Friday, May 12, 2023

The DeWine "Dark Money" and STRS picture as Joe sees it

Do The Circumstances Surrounding Mike DeWine's Abrupt Removal of Wade Steen Go Deeper Than A $100,000.00 Campaign Contribution?

From Joe Lupo

May 12, 2023

Based on the initial information that MOF received and was able to verify, the $100,000.00 campaign contribution to the Republican Governor's Association (RGA - a political organization that serves as a conduit to direct funds to DeWine), we could only assume that it was a possible "Pay to Play" and thus, the political appointment by DeWine was a second political payback to Brent Bishop since he had already appointed him to the University of Toledo board of trustees one month after his campaign contribution. Now by all indications, DeWine in his obvious haste and/or lack of knowledge regarding the law has now made a illegitimate appointment to the STRS Board.
However more discussion and questions have surfaced regarding DeWine's removal of Wayne Steen, beyond the issue of the $100,000.00 campaign donation by Brent Bishop. All this has triggered more in-depth research. DeWine's statement regarding his concern about COLA and STRS investments quickly piqued my curiosity, since he has done nothing, and let me emphasize nothing again, to lift a finger or raise a concern about what STRS has done and is doing in victimizing their members. This quickly caused me to be suspect about his remarks, He also referenced the three missed meetings and in all my research of of STRS Board Policy and Ohio Revised Code I have found nothing to support DeWine's action. DeWine's decision to remove Wade Steen because it is questionable and not covered by law introduces the possibility of other parties being involved. And why not, since we know those who have the most to lose if there is a new reform majority at the STRS board table. Because there are so many questions that beg an answer, all available documents, newspaper articles and STRS documents were researched as to determine what if any possible possible linkages exist that may have influenced DeWine's decsion.

As available information was researched, the old theory of following the money, was a primary focus in researching possible linkages between and among people who might have had a role in "Mike DeWine's Dark Friday". DeWine in his announcement of his new illegitimate appointment stated, that he wanted a full time board member that would do a good job for the members as one of the reasons for replacing Steen. Fact is, Wade Steen is doing a good job for members! We have very reliable information that has been provided by certain staff members of DeWine before he removed Steen. The governor and these same staff members had never met with Wade Steen, and they really did not know what he was doing as a board member. Of course, we have come to expect this lack of knowledge and lack of interest in what is going on at STRS with the political officials that we have dealt with in the past.
It must be understood by the reader, that the information that will be presented herein could be called speculation, and probably will by those that are being called into question. There is a solution to that problem by ending the deception and deceit that we as members have continually been confronted with by STRS and a number of Ohio politicians and office holders.
However, in our efforts on MOF to be transparent with our members, presenting this information is not an option, but a responsibility. I would encourage each of you to read, study and review this information and then conduct research on your own. You might find some information relative to what I am presenting that may also be beneficial in correcting the multitude of injustices and hurdles that we have had to jump over and the many walls that have been put up before us to discourage our mission.
There is always a beginning, so I will start with the employment of the outside lobby firm of Caifee, Haiter & Griswold LLP. by STRS and specifically identify Leah Pappas Porner who is a top rated attorney in her practice areas of government relations and legislative and governmental affairs. She is also the partner in charge of this firm located in Columbus, Ohio. She is known as a top lawyer and referred to as a highly skilled lobbyist. The first question that is raised regarding the hiring of this firm is why? Why has STRS paid Leah Pappas Porner and her firm approximately $764,000.00 the last six years? The fact is, STRS has two lobbyists on staff that are being paid approximately $370,000 dollars annually (Documents attached). Something is very wrong with this picture that begs an answer.
The second concern is that Leah Pappas Porner has also lobbied for FirstEnergy since at least 2009. A minor point in her linkage with DeWine, is his appointment of Porner to the board of trustees for the Ohio Governor's Imagination Library. So what might be the other linkage here? Ohio's Gannett Network Bureau broke new details in the FirstEnergy scandal in 2022 in which Mike DeWine and Jon Husted were officially named as 'state official 1' and 'state official 2.' At that time it was the latest bombshell connecting DeWine and Husted to the FirstEnergy bribery scandal. One would have to consider this quite a coincidence in STRS hiring a firm with a lobbyist who represented FirstEnergy since De Wine was implicated but never charged? Who would know more inside information on the entire scandal than Leah Pappas Porner on the who, what, when and where of the players as originally implicated in this dark money scandal? Lot of questions that beg an answer like so many other issues that are ignored or forgotten by the powers to be.
And as always, the final concern. Is Bill Neville a player behind the scene in order to maintain a board that is favorable to him? To think that Neville would use our pension dollars to step on the will the members is beyond the pale. Yet, based on all his maneuvers and tactics of the past and the present, is it a real possibility that he used Leah Pappas Porner to intervene and save the day by using her past and present relationship with the governor's office to influence DeWine to remove Wade Steen? After all, she is paid by STRS as a lobbyist,
If any or all of this is true, then the parties involved have committed collusion on what con only be referred to as interference in the will of the members by tipping the balance of power back into the hands of the current majority board. By DeWine being a participant, that makes him a hypocrite regarding his statements from last Friday to date.
I do not take lightly the information I have shared for your perusal. However, STRS is at a critical tipping point. Neville is playing a game that has impacted all current retirees and will impact all future retirees even more. We have known since the start in 2017 that we are in a fight to protect what all of us should have ...a secure retirement. We have worked very hard to change the Board majority and DeWine as governor gave STRS members what I would call a slap in the face. His words are hollow and he will be held to account based on his actions. It is now more than clear, that he is not with us, or is he not interested in justice. All that we ask is that he not continue to patronize us by his statements to the press. He is now a member of the Neville's ongoing production of deceit and deception, that will be part of both their legacies.
Please take the time to visit the following links:


