Saturday, May 18, 2024

Recent STRS events summarized by Tom Curtis

From Tom Curtis

May 18,2024
On 5.11.24 the STRS board election results were announced, and reform candidate Michelle Flanigan soundly defeated her opponent 85 percent to 15 percent.
If you voted for Michelle, thank you to for taking the time to vote and to support reform at STRS! Her four-year term will begin on September 1st.
With this historic win, teachers throughout Ohio made clear their desire to instill much needed reform in the boardroom and hallways of STRS.
To stay up to date with the STRS and the health of our retirement, please consider checking out these excellent resources:
STRS is broken, it's up to us teachers to fix it. Please be aware that the politicians are vehemently against a reform Board.
From Ted Siedle, a former SEC lawyer who has investigated over $1 trillion in retirement plans, including STRSOH:
"Ohio teacher pension participants are leading a national crusade to eliminate Wall Street secrecy schemes at all public pensions across the nation.
"Governor DeWine and his cronies have rallied to thwart a valid teacher pension board election and support Wall Street secrecy looting our nation’s public pensions.
"Pension warriors participating in the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio have done a masterful job over the past 5 years organizing (through their Facebook groups and without union support), investigating and advocating for transparency at their pension. They have fought valiantly to restore integrity to a state teacher fund that has increasingly operated in secret for the financial and political benefit of others, including its bloated, richly compensated staff and Ohio elected officials. That’s not the way pensions are supposed to be run, i.e., for the sole or exclusive benefit of participants. But this is far more than an Ohio story.
"Although disappointing, it is no surprise that Ohio elected officials who depend upon Wall Street for campaign donations to fund their political ambitions have hastily—within days—united to thwart a valid pension board election and oppose overwhelmingly popular teacher transparency reforms. Prompted by bogus claims of a “hostile takeover” of the pension by Governor DeWine, Ohio politicians have predictably rallied to support Wall Street billionaires who have been looting the nation’s public pensions for nearly two decades."

Link to that 14 page "anonymous" document smearing only the best people on the STRS Board (and others!)

If you suspect it was written by an STRS insider, you aren't alone. Who else would have so much STRS "information" so close at hand? Why would they go after those who truly have the teachers' best interests at heart? What are they so desperately trying to hide? I think we know.

Trina Prufer nails it once again: "STRS has deservedly lost the trust of its members. Because of its opportunistic practices, teachers have been left with few options other than other than to organize, fight through the courts, and vote for equity at the ballot box. No one should be surprised that the reformers are now at the helm."

Trina Prufer's Public Statement to STRS Board

May 16, 2024
My name is Trina Prufer. I retired in 2003 as a school psychologist after 30 years of public service. My husband was an anthropologist and also a member of STRS. He passed away in 2008, prior to retirement, in his 40th year of college teaching. 
I have read the complaint filed by Attorney General Yost however do not see his accusations as being credible. The complaint reads like a laundry list of exaggerations, misstatements and innuendo. No agreements were written, there were no financial transactions benefiting the accused, there was never a vote, and as far as I can tell, no laws were broken. There was never a conspiracy to illegally take over STRS. As many others have stated, winning an election is not a hostile takeover. 
What is missing is the big picture of Ohio’s teachers having reached the desperation point ….as without a stable cola for more than a decade, inflation eats away at the fabric of our lives. In any rational world, a retirement system that failed to deliver on its financial obligations would be the real crime. 
The essential facts of the matter are stark, unrefutably and ugly. Currently, STRS has a mandated contribution rate of 28% (that’s 14% each for teachers and taxpayers). The normal cost of the benefit is 10.93%. That is the worst ratio of teacher contributions to benefits in the nation for a teacher pension system in a non-Social Security State. Teachers are being exploited. STRS has failed its members, the taxpayers, the school districts and the profession of education in Ohio.
When the smoke and mirrors are cleared away, it seems evident that the power struggle which now engulfs STRS was completely predictable. It’s what happens when individuals slide down the economic ladder, having no hope for the future. A cost-of-living adjustment is essential to all workers. Yost’s interference amounts to election nullification…which seems to have been the goal. STRS has deservedly lost the trust of its members. Because of its opportunistic practices, teachers have been left with few options other than other than to organize, fight through the courts, and vote for equity at the ballot box. No one should be surprised that the reformers are now at the helm.

