Saturday, February 17, 2024

Update on the continuing Neville saga

From STRS eUpdate
February 16, 2024
Lynn Hoover to Continue as Acting Executive Director
State Teachers Retirement Board Chair Dale Price released the following statement during the board’s February meeting:
The State Teachers Retirement Board has reviewed the executive summary of a report from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office regarding an investigation of STRS Ohio Executive Director Bill Neville.
As a result, the board approved the following three motions:
  • Chief Financial Officer Lynn Hoover will continue as acting executive director.
  • Mr. Neville will continue on paid administrative leave through Friday, May 17.
  • The board will contract with a third party at its March meeting to provide professional development for Mr. Neville.
The professional development for Mr. Neville is tentatively scheduled to run through mid-May, at which time the board will determine his status with the organization.
STRS Ohio will continue its unwavering focus on Ohio’s public educators and their families to protect their financial security. As acting executive director, Ms. Hoover and the exceptional team at STRS Ohio are protecting the stability and integrity of the organization on behalf of all constituents and personnel. Daily operations are being maintained as usual for the pension fund’s 530,000 retirees, active and inactive members.

Friday, February 16, 2024

Kristie Cooper Kercher to STRS Board: Please... Restore COLA to retirees; Reduce service credit retirement with unreduced benefit to 30 years of service; and Eliminate STRS employee performance-based incentives. 

Dr. Kristie Cooper Kercher's speech to STRS Board

February 15, 2024

Dean Dennis: Members aren’t "confused". They understand that STRS is continuing down the same path that created the problems in the first place.

Dean Dennis' speech to the STRS Board and staff

February 15, 2024

STRS -- Feb 15, 2024, Dean Dennis, retired after 35 years with Cincinnati Public Schools; ORTA President. 
On the STRS website there is an update from our acting executive director reassuring us that our pension is in financially sound; the message then goes on to provide the financial data. Then it continues, stating that in today’s world of social media there may be confusion as to the health of our pension, after which our acting director states, “take comfort that your benefits are here for you.” 
If the message is for legislature, the press or the public, this is a good message. If it is for members, it isn’t. 
(1) Problem: our benefits are not here for us.
(2) Problem: we all know STRS is sound only because you cut or withheld benefits members were depending on and increased the employee contribution.
(3) Problem: you shift blame to social media to deflect your problems instead of addressing them. Members aren’t “confused”; they understand that STRS is continuing down the same path that created the problems in the first place.
Now let’s discuss another issue: using STRS members' monies for legal fees to work against them. Members raised $75,000 for a forensic audit. The audit was over lack of transparency in investments. It ended up in a legal suit brought by Benchmark Services because STRS wasn’t turning over requested documents such as investment prospectuses. Problem is, STRS isn’t being transparent. Turn over the requested documents and stop using members' monies in legal fees to work against them. What is STRS hiding? 
Lastly, regarding Wade Steen: he was removed from his Board seat by the governor one day before the May 6th, 2023 Board election results were to be announced; why the governor decided to engage in this nefarious behavior is suspect. The law is clear. Why did STRS management allow this to happen? When STRS allowed Brent Bishop to be seated in Steen's place, it created a liability. It made business passed by the Board questionable. Members, through ORTA, have raised and spent several tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees trying to remedy this wrong. Now the governor is essentially thumbing his nose at the Tenth District Court of Appeals and STRS members a second time. Seating Brian Perera is irresponsible, against all legal precedent, and again invites liability to the Board. It might be in the best interests of the STRS staff but that’s where it ends. I hope STRS isn’t spending members' monies on the Steen case. Understand that ORTA will be looking to recoup all their monies spent on this charade.
ORTA advocates for the pensions and benefits of Ohio's educators, demands accountability from STRS Ohio, and lobbies Ohio's legislators to provide a strong and sustainable retirement system. We rely on membership dues to continue our work. Click here to Join ORTA!


