore’s public safety workers contribute 6% of each paycheck to the F&P Plan. The City is also required to contribute to the F&P Plan, but for the past decade it has contributed far less money than was recommended by the F&P Plan’s actuary, even though the City had budget surpluses in some of those years. The City’s underfunding has left the F&P Plan in a grossly underfunded state.
“Year after year, City officials have ignored the recommendations of the F&P Plan’s own actuary, hoping that a day of reckoning would never come. By doing so, the City gambled away the funding of our members’ hard-earned pension,” stated Bob Sledgeski, President of Baltimore Fire Fighters Local 734. “The City has broken its contractual obligations to the fire and police workers of Baltimore. But what is more disheartening is that the City has broken its promise – the moral obligation to support those who have served and protected its citizens.”

RH Jones: Is ORTA watching our backs?

From RH Jones, June 1, 2010
To all ORTA members:
The ORTA should not sit idly by and watch legislation get passed that will not protect our HC/Rx and 3% simple COLA. Provided by one of the nation’s premier defined benefit (delayed compensation) retirement systems, our OH STRS, has assets of close to 90 billion dollars; and, therefore, can afford to continue the present level of benefits for the present retired members.
As does the legislature, the ORTA has constituents, too -- they are called members – and they look to the ORTA leadership, and the paid director, Ann Hanning, to watch our backs at the Ohio Statehouse, and at each STRS board meeting. However, not once in the past year or so have I seen any of our ORTA central officers, or the director, stand up and speak during the public speaking part of the STRS monthly meetings. Many of members have had the resolve and take the time to craft speeches and present them at the meetings, but never our ORTA officials. This silence by them in both the STRS public meetings, and in the ORTA newsletter, has given the impression of weakness that the ORTA officials are easily ignored and duped. Every member is aware that, also, not once did they support Dr. Leone or Mr. Lazares, who, as retirees' representatives during their tenure on the STRS board, made many positive changes.
As a Life Member, I suggest that the ORTA officials fix this glaring weakness immediately. I think that the majority of the membership thinks as I do. Our ORTA officials have protected our hard-earned STRS benefits in the past, and now they must protect them once again. Even if it is unpleasant to do so, they must act aggressively. As professional retired educators, we can expect no less from our ORTA that happens to have, at the moment, the largest numbers of retired members.
There is empirical evidence that across our nation public pension unions – the ORTA is a union, even if they have not been acting like it lately – are fighting the recent assaults on their members' public retired pensions. Some have been very successful. Our ORTA has got to, even if the ORTA officials do not want to, strongly and firmly take issue with any legislation coming forth which that does not protect the promises made to the retired STRS members (ORTA’s members), their spouses and their families.
RHJones, PUFL (Paid Up For Life) ORTA member

Ohio Retirement Study Council meeting scheduled for June 9

From ORSC, June 3, 2010
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
9:00 a.m.
Room 122
Columbus, OH
  • Call to Order
  • Roll Call
  • Minutes of Previous Meeting
  • Selection of Finalists for Fiduciary Audit of HPRS
  • Rules
  • Announcement of Next Meeting
  • Adjournment OR SC

Dave Parshall: CORE is the only group prepared to fight for 3% COLA, and will do so in court if need be

Dave Parshall to CORE members, June 2, 2010
CORE members and supporters, as you may know our next CORE meeting is June 10th at STRS in Columbus. We have a special quest joining us, the Attorney General of the State of Ohio, Mr. Richard Cordray. Thanks goes to CORE member John Curry for helping make Mr. Cordray’s visit a reality. CORE will be thanking him for the recovery of millions of dollars lost due to fraud on Wall Street. There have been recent attempts in Congress to make it illegal for State Attorneys General to go after Wall Street, but the good news is that these attempts have failed so far.
At our last CORE meeting it was decided that CORE needs to help our members make wise decisions in this coming November’s election. This election could not be more critical for STRS members. It could determine the kind of pension you have and the financial security that your retirement system will continue to provide. Educators have a history of often voting against their own best financial interests. CORE is in the process of coming up with 10 pertinent questions to ask candidates for office (especially state offices) like, “Do you support Defined Benefit Pensions?” We will then encourage as many of our members as possible to meet with candidates in their districts and ask them to respond to the 10 questions. CORE will then post on our website the names of candidates who responded favorably to our questions. This will be non-partisan. At this point we will support any politician who will support us. Please help us write the 10 questions by sending your suggestions to Dave Parshall at or bring them to our June or August CORE meetings.
On the 10th there will be a very short CORE meeting followed by our speaker at 12:30. We will break for lunch at 11:30. Lunch is on your own in the STRS cafeteria. After all, CORE is not a banquet club. Remember, CORE is the only group that is prepared to fight for the 3% simple COLA for current retirees and will do so in court if need be. We only ask for fairness for those who are the weakest among us. I hope to see as many of you as possible on June 10th.
David Parshall,
President of CORE

