Saturday, February 02, 2013

RH Jones re: Another OEA official artfully dodges the questions!

From RH Jones, February 1, 2013
To all:
Re: like superintendents, union leaders' salaries are higher than salaries of active teachers in their districts and in retirement their pensions are greater than theirs, as well.
Please read this post from the bottom up to the top. As a retired elementary teacher, I strongly support retired Supt. Dennis Leone in his honorable quest for a seat on the STRS board. Over his years of board service, I can most honestly say that Dr. Leone has been consistently on the side of retired and active teachers. After all, his (late) father was a retired educator and his lovely daughter is an active teacher. For those two reasons alone, you can most certainly conclude that his best interest is to represent these two loved ones. And we retired members have greatly benefited well as the active educator members of our STRS. Because of Dr. Leone's past service, more of STRS dollars have been available to fund our pension.
The OEA and ORTA, in their non-support of Dr. Leone's candidacy, in an indirect way have supported those board members of the past which misused, misdirected, and incompetently caused, to a large extent, losses of our STRS investment capital. These losses have particularly negatively affected retired teachers who are lower down the salary scale than superintendents and union leaders.
To me, Dr. Leone is an STRS board retired teacher emeritus because of his special fight to protect the oldest retired teachers among us.
My opinion,

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Attention Summit and Portage County retirees.....
If you would like to sign a petition to get Dennis Leone's name on the ballot for the upcoming STRS Board election, here's your chance.
Please contact Debbie Rudy-Lack: or 330-562-9852.
Debbie will be happy to meet you in either county between now and Feb. 17 to sign a petition.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Another OEA official artfully dodges the questions!

Debbie asks some very pertinent questions, but Mr. Lavezzi doesn't answer them. WHY? My question: Why are OEA and ORTA so afraid of ONE candidate (Dennis Leone) that they (at least OEA) would be willing to spend an untold amount of money to get him defeated in the upcoming STRS Board election? When Dr. Leone was on the STRS Board previously, he didn't "run" it (how could he?). If he is elected again, the Board can vote down ALL his proposals 10-1 if they wish. Why are they so afraid of him? Why are all these people afraid to tell us exactly which of his proposals and reform measures they object to, and why? Think about it; it isn't hard to figure out. Comments welcome.
Kathie Bracy
"Which of these changes in the system have NOT displayed a 'fiduciary duty of care and loyalty' to the teachers and their pension system? Which of these pension changes upset you and led you to believe that this wasn't in the best interest of our pension system? Which of these changes would be considered 'corrosive' to teachers or to the survival of STRS?"
..........~ Debbie Rudy-Lack to Bill Lavezzi
[Best read from the bottom up.]

Bill Lavezzi to Deborah Rudy-Lack, January 29, 2013
Subject: STRS issues
Ms. Rudy-Lack--Thank you for your reply. I'm sorry that you assumed that you "wouldn't be getting any support or endorsement" from me; I think all of us STRS retirees should be able to have respectful conversations about these important matters. I guess we will have to agree to disagree.--Bill Lavezzi

