Wednesday, April 05, 2023

A little history on what one STRS Board member accomplished during his term; how do Arthur Lard's accomplishments stack up next to these?

From John Curry

April 5, 2023
So...what did Dr. Leone do to clean up STRS almost two decades ago despite being fought "tooth and nail" by the OEA every step of the way? Here is a "little" list of his reforms as a REFORM Board member from 2005-2009.
Dennis Leone's Accomplishments as an 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.


See the video here:

Arthur Lard; The Big Question: If re-elected to the STRS Ohio Retirement Board, will Arthur Lard continue to abstain from voting on issues that impact Ohio's active teachers?

 Is OEA Misleading Active Teachers?

By Dean Dennis and Cindy Murphy
March 26, 2023
The April 2023 election for one contributing seat on the STRS Ohio Retirement Board is currently a hot topic on social media. The STRS Ohio Watchdogs want to share with active teachers a serious misrepresentation on the part of the Ohio Education Association.
First, and most important, are the Minutes of the March 17, 2022, meeting of the STRS Ohio Retirement Board.
Following discussion, Mr. McFee moved, seconded by Ms. Herrington, that in accordance with the Board’s actuary’s determination that these changes do not materially impair the fiscal integrity of the retirement system, the Board should make the following benefit plan design changes.
1. Pursuant to the authority provided under Ohio Revised Code (RC) §3307.67(E), beginning July 1, 2022, approve a one-time 3% cost-of-living increase be paid to eligible benefit recipients on their anniversary date in fiscal year 2023.
2. Pursuant to the authority provided under RC §3307.58(B)(3), eliminate the requirement of age 60 scheduled to go into effect August 1, 2026, pursuant to RC §3307.58 (B)(1)(c)(vii).
Upon roll call the vote was as follows: Mr. McFee, yes; Ms. Herrington, yes; Ms. Correthers, yes; Dr. Fichtenbaum, yes; Dr. Hunt, yes; Mr. Lard, abstain; Mr. Price, yes; Mr. Rhodes, yes; Mr.Roulston, yes; Ms. Walters, yes. The motion carried.
Now that you have read the Board Minutes, what follows should be of interest to all active teachers.
Here's what OEA has posted about Arthur Lard on their website:

Note that OEA is stating that Arthur Lard “voted for the elimination of the requirement that members be 60 years old or older to retire and to approve a one-time 3 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for eligible retirees".
However, the Board Minutes reveal that, when he could have voted for these changes, Arthur Lard abstained.
The STRS Ohio Watchdogs believe that abstaining from an important vote to restore lost benefits for members breaches the responsibility that one would expect of a Trustee.
If re-elected to the STRS Ohio Retirement Board, will Arthur Lard continue to abstain from voting on issues that impact Ohio's active teachers?

State Auditor: STRS could be worth $180 billion instead of $90 billion had they invested wisely

From John Curry

April 5, 2023

A message from John Curry to active teachers:

Active teachers, some of you are getting lots of garbage from the OEA in the form of texts, pictures and other media methods re. just what a great job of investing STRS has done. IF you receive this garbage just send them this pix below and ask them to explain why our very own Auditor of the State of Ohio furnished this chart to all citizens of Ohio  on page 28 of his Special Report. If they still can't seem to understand tell them to call up the Auditor's office for an explanation!

A chart from the State Auditor's report in 2022

Monday, April 03, 2023


From John Curry

April 3, 2023 
I'll bet you didn't know that every day now (24/7) Billy and the OEA know exactly what the current vote tally is....AND YOU AND I DON'T! Is this fair???
Here is a section from one of the pages of the signed contract Election Services Company of Melville, NY signed with STRS. Former STRS Executive Director Michael Nehf signed this multi-year contract several years ago before Billy became Exec. Director!
So.....if Billy looks a little depressed before the results of the election are officially released it's because he's known the vote count all along!

What's wrong with this picture???

Click HERE! 

Click HERE!

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