Recordings of STRS Board meetings now available in MP3 format

From John Curry, May 28, 2010
Click image to enlarge.
I see STRS has changed their format for the free CDs of board meetings. My computer accepted this CD....if yours doesn't then the MP3 format is a free download available on the "net."
STRS FLASHBACK - 7 Years Ago - The day that OEA's Gary Allen displayed that his perception was much different from that of legislators on BOTH sides of the aisle and also from Dr. Dennis Leone's -- Hey, Gary, were we talking about the same guy here?

From John Curry, May 30, 2010
Sen. Kirk Schuring (R) said it is time for Herbert Dyer to go, following revelations this week that the system has spent more than $15 million on staff bonuses, artwork and travel in three years while the system's investments plummeted by $12.3 billion during the same time.

“I am appalled with the kind of response my constituents have gotten from him,” he said. “He is a brash, arrogant and condescending man. “We need a new leader who takes these matters seriously and not be part of any plan to spend money unwisely.”

Representative John Boccieri (D) said Dyer does not understand that the money spent by the STRS board "is not the board's money or his money."
Note from John - Some, however, did not feel that way at all as they were defending this very same person. How could that be?????? Let's take a look at how they reacted to the comments above:
Meanwhile, the Ohio Education Association came to the defense of Dyer and the STRS. The teacher union’s president, Gary L. Allen, sent an e-mail message to his executive committee, district leaders, advisory council, local presidents and STRS board members questioning the motives of Dennis Leone, the Chillicothe City Schools superintendent who is largely responsible for calling attention to the STRS spending spree.

“Mr. Leone’s motives for his decision to broadcast his claims far and wide are unclear,” Allen wrote. “Much of his logic is difficult to follow.” Allen suggested that Leone’s effort were “destructive.”

Canton Repository, June 13, 2003
New leadership urged for state retirement system

By PAUL E. KOSTYU Copley Columbus Bureau chief

CHILLICOTHE — A lawmaker who helps oversee Ohio’s five retirement systems called Thursday for the resignation of the executive director of the State Teachers Retirement System, while another said the system’s books need to be audited.

Sen. Kirk Schuring, R-Jackson Township, said it is time for Herbert Dyer to go, following revelations this week that the system has spent more than $15 million on staff bonuses, artwork and travel in three years while the system’s investments plummeted by $12.3 billion during that same time.

Schuring said Dyer has lost the confidence of the STRS members and new leadership is needed. In his fifth year on the Ohio Retirement Study Council, Schuring is its former chairman.

Rep. John Boccieri, D-New Middletown and a council member, said Dyer does not understand that the money spent by the STRS board “is not the board’s money or his money.” Boccieri, whose parents are STRS members, wants an audit of the system’s books, but he said calling for Dyer’s resignation “is a bit premature.”

State Auditor Betty Montgomery said in an e-mail Thursday she was concerned about “what we are being required to do in our state retirement systems” and that her office will “raise serious questions” about STRS policies.

Meanwhile, the Ohio Education Association came to the defense of Dyer and the STRS. The teacher union’s president, Gary L. Allen, sent an e-mail message to his executive committee, district leaders, advisory council, local presidents and STRS board members questioning the motives of Dennis Leone, the Chillicothe City Schools superintendent who is largely responsible for calling attention to the STRS spending spree.

“Mr. Leone’s motives for his decision to broadcast his claims far and wide are unclear,” Allen wrote. “Much of his logic is difficult to follow.”

Allen suggested that Leone’s effort were “destructive.”

While Allen was sending his message to OEA leaders, the union’s rank and file were lining up behind the superintendent who has become a hero to many.

Leone, lawmakers and news media reported getting numerous calls and e-mail messages backing his efforts and calling for action. All 120 e-mail messages Leone received from administrators, teachers and retirees thanked him, asked how they could help or encouraged him to continue. A couple suggested a class action lawsuit.