Karen Loeffler to STRS Board: We are all in this together; I am grateful for the efforts of board members who continue to advocate for us.

Karen Loeffler's remarks to STRS Board

May 16, 2024
STRS Board Meeting 05/16/2024 My name is Karen Loeffler. I retired in July 2012 with 30 years experience as a high school classroom teacher and as a middle school counselor. I have worked in Columbus City Schools, an urban district; Eastland Fairfield Career and Technical Schools; and in Pickerington Schools, a suburban district. I also spent countless hours as a volunteer in Pickerington Schools, in a variety of capacities. I cannot think of a greater profession than one where you have the ability to connect with and impact the lives of so many: students, colleagues, parents, and community members. I count myself fortunate to have had these experiences. 
Numerous members have addressed the concerns many of us share regarding the ongoing financial issues here at STRS. But those are not the issues I wish to address today. Yes, the financial issues are important, and we all want a strong, productive, responsible retirement system. But there seems to be a misperception of what we, the members, are seeking to achieve. It is not an “us vs them” mentality. It is not retirees seeking the COLA we need to stay financially stable vs actives seeking reduced years of service for a full retirement. It is all of that, because we are all in this together. I am grateful for the efforts of board members who continue to advocate for us. 
I am grateful for STRS employees who come to work every day, doing their professional best despite difficult conditions. And I am eternally grateful for the members of STRS who have continued to work on our behalf, expending their energies, their time, their expertise, and their personal funds in the process, all while being labeled at times as “whiners” or “malcontents”. They are heroes in every sense of the word, in my opinion. And, when the board looks out at the attendees in the room, or counts the number of members attending virtually, I hope you realize that for every person here, either physically or virtually, there are many more who cannot attend. They are actives who are teaching, or retirees who are unable due to illness or finances. They are my friends who each have spouses who now have cognitive issues such as Alzheimer’s. They are others who have cancer treatments, or dialysis, or any number of other issues. They are others who are stretched thin financially, and do not have the funds to travel. Even attending virtually requires funds whether for the technology equipment, or for the connections. But know this: we are watching, and we are in this together.

Robin Beebe to STRS Board: "Here Comes the Sun"

Robin Beebe's speech to STRS Board 

May 16, 2024

Friday, May 17, 2024

Denny Jordan to STRS Board: I’m looking for heroes. Maybe the STRS staff would like to step forward??? Maybe say no thanks to bonuses when they see there isn’t enough to go around.

From Denny Jordan

STRS BOARD Public Commentary 5/16/24

Mr. Chairman, members of the Board.
I am Denny Jordan, retired Science Teacher from Wooster City Schools. I retired with 20 years service.
Long ago I read a quote by E. W. Howe and it has stuck with me. He said, “A boy does not have to go to war to be a hero; he can say he doesn’t like pie when he sees there isn’t enough to go around.”
It may sound silly at first but to me it means that a simple personal sacrifice, for the good of others, can be an act of heroism.
That idea is not an uncommon one in the world of education. Teachers especially are known for this attitude. Even when it comes to settling differences in opinion I’ve heard a thousand times, “let’s do what is best for the kids.” We make sacrifices for the good of others. I have over $1,000 in uncollected lunch money loans. Money I knew was never coming back, but I knew a kid with food in their stomach would be a better student.
I’m always looking for heroes. There are a bunch of them sitting on the other side of that glass wall. People who took time out of their day to fight for what all educators deserve. A dignified and adequate retirement after 30 years of service. We don’t want more than what we earned. Exactly what we were promised.
There are thousands of educators in Ohio that walked through the doors of their schools this morning. Heroes. And there are a few heroes in front of me who have been fighting hard for us. And I thank them.
STRS staff are supposed to be working for our benefit and well being. Fiduciaries. Each staff member should realize that the numbers, charts and graphs represent people. Those numbers are people’s faces, lives and dreams. The staff’s goal should be doing what is best for us, not how much they can get away with. I think every staff member should be assigned an educator. Have their face as their computer background picture. Much like when my students collected money and adopted a manatee.
Right now the teachers seem to be better fiduciaries than the STRS staff. We sacrifice so that they can be outrageously compensated. I don’t know a single teacher who met their year goals and had their salary matched with a performance bonus. And the artwork in my classroom consisted of the posters that I bought.
I’m looking for heroes. Maybe the STRS staff would like to step forward??? Maybe say no thanks to bonuses when they see there isn’t enough to go around.
Thank you for three minutes of your time.