Debbie Rudy-Lack to Bill Lavezzi, January 28, 2013
Subject: STRS issues
Mr. Lavezzi,
Normally, I wouldn't have responded to an email that was unsolicited, but I felt the need to clarify my communication with Mr. Mancine and address some of your comments about Dr. Leone.
First, let me say that a response from you wasn't necessary. When I contacted Mr. Mancine, whose name was given to me by a mutual friend, he asked me to call you to discuss the possibility of addressing a group of retirees about the petition. As soon as I heard your name, I knew that I wouldn't be getting any support or endorsement from you for Dr. Leone. Thus, I chose NOT to contact you. And given that Mr. Mancine felt the need to "get your opinion" before signing the petition, I never contacted him again either.
In my opinion, Dr. Leone's motives are beyond reproach. The initiatives that were proposed and eventually put into place while he was a member of the STRS Board stopped the financial abuses that were occurring at STRS at that time. Senate Bill 133, which was signed into law by Governor Taft in 2004, put into place a number of oversight regulations at STRS. They are numerous, but let me mention a few to refresh your memory:
1) changes in the Board's travel and expenditure policies
2) the prohibition of bonuses for invest staff when returns are negative
3) new policies which prohibited Board members from using pension monies for alcohol, parties, movies, concerts, baseball games and amusement parks
4) bonus checks for non-investment staff have been eliminated
5) the cost of providing day care for the children of STRS employees was reduced
6) terminating the use of STRS owned cars for personal use
7) terminating the use of credit cards and gas credit cards which were held by staff and STRS Board members
8) the addition of another retiree seat on the STRS Board
Of course, Mr Lavezzi, I could go on, but I believe you now understand why I am endorsing Dr. Leone and circulating petitions to get his name on the ballot this spring. Which of these changes in the system have NOT displayed a "fiduciary duty of care and loyalty" to the teachers and their pension system? Which of these pension changes upsets you and led you to believe that this wasn't in the best interest of our pension system? Which of these changes would be considered "corrosive" to teachers or to the survival of STRS? In my opinion, he has more than displayed a "fiduciary duty of care and loyalty." He has been proactive in protecting the pension system that belongs to the teachers, not the STRS Board or OEA. When one individual is standing alone and fighting the majority, it's not always an easy task.
And finally, of utmost importance is the recent pension solvency law which was adopted this past fall, which gives the STRS Board the legal authority to make major financial decisions without legislative approval. That's rather like "the fox guarding the hen house," and we all know how well that worked out under a past STRS Board. There are other concerns that need to be addressed as well, but I won't take the time to discuss those here.
As a retiree, I believe we need someone like Dr. Leone to represent us. OEA and ORTA didn't do anything to stop what was happening at STRS, nor did they call for reforms or support Dr. Leone and Mr. Lazares in their quest for transparency. Rather, they maligned Dr. Leone through emails to local presidents, calling his findings "misrepresentations." Funny, those supposed "misrepresentations" resulted in more than 100 state legislators calling for the resignation of Herb Dyer and STRS Board members were brought up on ethics violation charges. We need someone on the Board who questions, debates and and makes recommendations based on facts. Simply because the majority of the Board votes unanimously on a regular basis, doesn't mean that the board is representing its members or doing what is best for the pension system.
Your comment about superintendents and retire-rehire have no bearing on Dr. Leone's candidacy. He is a retired superintendent. Fact of the matter is, even OEA is against legislation that would eliminate the retire-rehire option. From my understanding, OEA would rather allow local school boards to make decisions based on what is best for their district. If retire-rehire is perceived as such a negative move on the part of local boards of education, why hasn't OEA come out against the practice?
Since my retirement in 2010, I have been disappointed by what I see happening to retirees. I have also been very disappointed in the low profile that OEA and ORTA have taken when it comes to representing its retirees at the state level. Retiree benefits get cut immediately, while pension changes for actives are "phased in." And neither organization spoke in support of retirees during the recent ORSC hearings. Dr. Leone provided testimony in support of our older retirees at those hearings in September. In my opinion, there isn't anyone other than Dr. Leone who is fighting for us. The truth about what was happening at STRS is documented; it is fact. Your opinion of his leadership is just that - your opinion. As retirees, we must never let those kinds of abuses of power occur to our pension system again!
It will then come as no surprise to you, that I will continue to gather signatures for Dr. Leone's petitions and I will continue to endorse his candidacy to any retired teachers with whom I come in contact.
Deborah Rudy-Lack
Bill Lavezzi to Debbie Rudy-Lack, January 26, 2013
Subject: STRS elections
Dear Ms. Rudy-Lack:
My friend and retired Aurora colleague Lou Mancine forwarded to me the information you provided about Dr. Leone's candidacy for STRS Board. I told him that I would examine the materials you sent and would reply.
In the interest of full disclosure, I should acknowledge that I am the Executive Director of NEOEA; however, this is not an official response from NEOEA, which has not made an endorsement in this contest. Lou's request came to me at home and not at work, and I am replying from my personal email account and not my NEOEA email account.
Unless I've missed something, I agree with everything expressed in the article "You Asked the Wrong Question!" reprinted from CORE. All of us share frustration and anger with the virtual war on public employees that we have seen in politics and in the press over recent years. (1) The question, I think, is whether Dr. Leone is the person to represent teachers in that battle.
I have some familiarity with Dr. Leone from his former tenure on the Board. Although I have no reason to question his integrity or his desire to do right by Ohio's retirees, he is a retired superintendent, and I have noted that the interests of school administrators--especially superintendents--are not always consistent with the interests of teachers. Nowhere is this more evident than in (2) the rehiring of retirees: many boards of education have made what I regard as unwise and overly generous arrangements with their retiring superintendents--arrangements which they would never consider offering to their teachers.
With regard to general STRS policy, I have observed that Dr. Leone tends to believe that only he has the right answers; he has a devoted following which seems to share that belief. I have seen him play to the beliefs of that following, and (3) I have seen both him and them ignore the observations of any who disagree with his opinions.
I have spoken with members of the STRS Board--not just OEA members--who have told me of his (4) corrosive effect on Board deliberations, and when he was previously a member of the Board I witnessed his (5) behavior firsthand.
Board members have a fiduciary "duty of care" which requires them to use their independent judgment on issues. They also have a fiduciary (6) "duty of loyalty" which requires them to put the organization's needs above their own and those of their constituency.(7) These can be delicate matters to negotiate, and I have little reason to trust in Dr. Leone's ability to do so. What boards need--whether STRS's or OEA's or NEOEA's--are members with the courtesy to listen to the proposals of others, the curiosity to seek answers, and the courage to speak up when necessary. But they also need the (8) humility to understand that sometimes answers are more complicated than we would wish and sometimes our preconceived notions might be incorrect.
It will come to you as no surprise, then, that I will not recommend that my Aurora colleagues sign Dr. Leone's candidacy petition. (9) I see no reason to disagree with OEA's recommendation of Jim McGreevy and Bob Stein for re-election.