Allen said there was no relationship between his criticism of Leone and the fact that a current STRS board member is a former OEA president.

Michael Billirakis is a past president of OEA and Dawn Leibensperger, the wife of an OEA employee, was active in his election bid. Leibensperger is an OEA president in Dublin, in central Ohio.

Billirakis billed STRS $9,923 over three years for expenses, including trips to San Francisco, Boston (twice), Atlanta, Tacoma, Wash., and Anchorage, Alaska. He was one of the lowest spending board members. The top spender is Hazel Sidaway of Plain Township, who spent $54,216, which included 25 trips requiring airfare.

Allen said the past spending habits of Dyer and the board are “old news” and it is time for the system to move forward. He said, however, changes should be made in how bonuses are awarded to employees.

Schuring said he has heard repeatedly from constituents who have been in touch with Dyer.

“I am appalled with the kind of response my constituents have gotten from him,” he said. “He is a brash, arrogant and condescending man.

“We need a new leader who takes these matters seriously and not be part of any plan to spend money unwisely.”

Sen. Lynn R. Wachtmann, R-Napoleon and chairman of the council, wrote to a constituent in February that STRS did not move fast enough to prevent cuts in the health-care benefits of retirees. Wachtmann said earlier this week that he wants more hearings on the STRS spending and its health-care program.

Sen. Jim Jordan, R-Urbana but not on the study council, also writing to a constituent, said on May 28 that “Mr. Leone raises a number of valid issues pointing (to) mismanagement and inefficient use of funds by STRS.”

Leone said his motive is clear: “To get the board to change its spending practices and respond to its members.”

“This year there was a long and ugly teacher strike in the Eastern Local School District south of Chillicothe that the OEA rightfully supported,” Leone said. “What would have the reaction been from OEA and teachers if they found out the Eastern school board was spending like the STRS board? There would have been outrage if the board was flying to Hawaii, giving principals bonuses and purchasing polished stones for the superintendent’s office.”