Coverage of the mess at STRS by WFNJ TV in Youngstown

Hell's bells, Governor, you're in favor of a whole bunch of stuff, yet you dumped the strongest teacher advocate on the STRS Board with a flimsy excuse, without even the courtesy of discussing it with him first! How much are you getting paid for all this by those groups who love you, not us? Come on, be honest now.

Governor DeWine Statement on STRS

On: May 8, 2023
By: Roxie Bell
(COLUMBUS, Ohio)—Ohio Governor Mike DeWine issued the following statement on his removal of Wade Steen from the State Teachers Retirement System board and his subsequent appointment of G. Brent Bishop:
“The State Teachers Retirement System (STRS) oversees an ongoing financial commitment to Ohio’s retired teachers for retirement benefits for their service to our local schools and their students.
“I agree with retired teachers who have voiced their anger and disagreement with recent decisions by STRS regarding investments and benefits. I am in favor of retired teachers getting a cost-of-living adjustment from STRS. I supported Auditor Faber conducting a forensic audit on the system. I’ve questioned how staff have received raises and bonuses when the retirees they serve got nothing. I believe STRS should consider investment strategies to increase returns. And, I believe that changes to investment vendors should be made through a competitive and transparent public process.
“I am not for tipping the scales in favor of select money management firms. Most critically, I am not in favor of board members failing to advocate for our retired teachers and the long-term health of their retirement funds.
“I made a change in my appointee to STRS in part because, since September, this appointee missed three meetings and only partially attended three others. You cannot be a voice for retired teachers if you are not in the meetings to be that voice.
“I was also concerned this previous appointee was viewed as acting as an advocate for a specific investment firm at the expense of a thorough, competitive, and public process.
“Consistent with his fiduciary duties, I advised my new appointee–and I recommend to all STRS board members–to take a fresh look at the investment strategies and vendors employed by STRS, with an eye on the long-term health of STRS funds, reducing waste, and fulfilling the promises made to our retired teachers on issues such as cost-of-living adjustments. If that fresh look results in changes to the money management firms employed by STRS, so be it.
“Ohio’s retired teachers deserve nothing less than full attention to these issues.”

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Question Of The Day

From Joe Lupo

May 11, 2923
If Wade Steen contributed $100,000.00 to the RGA (Republican Governor's Association) for DeWine's campaign fund like Brent Bishop did, would he be able to get back his appointment on the STRS Board.
After all, Wade Steen would be paying $100,000.00 for his appointment while Brent Bishop is in reality paying only $50,000.00 since DeWine previously appointed him to the University of Toledo's Board of Trustees for the other $50,000.00 of his $100,000.00 donation.
What say you?