Governor DeWine tarnishes his own reputation with his smear campaigns against STRS Board member Wade Steen

Mike DeWine's smear campaigns against pension board's Wade Steen tarnishes his reputation

"If Dewine would take a moment to simply reflect on his actions, he would realize that he and his administration are the red flag," Jeffrey T. Stavroff

Jeffrey T. Stavroff, Guest columnist
Columbus Dispatch
May 17, 2024  
(See video here
Key Points 
•  Gov. Mike Dewine has raised a red flag concerning STRS. Attorney Jeffrey T. Stavroff says the governor and his administration are the red flag. 
•  Stavroff says DeWine uses smear campaigns and unethical tactics to achieve his political goals. 
Columbus attorney Jeffrey T. Stavroff is State Teachers Retirement System board member Wade Steen's son-in-law. The former assistant prosecutor in the Columbus City Attorney’s Office now practices criminal defense and business transactions. 
When all else fails, resort to smear campaigns and unethical tactics to achieve your desired result. This is the political philosophy that Gov. Mike Dewine subscribes to. 
A recent example of the governor's employing hit-job style politics is his unlawful removal of my father-in-law, Wade Steen, as his appointee to the Ohio State Teachers Retirement System board of trustees.
Instead of learning his lesson that such tactics are wrong, Dewine doubled down and raised a so-called “red flag” concerning STRS. If Dewine would take a moment to simply reflect on his actions, he would realize that he and his administration are the red flag. 
STRS is a giant pension system that is dedicated to ensuring Ohio teachers have healthy and sustainable lives in retirement. 
Wade Steen asked reasonable questions
Steen, an accountant with significant auditing and investment experience, was appointed to serve on the STRS board of trustees twice: First by Governor John Kasich, and most recently by Dewine. 
Like all trustees, Steen is a fiduciary who is charged with looking out for and promoting the best interests of STRS’s beneficiaries: Teachers.
When Steen began asking reasonable questions about the pension — why is the pension consistently underperforming; why are staff receiving big bonuses; why are modest cost of living adjustments not being given to retired teachers; should the Ohio Attorney General’s Office investigate impropriety within STRS? — one would expect Dewine to applaud and promote the efforts of his appointee.
Instead, Dewine unlawfully and shockingly removed Mr. Steen. 
The Tenth District Court of Appeals ordered Mr. Steen restored to his trustee seat. 
The court’s opinion should be celebrated as a reasonable interpretation of the governor’s executive power. It should also serve as a smack in the face to Dewine and a warning not to engage in similar misconduct. 
DeWine attacked with so called 'red flags' 
Apparently, an embarrassing and scolding court order was not enough to deter Dewine. Instead, he championed an anonymous and unsigned memo—the “red flag” — to again attack Steen and those STRS trustees asking the tough questions.
The governor’s promotion of this cowardly, false, and defamatory memo is misleading officers within state government; so much that Attorney General Dave Yost filed a lawsuit—based on this memo—to remove Steen and another STRS trustee, retired Wright State University economics professor Rudy Fichtenbaum, who have done nothing but carry out their fiduciary responsibilities owed to Ohio teachers.
Why is Wade Steen being targeted?
Ask yourself: What do unpaid, volunteer appointees like Steen have to gain by asking tough questions and serving as fiduciaries? Why is Ohio Gov. Mike Dewine suddenly raising a “red flag” about the issues at STRS when people like Steen have been consistently raising red flags for years?
A simple answer might be: Follow the money and examine the donors to Dewine.
It may reveal that the institutional investment lobby is fueling Governor Dewine’s lawlessness to make sure STRS investment staff continue to receive their bonuses, regardless of their performance and obligations to the teachers who rely on the pension to live in retirement. 
Dewine has a storied resume and noteworthy life in public service. Unfortunately, he expects that his appointee to STRS must serve his political interests and not the interests of active and retired teachers.
This chapter in Governor Dewine’s career—probably one of his last ones—will leave his reputation tarnished and legacy asterisked.
Columbus attorney Jeffrey T. Stavroff is State Teachers Retirement System board member Wade Steen's son-in-law. The former assistant prosecutor in the Columbus City Attorney’s Office now practices criminal defense and business transactions. 
Read this article online here