Note from John...........for Gary Allen and any other readers that consider that Dr. Leone's effort(s) were, as Gary Allen stated, "destructive," and his logic "is difficult to follow," well........let's take a look at Dr. Leone's accomplishments while he served a 4 year stint on the STRS board and rethink Gary Allen's words.
Thanks to Molly Janczyk we have this list of accomplishments by Dr. Leone:
Dennis Leone's Accomplishments as a STRS Board Member
1. Bonus plan for fiscal year 2010: Motion made by Dennis Leone prohibits bonuses if overall return is negative. Plan restricts bonuses unless total STRS assets return to $65 billion. For every $1 billion our total assets fall short of $65 billion at the end of FY 2010, bonuses will be reduced by 3%.
2. Motion made by Leone prohibits bonuses beyond FY 2010 in years in which total returns are negative.
3. Motion made by Leone and passed on Oct. 20th, 2006 requires the STRS staff to provide a summary of all proposed contracts for services provided directly to the Board and for any propose contract in excess of $100,000.
4. Motions made by Leone resulted in changes to the Board's travel and expenditure policies:
1. No reimbursements for meals unless itemized receipts are provided.
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. 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.
4. Meal reimbursements are now limited to $10.00 for breakfast, $15.00 for lunch, and $25.00 for dinner.
5. No overnight lodging will be provided by STRS on the day that Board meetings end or the day after conferences conclude.
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.
7. STRS funds will not be used every again to purchase credit cards, fax machines, fax lines, or laptop computers for Board members. Also Board members cannot expect STRS to pay for their personal long distance phone calls when they are attending meetings.
5. Proposed and received Bd. support for formally recognizing the deceased Paul Boyer, a CORE founding member and vigilant retiree supporter, in Dec. of 2008.
6. Leone was responsible for 52 credit cards and 39 gas cards held by STRS staff and Board members being turned in.
7. Leone was responsible for all but a couple of cars, vans, and SUVs purchased by STRS to be sold.
8. Leone was responsible for canceling the policy permitting staff to use STRS cars for personal use.
9. Shortly after joining the STRS Bd., Leone’s motions resulted in the STRS staff being reduced by 100 employees and and the administrative budget being cut.
10. New policies introduced by Leone prohibited the use of pension money for things like alcohol, parties, movie rentals, concerts, baseball games, Kings Island trips as well as lodging, airfare, and gifts for out-of-town STRS visitors.
11. The cost to run the STRS child care center was reduced from $500,000 per year to $100,000 per year and finally at present, the center is cost neutral.
12. Cafeteria services in the STRS building are now cost neutral.
13. Fees for staff to use the STRS fitness center were increased.
14. Bonus checks for non-investment staff (affecting over 300 employees) have been eliminated.
15. NEA paid back STRS the $39,251 that the Perry Local School District received from STRS for the substitute teacher costs for Michael Billirakis when he was attending STRS Board meetings.
16. As a result of pressure from Dr. Leone, 105 legislators called for STRS Executive Director Herb Dyer to resign (which he did) to avoid being terminated.
17. Senate Bill 133, signed by the governor on June 16, 2004, put in place a number of oversight regulations. It also requires ethics training and travel policies for all STRS Board members.
18. Senate Bill 133 added another retiree to the STRS Board, removed State Auditor Betty Montgomery and State Attorney General Jim Petro, and added three investment specialists (thereby stripping OEA of its majority control of the STRS Board.)
19. Senate Bill 133 stipulated that the “big spender” STRS Board members from 2000, 2001, and 2002 (using Dennis Leone’s language) “those who spent in excess of $10,000 per year of pension money on trips around the country may never again run for the STRS Board or serve as an appointee to the STRS Board.” This affected prior STRS Board members Jack Chapman, Eugene Norris, Hazel Sidaway, Gloria Gaylord, and Debbie Scott.
20. Senate Bill 133 contains a disciplinary procedure that authorizes the State Attorney General (in the event that STRS Board members improperly spend pension money in the future) to seek restitution, to pursue civil charges against STRS Board members, and cause their removal from the STRS Board.
21. Leone made a motion to eliminate the Severance Policy (which had never been approved by a STRS Board) and therefore prohibit the STRS Executive Director from giving cash and free health insurance to STRS staff laid off in the future. His motion was rejected 7 to 3.
22. Motion made by Leone to remove STRS Investment Chief Steve Mitchell from PBI (Performance-Based Incentive) Plan died from a lack of a second. Dr. Leone cited conflict of interest concerns since Mitchell evaluates other bonus recipients.
23. Motion made by Leone to deny FY 2009 bonuses to Investment staff died due to a lack of a second.
24. Leone presented two motions which were tabled after STRS Executive Director Nehf said he would cause them to happen administratively. They were;
1. The development of a mechanism to enable the STRS Board and staff to deviate from its passive stock policy when certain stocks go significantly south due to abnormal external circumstances like fraud. (Example: The Board practice which triggered automatic purchasing of 92,500 shares of Fannie Mae stock just before the company collapsed and was taken over by the federal government. STRS lost millions.)
2. Communicating the STRS Board’s objection to companies that use federal bailout dollars on things like bonus checks. expensive retreats, hunting trips, multi-million dollar CEO contracts, and multi-million dollar severance payouts. (STRS has spent millions purchasing stock in certain companies that have lost public confidence and stockholder confidence due to their fiscal mismanagement.
25. Dr. Leone received the Ohio Senate’s Outstanding Educators Service Award in 1999.
26. Dr. Leone received the First Amendment Award in 2004 from the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists for uncovering the inappropriate spending practices at STRS.