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Wade Steen fights removal from STRS Board by Governor Mike DeWine, who "is pouring jet fuel onto the fire"

STRS board member fighting removal by DeWine
Story by Colleen Marshall
NBC4 (WCMH) Columbus
May 8, 2023
COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – “The governor is pouring jet fuel onto the fire.”
That’s what the director of the Ohio Retired Teachers Associations said about a shake-up on the board of the State Teachers Retirement System (STRS), which manages a $90 billion pension fund.
Last week, Pat Davidson, a reform-minded teacher, was elected to the board in a landslide vote, tipping the balance of power 6-5 to progressive reformers, but that’s when Gov. Mike DeWine stepped in.
DeWine removed Wade Steen, , another reformer, from the board and appointed G. Brent Bishop, according to a list of state appointees released Friday. This is the second time DeWine has appointed Bishop to a high-level position in education: in December 2021, he appointed Bishop to the University of Toledo board of trustees.
“There are 30,000-plus of us,” said retired teacher Pam Million. “We are all voters and we care about our retirement system and we care to receive the benefits that we were told we were going to receive. This action is a direct slap in our face.”
Million is one of tens of thousands of retired and active teachers who, during the last five STRS board elections, choose candidates who are demanding change.
Hours before Davidson’s landslide victory was confirmed, DeWine’s office called Steen, who has served on the board for the last seven years.
“(DeWine’s office) said, ‘I’m sorry to make this phone call, but I’m calling to ask for your resignation,’” Steen said of the call. “And I said, ‘Resignation?’ I was kind of like… I didn’t know what she meant.”
Steen refused to resign but was told one day later that his appointment was revoked. Angry retirees immediately took to social media, accusing the governor of protecting the status quo.
“I do know that I’ve asked a lot of questions about benchmarks, about performance, about our investments and alternatives,” Steen said. “Our investments in hedge funds, the amount of fees we pay, the performance we get, have all raised questions.”
In a statement, DeWine insisted he agrees with teachers who voiced anger over STRS investments and the need for cost-of-living adjustments and has also questioned staff bonuses and raises.
DeWine said he removed Steen because Steen missed three meetings since September and partially attended three other meetings, with DeWine saying members cannot be a voice for teachers if they miss meetings.
“If you look at my attendance over the seven years, it’s as good, if not better than, others,” Steen countered. “Have I missed a couple of meetings in the last six months? Yes, I have. I’m not going to deny that. Have I had to attend some remotely? Yes, I have, as have other board members.”
The Ohio Retired Teachers Association is starting a legal fund to help Steen fight his ouster, and in a statement to its members, said, “The attempt to manipulate the composition of the board hours before a contested board seat was announced reinforces broken trust in the pension system.”
“To think that the corruption goes that deep really, really concerns us,” Million said. “And that politics and money may have been behind this move, we’re appalled at that. Or you were angry, but we won’t stop fighting. I’m telling you. We are a powerful force to be reckoned with. And if they think that we’re going to go quietly into the night, they’re wrong.”
“I know you’ve talked with many teachers who watch the meetings,” Steen said. “They see what I do. They see how I conduct myself. They see me trying to ask questions and advocate for more benefits for our retired teachers, so it hurts.”
Managers of Ohio’s $90 billion public teacher pension fund are considering a larger round of bonuses  for its investment staff despite retired educators’ concerns. At a monthly meeting in April, a presentation to the board proposed setting aside $11.1 million of its $115 million budget in 2024 for performance-based bonuses for the investment staff.
Read the rest of the story here

Toledo Blade Editorial: A pension plunder-blunder (The story of STRS? You be the judge!)