Edward Siedle: Did Ohio Teachers State Pension Really Just Say That?

Did Ohio Teachers State Pension Really Just Say That?

Public pensions generally and the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio, in particular, regularly misinform the public about investing fundamentals. Call it Financial Illiteracy.
MAY 17, 2024
Public pensions generally and the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio, in particular, regularly misinform the public about investing fundamentals. Call it Financial Illiteracy.
When lips move at the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio, the public is about to be misled about investing. Count on it.
This Friday, let’s have a little fun at the pension’s expense (for a change).
Which of the following ludicrous statements about public pension investing has the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio actually said? 
1. Public pensions are not allowed under state law to invest in index funds because index funds do not provide diversification. 
2. Performance fees paid by investors to hedge fund and private equity managers are not investment fees. 
3. Paying Wall Street money managers millions in fees for doing nothing (fees on committed, uninvested capital) is comparable to paying teachers over the summer months when they’re not in the classroom. 
4. It is unrealistic to demand transparency… investment firms would not risk doing business with government entities if they had to disclose all their dealings.
5. STRS complies with the fiduciary standards under Ohio law which mirror ERISA fiduciary standards.
5. A benchmark which a public pension does not meet, or beat, swiftly becomes its “old benchmark.
Pulbic pensions defending their ludicrous practices say the darnest things.
Items 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 are outrageously wrong statements about public pension investing that STRS Ohio has actually uttered to stakeholders in the past. Just yesterday, STRS Ohio told Karen Kasler  at The Statehouse News Bureau in Ohio: 
STRS has said state law requires it to diversify its investments to minimize the risk of large losses, so it can’t invest solely in an index.
Sorry, STRS, there are index funds across all asset classes which provide the ultimate in low-cost diversification. If you don’t believe me, ask legendary investor Warren Buffett who has long advised public pensions to use index funds. Maybe you think you’re smarter than Buffett? 
In 2021, STRS Ohio wrongly advised the public that millions paid to Wall Street in “carried interest” or “performance fees” were not investment costs or fees and did not need to be disclosed. As a former SEC attorney, I pointed out at the time this statement by STRS was contrary to SEC pronouncements:
Carried interest is a type of performance fee. Investors should consider all fees and expenses prior to investing.
And, yes, STRS actually told teachers at a board meeting in 2021 that paying millions to Wall Street on committed uninvested capital was comparable to paying teachers over the summer months when they’re not in the classroom. Of course, the pay teachers receive over the summer months is not millions for doing nothing—it’s for hard work done during the school year.. Teachers were not amused. 
Ask a teacher: Is your retirement fund paying millions to Wall Street for doing nothing comparable to paying you over the summer months when they’re not in the classroom?
That same year, STRS defended the secrecy scheme it had entered into with Wall Street by arguing that investment firms would not do business with public pensions if they had to submit to public scrutiny, as required under state public records laws. This outrageous admission naturally begs the question: Why would a pension established to provide retirement security to government workers ever want to do business with an investment firm that was not willing to be fully transparent, as required by law? 
Why would a pension established to provide retirement security to government workers ever want to do business with an investment firm that was not willing to be fully transparent, as required by law?
Faced with the undeniable fact that it was not required to conform its conduct to fiduciary standards mandated by ERISA, STRS in 2021 sought to minimize the immense significance of STRS participants' lack of ERISA coverage (noted in my investigative findings), and to assuage its participants' legitimate concerns for the lack of such protections. STRS stated:
"[t]he [State Teachers Retirement] Board complies with the fiduciary standards stated in ORC 3307.15, which mirror the ERISA fiduciary standards, and the system maintains adequate fiduciary liability insurance."
While it is true that under the cited statute, "[t]he members of the STRS have a fiduciary duty to act as trustees of the funds deposited," the Ohio Supreme Court's affirmance of that decision never once uses the word "fiduciary." Moreover, ORC 3307.15 says nothing about ERISA-imposed fiduciary obligations and duties. And the statutory penalty provisions provide no penalties for anyone's violation of ORC 3307.15. The sparse statutory and common-law plan-management performance requirements that Ohio offers its STRS participants substantially pale when compared to those that ERISA, a "comprehensive and reticulated statute," provides. And these performance requirements under ERISA are given teeth by ERISA's enforcement provisions, which are markedly missing from Ohio's statutory schema.
Sorry, STRS, but the ERISA legal analysis you provided to the public in 2021 was less-than-rigorous, to say the least.
As to item 6 above, no public pension has ever openly admitted that it changes its benchmark for measuring performance the very second it fails to meet or beat it. But they all do it.
It’s the oldest joke in the money managment business:
Q: What do you call a performance benchmark you fail to meet?
A: Your old benchmark.