Bill Lavezzi

An open letter from RH Jones re: income tax relief for retired educators

From RH Jones, January 28, 2013
To all retired teachers, ORTA, OEA-R, and STRS officials:
The Republican Party sets forth the notion of reducing taxes; in this case, retired teachers need to hold them to this. Although other financial entitlements may be based on greater help for the teachers who may be retired the longest, to have Ohio income tax relief would at least be an assist in paying retired teacher increased HC/Rx costs.
Also, there is the present lack of a year-end 13th check to help with paying bills at that crucial time of year. As you may know, the very fairly calculated 13th check is only available when the Ohio STRS reaches its 30-year funding goal; however, presently there is a strong indication that there will be a surge in new retirees next June/July due in part to the recent legislation removing of a large percent of our simple COLA. This surge in teacher retirements will severely stress our STRS to meet the 30-year obligation anytime soon. Therefore, the timing is right for Ohio income tax relief for retired teachers.
The state and local public school districts did not support an additional employer contribution increase to support the active teachers and their/our STRS in maintaining the 30-year goal. A reasonable person can see that fewer college students, especially men, will not want to enter the teaching profession here in Ohio. However, the knowledge that Ohio has joined other states in offering their retired teachers income tax relief, this would surely help to entice good students to teach in Ohio.
If Governor Kasich’s statements that Ohio has been reborn are true, Ohio’s businesses will be in need of more teachers to supply business with trained citizens. And folks and their children moving into a more prosperous Ohio will need to be trained for jobs also.
In conclusion, Ohio’s Governor Kasich will need retired teacher support for his next election. The ORTA and OEA-R backed the recent Republican dominated legislation in reducing some of our promised benefits. It is now time to restore them or at least help with income tax relief for retired teachers. Already, many other states in the U.S.A. do not tax retired teachers.
My opinion,

Sunday, January 27, 2013

RH Jones: An open letter to Ann Hanning, Director of the Ohio Retired Teacher Association (ORTA)

From RH Jones, January 26, 2013
Dear Director Hanning:
As you, and some officials from the Ohio State Teachers Retirement System (STRS), were photographed smiling with Governor Kasich at the signing way of parts of our then lawful 3-percent non-compounding Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA), it seems to me that now is the time for you and our STRS to hold the Ohio GOP-controlled governor and Senate accountable for restoring some of our pension by doing away with requiring Ohio’s retired teachers having to pay Ohio’s income tax. With the signing away of parts of our COLA, some retired teachers were left not smiling at all.
In the Ohio income tax, many retired teachers pay less than $500.00 per year. This relief from the income tax would be a little help in restoring retired teacher confidence in the system working for us, rather than against us. This income tax relief is one of the goals of ORTA and the time is right to suggest to our Ohio government: This should be done.
Originally, the Ohio income tax was meant to support education. This tax, like the sales tax, has been claimed to pay for other Ohio government obligations. Relieving retired teachers from paying the income tax would fulfill part of the inner significance in the original Ohio Revised Code (ORC) that created the income tax in the first place to: pay for Ohio’s legal public schools. Teacher retirement is part of that package.
The news media today is reporting on Governor Kasich mentioning, internationally in Davos, Switzerland, that Ohio is healthy once again and even has a one billion dollar rainy day fund. It certainly has been raining on retired teachers lately and snow will start in July when we retired teachers are hit with no COLA at all for the fiscal year.
As a Life Member and a SummitCRTA Legislative Committee Member, I am asking that you, Director Hanning, and the ORTA Board, and Legislative Chair, Jon Rockhold, take immediate action to put this on the table with the Ohio Governor Kasich, and the 2 Legislative Branches of Ohio. There is no good reason that we retired teachers should have to pay Ohio income taxes when our simple COLA has been reduced.
Robert H. Jones