27. Dennis Leone was the only superintendent to receive an award in 2002 from the Ohio Association of Public School Employees for collaborative labor/management relations.
28. The following represent a number of spending abuses discovered by Dr. Leone that occurred at STRS since 1995. Dr. Leone wrote the report that summarized the spending abuses (hundreds of millions of dollars) of our pension money by the STRS Board and staff. The abuses occurred even though assets at STRS dropped $12 billion, retirees lost their 13th check, health insurance premiums for retirees significantly increased, active members of STRS saw their STRS contribution rate increased from 9.3% to 10.0%, and school districts were implementing budget reduction plans to make ends meet. STRS expenditures included:
1. $94.2 million on the new STRS headquarters.
2. $869,235 on artwork, sculptures, and polished stones for the new STRS bldg.
3. $818,000 on a child care services center for the children of STRS employees.
4. $500,000 per year to run the child care service center.
5. $426,000 on a fitness center in the STRS bldg.
6. $88,397 per year to provide food services for STRS employees.
7. $428,056 on 16 cars, vans, and SUVs.
8. STRS Board policy that permitted staff members to drive STRS vehicles for personal use, and the family members of said employees to drive said vehicles.
9. 52 American Express credit cards and 20 BP gas cards used by Board members and STRS staff members.
10. Staff members and Board members attending conferences used STRS credit cards to purchase alcohol. 11. $18,810 was spent on a “Discovery Park” gala event which included the purchase of Instamatic cameras for attendees.
12. $15,100 was spent on the new STRS building dedication which included alcohol and gifts for attendees, as well as air fare and lodging for out-of-town STRS visitors.
13. $4,100 was spent on a private retirement party for a STRS Board member.
14. $5,594 was spent on poinsettias to decorate STRS during the holiday season in 2002.
15. $1,000 was spent on dinners and alcohol for 12 STRS Board members/staff members on two occasions. 16. $7,116 was spent to purchase baseball tickets, concert tickets, movie rentals, and Kings Island tickets for STRS employees in the summer of 2003 for “team building”.
17. $530,284 was spent by the STRS Board on trips and meetings around the country in 2000, 2001, and 2002.
18. Multiple trips were taken by STRS Board members and staff to places like Honolulu, Palm Springs, Kiawah Island, and Anchorage. A planned trip to China in 1995 was canceled after it was suggested that it would have the appearance of junketeering.
19. Frequent occurrences of at least 6 STRS Board members going to the same meeting, sometimes twice a year, costing STRS over $9,000. each year.
20. $36,736 was spent by STRS Board member Jack Chapman in a single year for trips all over the country. 21. $1,017 was spent for an airplane ticket for a STRS Board member that would have cost $258. if it had been purchased 30 days in advance of the conference.
22. $1 million was paid per year to full-time STRS employees for 18 days of unused staff vacation days and unused sick leave.
23. Administrative expenses at STRS increased 17.4% per year between 1996 and 2002.
24. STRS employees increased from 414 to 725 between 1996 and 2002.
25. A total of 1,035 employee bonus checks were issued to STRS staff in 2000, 2001, and 2002.
26. $24.4 million was awarded in bonus checks to employees between 1998 and 2003.
27. $3.2 million was paid by STRS to PERS because of bonuses alone since 1998 to satisfy that pension system’s 13.31% annual employee contribution requirement. (STRS employees are members of PERS).
28. 34 STRS employees in 2002 received bonus checks in excess of $40,000 (with 18 of those getting bonuses in excess of $70,000).
29. One STRS employee received bonus checks of $110,000 and $68,000 in 2001 on top of his base salary of $164,000.
30. Over 150 STRS employees had base salaries over $100,000 in 2002, with 32 of those making over $155,000 -- topping the salaries of both the governor and the chief justice of the State Supreme Court.
31. A total of $39,251 was paid to the Perry Local School District by STRS in 2002 and 2003 for substitute teacher costs for STRS Board member Michael Billirakis (when he attended STRS meetings) even though he did not have a position in the school district. NEA paid Perry Local the dollar amount associated with the salary and the benefits for Billirakis, enabling him to be listed as an employee.
32. Excess STRS furniture was sold to STRS employees in 2000 and 2001 for $27,703, and instead of this amount going back into the pension fund, it was given to charities.
33. The regular work week for STRS employees was 37 1/2 hours.
34. If an STRS employee adopted a child, the STRS Board awarded a $5,000 cash gift to said employee.
35. Between 1999 and 2004, the STRS Board paid out $2.1 million in educational stipends for STRS employees to take college courses. This amount was double what the other 4 public pension systems in Ohio paid out, COMBINED, over the same time period. STRS paid up to $7,000 per year (per employee) for undergraduate or graduate work.
When Dennis Leone issued his report (referred to above) on STRS, the last thing he expected was the initial reaction he got from both OEA and ORTA. OEA wrote a statewide memo that said his findings were inaccurate and “misrepresentations” , while ORTA initially tried to ignore his report. It was not until thousands of actives and retirees statewide became outraged over the truth that BOTH OEA and ORTA then said, “Of course we are concerned about the spending practices at STRS”. His report stepped on toes at OEA and ORTA. (OEA had 5 members sitting on the STRS Board, and also caused many retirees to ask ORTA why they had not first discovered what Dennis Leone found.) Dr. Leone was elected to be an STRS Board member to represent the retired teachers of Ohio. During his term of office on the STRS Board, he has been an uncompromising guardian and caretaker of OUR pension money, one Board member who knows that Ohio law REQUIRES all decisions of the STRS Board to be made for US and OUR BENEFICIARIES. THANK YOU, DR. DENNIS LEONE FOR A JOB WELL DONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
One final note from John...... It has now been 7 years since Gary Allen said what Gary Allen said....I wonder if Gary Allen now thinks that Dr. Leone's logic "is difficult to follow?"