Editorial: A pension plunder-blunder

“Public pension funds provide the very oxygen private equity firms need to exist. Without them, private equity would be a far smaller industry and doing less damage,” 
~ Gretchen Morgenson
MAY 10, 2023 
A new book published by Simon & Schuster documents the destructive power of the $12 trillion private equity industry in America — and the damage it causes right here in Ohio.
In These Are the Plunderers, How Private Equity Runs — and Wrecks — America, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Gretchen Morgenson and financial policy analyst Josh Rosner cite examples of private equity harm to the former HCR ManorCare and how it’s used to exaggerate value in the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio.
Plunder is a strong word. Ms. Morgenson and Mr. Rosner use it to refer to the $6.3 billion takeover of HCR ManorCare by Carlyle Group in 2007.
After Carlyle bought the Toledo-headquartered nursing home operator, which owned 550 facilities employing 60,000 in 30 states, it sold off the company’s real estate and started charging rent on the facilities, plus management fees.
The ensuing debt of $40 million a month forcing staff cuts and service cuts ruined the quality for reputation that the company had built.
The company went bankrupt and was acquired in 2018 out of bankruptcy by ProMedica.
The National Bureau of Economic Research concludes nursing home patients in facilities owned by private equity are 10 percent more likely to die than residents in all other nursing homes.
Private equity and health care is a lethal combination but it is still fast growing. Private equity funds simply have so much money to make deals that they can make offers that doctors, dentists and hospital administrators can’t refuse.
And where’s the money for private equity coming?
From partners like Ohio STRS.
“Public pension funds provide the very oxygen private equity firms need to exist. Without them, private equity would be a far smaller industry and doing less damage,” according to Ms. Morgenson.
A reason public pensions pump so much money into private equity is it enables them to make fantastic claims on investment returns without any transparency.
“Private fund managers have much leeway to mark their portfolios in ways that benefit them but that may not reflect reality,” Ms. Morgenson said.
Questionable public equity valuations have helped STRS investment staff qualify for performance bonuses boosting their compensation by six figures at a total cost over $10 million last year.
STRS is set to vote on more than $11 million in staff bonuses this month.
Former Trustee Wade Steen, ousted from the STRS board Friday by Gov. Mike DeWine, was the leading opponent of both bonuses and private equity investments.
Mr. Steen was the first Ohio pension board member to see a plunder has occurred, and now, Governor DeWine has removed him from the board.
The alternative investments have only benefited STRS staff, whereas STRS investment in transparent index funds would have paid better returns.
Read the rest of the article here.

STRS Senior Staff and Current Board Members' Email Addresses

Thanks to a member of MOF we have these STRS email contacts. Write right to the source...and let 'em know how you feel! 

 Senior Staff STRS
 Bill Neville -
 Lynn Hoover -
 Mathew Worley -
 Nick Treneff -
 Daniel Minnich -
 Wendie Ballard -
 Stacie Wideman -
 Current Board Members
 Carol Correthers -
 Dale Price -
 Alison Falls -
*Rudy Fichtenbaum -
*Steve Foreman -
 Claudia Herrington -
*Elizabeth Jones -
 Arthur Lard -
*Julie Sellers -
*Wade Steen -
 Scott Hunt -

* Denotes reform-minded Board members

Tuesday, May 09, 2023

Statement from STRS Board member Wade Steen


May 8, 2023


"I believe that Mike DeWine would never knowingly do anything inconsistent with Ohio law. The attempt to revoke my appointment by a staff member was a clerical error. I am confident the Governor will step in and fix this issue. The reform movement that has been talked about at the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio (STRS) is being driven by teachers. Ohio educators have elected new members or “reformers” in each of the last five elections over the last few years. Change at STRS has been a slow and deliberate process. Ohio educators would never do anything to harm their pension.

I am disappointed that a staff member sought to revoke my appointment to the STRS Board after I declined to immediately resign. I have been advised that I serve for the term for which I was appointed and not at the pleasure of the appointing authority. I greatly respect Governor Mike DeWine and would ask to work with his office to improve the lives of Ohio teachers. During my seven-year tenure on the board I have been an unrelenting advocate for all STRS members - contributing and retired teachers. I will be advocating for teachers until my term ends on September 27, 2024."

~     ~     ~     ~     ~

Background: The 11-member STRS board is composed of seven teacher-elected members (five active teachers and two retired teachers) and four members appointed by various state officials. ORTA-supported reform candidates overwhelmingly have won the last five board elections, including the announcement made on Saturday, May 6th that pro-reform candidate Pat Davidson defeated incumbent Arthur Lard in a landslide (70 percent to 30 percent.) Wade Steen, as the Governor’s appointee, also supports reform efforts. As a result of this spring’s election, reform board members will constitute a majority of the 11-member board when Pat Davidson is sworn in on September 1st.

On Friday, May 5th the Governor’s office notified Wade Steen that his appointment to the STRS board was revoked after he refused the request for him to resign. Wade Steen responded that the Governor’s office does not have the legal authority for such action per Ohio law.