RH Jones: An interesting discussion on double dipping

RH Jones to John Curry, January 26, 2013
Subject: RHJones input on: Fw: An interesting discussion of the Double Dip.....
Not mentioned here below is that Ex. President Ronald Reagan cut out our spousal Social Security, if we are receiving a government retirement pension. Our spouses worked hard with the intent of sharing their Social Security This earned benefit is deserved. Further, I know of a fellow who "triple dipped" and was cut by Reagan. This fellow was a public school guidance counselor, served in the Army Reserves - to be eligible for a military pension - and worked a full time blue-collar job at Firestone long enough to receive three retirement pensions. He worked hard to gain these pensions for his later years and deserved getting them. He was successful in doing all three jobs.
This exclusion from earned pensions was a serious government disregard for hard working class people and should be returned into the Social Security law in its original intended form. We and our spouses paid into these pensions and deserved to be paid by them. That is not greed; it is the rewards for hard work, the American way.
Please forward this message.
Robert H. Jones, retired teacher
From John Curry, January 26 2013
Jan 24, 2013
Can you tell me about double dipping?
I keep reading about public officials "double-dipping." Can you tell me exactly what that is and why there seems to be so many government employees doing it? I'm also wondering if the average Joe, the kind of guy who works in the private sector, can double-dip after he retires and starts collecting Social Security benefits.
First, let me say I am in no way a retirement or pension expert. But, I can provide you with some basic information about public employee retirement and what's commonly referred to as "double dipping" Double dipping is when a public employee who has retired and is collecting his or her full pension is then rehired and collects his or her regular salary and benefits AND public pension at the same time.
This can happen a variety of ways, but the way most people refer to "double dipping" is when someone — usually in a high-level position — simply submits the correct paperwork to retire and is immediately re-hired at the same agency without ever really leaving the job.
It's retirement "on paper" to start the pension benefits, but the public employee just keeps on working the same job at the same wage.
Why public employees retire and keep working has to do with a few things. One is that they can retire and start collection their pension much earlier than workers in the private sector.
There are different permitted retirement ages for different types of workers (teachers, law enforcement, ect.)
For employees in the Ohio School Retirement System, here is the following edibility table:
A member who joins SERS before May 14, 2008 will be eligible for a guaranteed lifetime monthly pension with the following combinations of age and service credit. • 5 years of service credit at age 60; or • 25 years of service credit at age 55; or • 30 years of service credit at any age.
Members who join SERS on or after May 14, 2008 will be eligible for a guaranteed lifetime monthly pension with the following combinations: • 10 years of service credit at age 62; or • 25 years of service credit at age 60; or • 30 years of service credit at age 55.
Other Ohio public employees have the same eligibility requirements as the pre-2008 teachers retirement eligibility.
Law enforcement officers with at least 25 years of service may file for retirement benefits at age 48 or older. This can include four to five years of military service.
As you can see, these folks can potentially start collecting benefits quite young. A public employee who starts working at age 22 could potentially retire with full benefits at age 52 when he or she is still willing and able to work.
Please note that while it's controversial, there is nothing illegal about public employees taking their pension and continuing to work, so many make the choice to do just that. Whether or not you think they should be able to do this is a matter of opinion.
In the public sector, of course, workers can't retire until age 66 or 67 (depending on when they were born) for full benefits. Those who take early retirement at age 62 pay a 25 percent penalty on their benefits.
Workers who have reached full retirement age can indeed continue to work and receive their full benefits. But, by the time most people are 67, they don't want to continue to work unless they have to. According to the Social Security Administration, social security benefits usually only cover about 40 percent of the average person's expenses. If you haven't saved additional money in a retirement account, you may have to continue to work or learn to live very frugally off your social security benefits.
This may be the longest Mailbag answer ever, but I hope it helps explain things. Because of the sensitive nature of this issue I included links to where I got my information.
Larry KehresMount Union Collge
Division III
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