CORE to meet June 10, 2010

From CORE, June 2, 2010
CORE (Concerned Ohio Retired Educators) will hold its June meeting on Thursday, June 10th at the STRS Building at 275 East Broad Street in Columbus. Parking is free in the STRS parking garage behind the building. We encourage you to also attend the STRS meeting which usually begins around 9:00 a.m. on Thursday in the meeting room on the 6th floor but this beginning time varies from month to month. Lately the STRS meetings have been held most of the day on Friday as well as Thursday. For this reason, we encourage you to check the STRS website ( to confirm the time.
Please remember that 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 will take them to the small cafeteria room behind the Sublett Room on the 2nd floor where the CORE meeting will begin promptly at 11:45. The CORE business meeting will be brief this month as we have invited Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray to join us as our special guest speaker at 12:30 in the adjoining Sublett Room. PLEASE PLAN TO BE THERE AND BRING A FRIEND.

STRS Board to meet June 9, 10

From STRS, June 2, 2010
The State Teachers Retirement Board and Committee meetings currently scheduled at the STRS Ohio offices, 275 East Broad Street, Columbus, Ohio 43215, are as follows:
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
...1:30 p.m. Final Average Salary Committee (Executive Session)
Thursday, June 10, 2010
...9 a.m. Retirement Board Meeting
The Retirement Board meeting will come to order at 9 a.m. on Thursday, June 10, 2010, and begin with a report from the Investment Dept., followed by the Executive Director's Report, public participation, a report from the Member Benefits Dept. - Health Care, a report on Fiscal 2011 Strategic Goals Supported by Measurable Performance Objectives, routine matters, old business, new business or any other matters requiring attention.

Minutes of the May 20, 2010 CORE Meeting

President Dave Parshall greeted 32 members at the May Concerned Ohio Retired Educators (CORE) meeting as he called the meeting to order at 11:50 a.m. in the Sublett Room of the STRS Building. He then welcomed new CORE attendees as well as returning CORE members, who’d been unable to attend for a while.
After the opening, Mary Ellen Angeletti moved to accept the April minutes; Herman Fisher seconded it. The minutes were approved by the group.
Treasurer Herm Fisher once more indicated that we had ample funds in our treasury-even after our nearly $2,000 donation to Jim Stoll’s campaign.President Dave conveyed OFT President Sue Taylor’s thanks for CORE’s help in getting Dale Price elected to the STRS Board. Dave also informed members that he’d e-mailed a congratulatory note to Dale Price and a “good effort” missive to Jim Stoll. Both men responded favorably.
Parshall noted that Stoll did remarkably well (especially considering the money and access OEA had). Parshall also expressed his disappointment that so few – only 10% - active teachers voted in the STRS election.
Deb Silverstein and Dr. Alice Faryna addressed the group about health care…and their concern that the STRS Board needs to be divesting from some funds. The two emphasized the financial as well as the moral reasons that the Board needed to act. Each of them stressed that we – as retired educators – should make ourselves visible and lobby for issues favorable to retirees.
President Parshall asked the membership to submit questions which CORE members could ask prospective candidates for this fall’s election. (These submitted questions should be ones that will be able to have specific answers to them.) Dave, Marie Fetters and Carole DePaola will then put together a list of ten questions we can each ask our local candidates. We will then gather the answers and suggest backing candidates (of either party) who will be likely to help retirees. CORE members with ideas for possible questions should send these to Dave Parshall. (Our questions will to be discussed at our August meeting.)
President Parshall announced that CORE will host the Ohio attorney general, Richard Cordray, at next month’s meeting. Parshall has invited the attorney general to address our June meeting because Cordray has been so supportive of pensions and is active in going after the ‘bad guys.” At 12:45 Parshall closed the meeting by reminding the retirees that the next meeting date is the 10th of June. He added that it should be an informative gathering for all.
Marie Fetters.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

An invitation.....

Ann Hanning, executive director of ORTA, will be the guest speaker at the Brown County Retired Teachers Association meeting on June 24, 11:45 a.m. at the Brown County Educational Service Center meeting room, 325 W. State St., Georgetown, OH 45121 (MAP Driving Directions). Contact Jane or Duke Snider (937-446-2404) if you would like to attend.
Larry KehresMount Union Collge
Division III
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