The governor's game: a last-minute switcheroo, axing a top member of the STRS Board (hey, we know who put him up to it, too; no surprise there)

Just as dissidents achieve majority on pension fund board, DeWine removes one

Fund under fire for high staff pay, giant fees & stingy benefits for retired teachers

Ohio Capital Journal
MAY 9, 2023 
Gov. Mike DeWine is being accused of pulling “a switcheroo” on Ohio’s retired teachers by terminating a change-minded member of the pension board just as that faction was 
achieving a majority. But the governor’s spokesman said all the governor wants is a member of the State Teachers Retirement System Board who will faithfully attend its meetings.
On Friday, Ohio’s retired teachers put the lie to claims that only a few squeaky wheels are upset about how the State Teachers Retirement System is being run. Pat Davidson, who seeks change, defeated incumbent Arthur Lard by a 20,410-8,853 margin.
That would have given the self-styled reformers a one-vote majority on the board of the pension fund, which controls more than $80 billion. But a day before the vote, a DeWine aide called incumbent Wade Steen and told him to resign, Steen said. Steen has been among the board members seeking changes to the way the pension fund does business.
When Steen refused, DeWine terminated him a day later — a move Steen said he didn’t believe was legal and that he’s considering legal action over.
“I’m hopeful that this was an oversight,” Steen, a DeWine supporter, said in a phone interview Monday.
The retirement system and its 11-member board have seen considerable controversy in recent years. Seven members are current or retired teachers who are elected, one is appointed by the governor, one by the state treasurer and one is jointly appointed by the Senate president and House speaker. The superintendent of public instruction serves in an ex-officio capacity.
Ohio teachers and retirees have been frustrated that the system has only paid out one, 3% cost-of-living increase since 2017 and the number of years they’ve had to work before being eligible for benefits has increased.
Meanwhile, STRS has a large, well-paid staff 91 of whom have gotten big bonuses even in years when the system has suffered heavy losses. Last fall, for example, the board approved $10 million in bonuses just before learning that the system lost $5.2 billion  during the previous fiscal year — 77% more than the staff had projected. Apparently unchastened, the staff last week proposed increasing bonuses by 31%  for the current fiscal year.
Also fueling controversy is the fact that the system is heavily invested in high-fee “alternative” funds such as private equity. In doing so, it’s paid out billions in often non-transparent fees for investments that have only once outperformed its traditional investments since 2009.
Steen, who is CFO of Cleveland Metroparks, said those investments were concerning to him.
“Those are the questions I’ve been asking,” he said. “I ask a lot about benchmarks. I ask a lot about performance. Alternative investments. Hedge funds. We just don’t have a lot of information. The transparency’s not there. A lot of times it’s because something is considered proprietary and I’ve continued to ask for more and more transparency. That’s something I’ve continued to advocate for more than some of the others — more openness and transparency.”
But just as a majority that would support efforts at transparency was about to be seated on the board, DeWine replaced Steen with G. Brent Bishop, founder of a real estate investment company. To at least some retirees, the move was suspicious.
“Interesting that the evening before the vote for the STRS board active teacher seat was announced (a landslide win for the reform candidate), the governor’s office informs pro-reform board member Wade Steen that they’re going to replace him. That’s not coincidence; it’s corruption,” one retiree said in an email. She asked not to be named for fear of retaliation, but she titled her email “Governor’s switcheroo.”
DeWine Press Secretary Dan Tierney said Steen’s ouster was far more straightforward than what some suspicious teachers and retirees might believe.
“He has had very poor attendance at STRS board meetings,” Tierney said, adding that since September, Steen has missed all of three meetings and parts of three more.
“These are important seats,” Tierney said. “The governor only has one seat that he appoints on the board to advocate for retired teachers. The board is a fiduciary for these funds that protect the retirement for the current retirees; the people paying into the system and the people who will pay into the system in the future.”
Steen disputed that he’d missed as many meetings as Tierney said and added that over his seven years on the board, his attendance was as good as anyone.
Another board member, Rudy Fichtenbaum, said the board blocks off three days in the third week of every month for board meetings, and that Steen sometimes had meetings for Cleveland Metroparks that conflicted. Steen recently moved from Columbus to take the Cleveland Metroparks job.
Steen said that when he hasn’t been able to physically join STRS meetings, he’s joined remotely. Besides, he asked, if his attendance was such a concern, why is he just now hearing about it?
“I guess I would have expected somebody to call me and say, ‘Hey, what’s going on?” he said.
 For Fichtenbaum, the timing alone of Steen’s removal is cause for suspicion.
 “If the real reason is he missed too many meetings, why did they wait until the night before the election?” he said, explaining that STRS staff knew they were receiving a relative flood of ballots — a bad sign for the incumbent. “The timing of that is so suspicious it just cannot be coincidental. They just want to send a message, ‘You thought you were going to have six votes, but you’re not going to have six votes. I’ll be appointing somebody else.'”
For his part, Tierney said the governor shared Steen’s goals to bring better performance and transparency to STRS.
“The governor does share concerns that we need to make sure the money management strategy is the best money management strategy for the long-term health of the fund. And the governor does share the concerns that are rightly being brought forward about the cost-of-living adjustments. That’s a very important thing with inflation being as bad as it’s been.”
Read the rest of the story here