Cathy Steinhauser's speech to STRS Board
February 15, 2024
Cathy Steinhauser – 35 yrs., satellite teacher of Family & Consumer Sciences through Pickaway/Ross CTC for Circleville City Schools.
I will have my lovely assistant, Suzanne, pass out three articles to you for your “homework” this weekend. They are written by Edward Siedle, who is the top forensic auditor in the United States, The Three Pillars of Private Equity Secrecy(Dec.16, 2023), Ohio Teachers Pension Fees Are More Than Double What The Pension Reported (Dec. 18, 2023), and Public Pension Whistleblowers Intimidated, Threatened, Then Ignored (Jan.16, 2024).
It’s been a couple months since this board has met. I wanted to remind you all about the November 2023 meeting when you were educated on how to be a fiduciary. Your instructor said you could be removed for breaching your fiduciary duties…a few here now sitting before me need to take a deeper look inside from here on out as to how you’re going to vote on issues.  You also need to remember what Wade Steen said a few years ago and that is “STRS exists to pay member benefits”. Our new STRS Board member has a lot to prove to us and Ohio teachers expect him to be the fiduciary he’s expected to be. So let me remind you all for the 13th time because that’s what educators do until the “students” show understanding by doing:
FIDUCIARY - “A person (you all) who acts on behalf of another person or persons (the teachers), putting their client’s interests (teachers interests) ahead of their own, with a duty to preserve good faith and trust. Being a fiduciary requires being bound both LEGALLY (by the law) AND ETHICALLY (using morals/values) to act in others best interests.”
It is expected that YOU, meaning all Board members, the entire investment group, the executive director, the legal team, the financial team, the communications team and any other group is supposed to do what is right for the teachers in this pension! TEACHERS. ARE. YOUR. PRIORITY!! We don’t know what happened in all the executive sessions yesterday, but the thing to keep in mind…was it in the best interest of the teachers? Greed, selfishness or spite compromise or interfere with the teacher’s best interests according to the definition of fiduciary.
Ohio teachers have had enough of the lies, deceit, gas lighting, and disrespect from STRS.  Frankly, I think most of the STRS staff don’t understand the daily routine and the years that we put in to educate Ohio’s children.  Teaching is one of the most difficult jobs you could have. Most of you, with the exception of the teachers on this Board, would not be able to handle a day or a week doing what we do let alone putting in 30 plus years! We are some of the most enduring people I know especially when you mess with our hard earned money and contributions to our retirement. Over the last 4 years, 37,000 of us have become more aware of what this institution has done since 2003 to the present and we won’t stand for it any more. Teachers are a tough breed, you’ve taken advantage of us for far too long, compromised our pension and we aren’t going to take this mistreatment anymore and we’re in for the long haul in pushing back. I suggest that you DO THE RIGHT THING AND BE THE FIDUCIARY YOU’RE EXPECTED TO BE!

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Robin Beebe to STRS Board 02/15/2024: Life happens; my missing COLA could have greatly helped.

From Robin Beebe

February 15, 2024

"I am starting to wonder if I am going to live long enough to see any change. Please Do the Right Thing."

Bob Buerkle to the STRS Board 02/15/2024: A comparison of STRS retirees' purchasing power in 2001 and 2023; shocking news at best for current retirees!

From Bob Buerkle

February 15, 2024

Suzanne Laird's speech to the STRS Board 2/15/2024: A few words of advice to the replacement of the replacement of Board member Wade Steen

From Suzanne Laird

February 15, 2024

Good Morning, Members of MY Board:

So, we’re playing musical chairs now, are we?
From what I recall, the object is to keep your seat, and yet……… the “honorable” Governor chose to remove Wade Steen, one of the most truly honorable men I’ve ever met, simply because he did what was right and best for the teachers of the state of Ohio.
And then, replaced him with a deep-pocketed crony who rarely managed to show up.
Now, a smart, savvy person, when offered this chair, would have questioned WHY the chair was even available mid-term.
Did you ask what happened to the last guy? And the guy before him?
What could possibly entice you to take such a contentious position?
What were you told? What were you promised in order to get you to sit in that seat?
I’m curious, and I bet everyone else in this room is, too. Especially those of us on the other side of the glass wall.
You’ve got the seat. For now. When the music starts, we’ll be watching to see what a “senior policy advisor” and “former lobbyist” can possibly do to solve the problems of this pension system.
Forgive us our skepticism, but we’re having a hard time figuring out why you were invited to the party.
Apparently, you’ve got some experience with budgeting: wait until you see all the waste around here. If you’re really here to help, start slashing this bloated budget. Immediately.
Before the chair is pulled out from under you, and we cannot help but assume it will be, play the game as best you know how. Although it may be a children’s game to you, it’s not, to us. People are literally dying, waiting for their COLAs, trying to pay for their medicine, working longer for less.
Because when the music stops, we need someone in that chair who hears a different drummer.
Someone like Wade Steen.
Are you up to that standard? If not, let the parade pass you by.
Give the seat back to its rightful owner.