Toledo Blade Editorial: DeWine fails teachers

Toledo Blade

Editorial Board

May 9, 2023
Editorial: DeWine fails teachers
Gov. Mike DeWine has failed the State Teachers Retirement System by removing the one person who was leading the charge for much-needed reform.
STRS has lately been managed more for the benefit of insiders and staffers than Ohio’s retired educators.
Wade Steen, a CPA and Cleveland Metro Parks chief financial officer, was booted from the STRS Board of Trustees by the governor Friday night. The timing coincides with the election to the board of Pat Davidson, a Berea teacher who campaigned with the support of dissident teachers who want reform at STRS.
Mr. Steen was the very first STRS board member to call for reform. His opposition to investment staff bonuses paid despite a freeze on cost-of-living-adjustments for retirees was a lonely crusade when it began.
But with the election of Mr. Davidson, the reformers had apparently taken majority control of STRS, until Mr. DeWine replaced Mr. Steen with University of Toledo Trustee G. Brent Bishop.
Opposition to real estate and private equity investments is the driving force behind the need for reform of STRS. Mr. Bishop is a partner in a real estate investment firm and has spent years helping business owners make private equity deals, according to his UT bio — hardly the background of someone likely to challenge the real estate and private equity industry.
Mr. Steen says his appointment is for a term that ends in 2024, and he’ll go to court to keep his job. But the statute he cites makes it clear the appointment is for service as the governor’s investment expert at STRS. It would be a major upset if Mr. Steen prevails over Mr. DeWine as the law is clear in the intent to make the governor accountable for the pension.
With Mr. Steen as his appointee the governor had no fingerprints on malfeasance in management of $95 billion on behalf of 500,000 Ohio teachers.
When he was Attorney General Mr. DeWine ignored statutes requiring fiduciary and actuarial audits of STRS. Now as governor, Mr. DeWine is using his appointment power to protect a failed investment strategy and self-serving staff. It is a clear breach of fiduciary duty protected from litigation over the huge financial damages suffered by beneficiaries only because the state has sovereign immunity.
The status quo of this pension system trails the results of an S&P 500 index fund by 1.62 percent a year for the last 13 years, according to renowned fund manager Richard Ennis.
Auditor of State Keith Faber’s special investigation revealed underperformance against the market index since 2009 totaling $90 billion, which would have been enough to turn STRS’ $20 billion liability into a $70 billion surplus.
Mr. Steen was asking questions that helped reveal these facts when all other board members and elected officials were accepting STRS’ claims of excellence as true.
The Ohio Retirement for Teachers Association says the governor’s manipulation of the STRS board membership reinforces a broken trust with teachers and has “poured jet fuel on a fire.”
STRS Trustees are set to vote on more than $11 million in performance bonuses for investment staff this month. Mr. Steen was the leader of the opposition to those payments.
STRS management has cost teachers billions, but staff has enriched themselves with bonuses while the fund has declined in value. Mr. Steen was bringing a much-needed spotlight on STRS practices. Mr. DeWine has sided with STRS management over Ohio teachers.

Colleen Marshall’s stunning report of May 8, 2023 highlighting Governor Mike DeWine’s bizarre attempt to squash reform at STRS

Talk about must-watch TV!

From Ohio Retirement for Teachers (ORTA)

May 9, 2023

Be sure to watch NBC4 Colleen Marshall’s stunning report from last night [May 8, 2023] highlighting Governor Mike DeWine’s bizarre attempt to squash reform at STRS.

[View the video here.]