Robin Rayfield to STRS Ohio Board: Please stop the madness

Robin Rayfield addressed the STRS Ohio Retirement Board during Public Participation on February 15, 2024.
Good Morning. My name is Robin Rayfield, and I am a STRS retiree and the Executive Director of ORTA.
For over a decade now, STRS members have heard that ‘Reforms at STRS are working’. Each month the management team lets us know that the reforms put in place over a decade ago are doing what they are supposed to do and that, in time, the financial security at STRS will get stronger.
As we look at ‘Pension Reforms’ that have been in place for the past decade or so, what do we see?
•  Retirees have lost tens of thousands of promised benefits. Taken from their state-guaranteed pension and transferred to Wall Street and to the pockets of our employees. 
•  Active contributors paying 40% more into the pension, working 15% longer (not collecting 5 years of benefits), with no inflation protection.
•  Is it any surprise that the fund will have more money in it if we reduce the amount paid out by not paying our obligations to retirees? I have said many times, ‘Not paying your obligations is not Pension Reform. It is failing to make good on a promise to active and retired educators in Ohio’.
Here is what we have not seen:
•  Shared sacrifice from the staff at STRS. Everyone at STRS have received raises each and every year during ‘Pension Reform.’ Investment staff have been paid outrageous bonuses each year. Market up? Huge bonuses paid. Market down? Huge bonuses paid. The constant thing about Pension Reform is this… The members get less; the STRS staff get more.
•  Any substantive changes in our approach to investing. We continue to play ‘beat the market’ and lose. Simply doing what we have always done, maybe doing it harder, does not yield positive results.
Let me offer a few suggestions for bold leadership from the STRS board.
1.  Pass a policy that states something to the effect of ‘Each year that STRS does not pay COLA to retirees, there will be no compensation increase for any STRS staff. This would also eliminate any PBI payments.
2.  Begin the transition of active management portfolios to passive investment portfolios. The asset allocations could remain the same, but simply move our investments to passive indexes.
3.  Begin divesting from risky, illiquid alternative investments and real estate. 
The membership has spoken through the election process. The court has spoken through its magistrate. Please stop the madness. Your notion that ‘Reform is working’ is not felt by the membership.
~     ~     ~     ~     ~
ORTA advocates for the pensions and benefits of Ohio's educators, demands accountability from STRS Ohio, and lobbies Ohio's legislators to provide a strong and sustainable retirement system. We rely on membership dues to continue our work.

Monday, February 12, 2024

An article that explains it all (the governor illegally tampering with the STRS Board)

Magistrate: Gov. DeWine Broke the Law...
...Amid an Election, With Enormous Consequences
FEB 12, 2024
You are going to want to read this. Believe me: 
Amid many things a state government is involved with, none has bigger financial or human consequences than its retirees’ pension funds. 
Billions of dollars. Thousands of retirees depending on the funds’ success. Careers and fortunes made.
It’s so much money, with so much consequence, that there are safeguards to make sure politicians don’t interfere with decisions about how those funds are invested. (In the past, state-level politicians have gone to jail for meddling in fund investments). 
For example, there’s a rule barring companies and individuals involved in pension fund investments from contributing to state-level politicians. And there are a variety of protections at the state level to keep state officials from meddling in pension funds. 
Regarding one enormous pension in Ohio, there’s a specific law that protects seated board members—once appointed or elected to a term—from being removed without cause.
That makes sense, because if pension board members can be switched in and out at the whim of politicians or others, that would open a huge risk of meddling in their decisions, as well as meddling with the board makeup overall. And especially in a state like Ohio, already rife with pay-to-play politics involving public funds, that would surely invite scandal. 
The board with that particular protection is the Ohio’s State Teachers Retirement Board. It manages a huge pension—more than $90 billion—for more than 150,000 retired teachers.
Read the full article here:
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