Unfortunately, by seeking to illegally remove his pro-reform appointee Wade Steen from the STRS board, the Governor is standing with disgraced STRS Executive Director Bill Neville and Wall Street special interests but NOT with Ohio teachers.

The Governor’s unilateral action will be challenged in court.  But keep making your voices heard!

Media reported yesterday that the Governor’s office was overwhelmed with “several hundred calls” from outraged teachers… let’s keep up the pressure!

Here’s what you can do to help right now:

1. Contact Governor Mike DeWine by clicking here to send a note  and dialing 614-644-4357 to leave a message with his staff. Already called? Call again! 

2. Sign and share our petition asking Governor Mike DeWine to do the right thing and withdraw his attempted removal of Wade Steen. 

3. Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper to spread the word about the importance of reform on the STRS board and the need for the Governor to stand with teachers and not with Wall Street and undeserved bonuses for STRS staff.

Please send this article to every active and retired teacher you know by clicking on the little envelope at the bottom of this post.

Your voice matters. Reform is inevitable. 

250 E Wilson Bridge Rd, Worthington, OH 43085



Monday, May 08, 2023 Gov. Mike DeWine removes retirement board member amid teachers pension fight

May 8, 2023
Gov. Mike DeWine removes retirement board member amid teachers pension fight 
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Gov. Mike DeWine has removed his appointee to the State Teachers Retirement System board – a member who challenged the pension’s managers – a day before the announcement of another reform-minded board member.
Wade Steen, a former Cuyahoga County fiscal officer, said a member of DeWine’s staff on Friday asked him to resign. Steen refused, and then the staff member told him his appointment was revoked. Steen served on the board for seven years.
Meantime, another candidate who promises to be a reformer – Pat Davidson, a Berea City School District teacher– defeated incumbent STRS board member and Portsmouth City Schools teacher Arthur Lard for a board seat, according to election results announced by the Ohio Federation of Teachers.
Davidson, who was supported by the Ohio Federation of Teachers, received 20,410 to Lard’s 8,853. The Ohio Education Association supported Lard, whose term ends Aug. 31.
The STRS board has 11 voting members – including five active teachers and two retired teachers who are elected, the Ohio superintendent of public instruction or her appointee, and one member each appointed by the governor, by the Ohio treasurer and jointly by the Ohio House speaker and Ohio Senate president.
A group of retired teachers, now called the Ohio Retirement for Teachers Association and formerly the Ohio Retired Teachers Association, have pushed back against pension austerity measures that included low cost-of-living increases and no increases between 2017 and 2022.
In August, the board is expected to award an estimated $11.1 milliion in bonuses to 91 STRS investment department staff, while there’s no resolution ready for a vote on giving retirees a cost-of-living increase after a year of high inflation.
The retired teachers group has pushed in court and in board elections for candidates who will challenge staff bonuses and investment decisions and for more transparency in how the investments and staff bonuses work.
On the other hand, STRS management says it needed to tighten the belt to recover losses from the last two recessions, because people live longer and because teacher contributions as a whole fell below projections. The board is conferring with its actuary on whether it can afford to give teachers a cost-of-living adjustment. If one is given, it would start July 1.
DeWine needs to sit down with Steen and other reform-minded members of the board to learn why they are pushing for change, said Robin Rayfield, executive director of the Ohio Retirement for Teachers Association.
“This attempt to manipulate the composition of the board, especially just hours before election results are announced for a contested board seat, only reinforces the broken trust that educators have with their pension system,” he said. “To say this pours jet fuel on the fire is an understatement.”
If Steen had remained, the board would have included six reform-minded members and five members who generally put more trust in STRS staff. It’s unclear what side of the schism DeWine’s new appointee will lean.
“The reform movement that has been talked about at the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio (STRS) is being driven by teachers,” Steen said in a Monday statement. “Ohio educators have elected new members or ‘reformers’ in each of the last five elections over the last few years. Change at STRS has been a slow and deliberate process. Ohio educators would never do anything to harm their pension.”
DeWine wanted Steen to resign because of his low attendance, said Dan Tierney, DeWine’s spokesman.
“Since September of last year he has missed three meetings and only attended parts of three more,” Tierney said.
In Steen’s place, DeWine appointed G. Brent Bishop of Dublin, a Columbus suburb, to serve the remaining term, ending Sept. 27, 2024.
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