Dean Dennis questions the STRS Board about the anonymous, condescending, inflammatory and unprofessional 14-page document delivered to the governor's office

Dean Dennis' presentation to the STRS Board

May 16, 2024
Dean Dennis 35 years Cincinnati Public, President of ORTA, Administrator in STRS Ohio Watchdogs, and Ohio STRS MOF member.
Last week the Columbus Dispatch reported that an STRS staff member delivered a 14-page anonymous document to Governor DeWine’s office. This is the second time in 2 years Governor DeWine’s office has been approached. Coincidentally both times were when a “reform” minded candidate won a Board seat by a large margin. Both times, the individual or individuals remained anonymous.
This time there was a discernible difference. The first time, our then-executive director acted like he was caught off guard and pleaded ignorance. This time, an STRS member delivered the 14-page “anonymous document” to the Governor’s office.
The questions are: Who wrote the document? Who knew it was going to be delivered to the Governor’s office? Who crafted the contents of the document?
The questions I am presenting to the Board are these, did staff bypass our current executive director? If so, what action is being taken? How can she continue as executive director if she wasn’t bypassed and approved of the document?
The document was condescending (teachers who vote are not stupid). The document was also inflammatory and full of unprofessional innuendos (our elected members aren’t on the take). The individual(s) who wrote this document and then ran to the Governor must be shown the door. They regard us as hostile and we cannot trust them to work on our behalf.

Cathy Steinhauser to STRS Board: When you lose $5 billion, then pay the losers $10 million in bonuses, something is wrong. FIX IT!

Cathy Steinhauser's speech to STRS Board

May 16, 2024

Cathy Steinhauser – 35 yrs., satellite teacher of Family & Consumer Sciences through Pickaway/Ross CTC for Circleville City Schools.

I’m giving you less homework this month and distributing only one article by Chris Tobe entitled “Ohio STRS Salaries & Bonus Structure”. Chris is the renowned author of “Kentucky Fried Pensions” and currently serves as the Chief Investment Officer of the Hackett Group which consults to Public Pension plans and you will find a paragraph of his accomplishments and educational background on the third page. The main purpose of Chris’ article is to give all of you information on salaries and bonuses for our pension. It’s common sense which seems to be in short supply. Auditor Keith Faber remarked in his report last year of the STRS audit that transparency and staff bonuses were a big concern for teachers since they had lacked a COLA. 

I’m NOT letting my definition of FIDUCIARY sit idle though. I’m amazed at the use of this word in the past 8 days from the Governor, to the Attorney General to members of this Board and I’ve even noticed how it’s being abused too by taking its definition out of context and/or giving it a new definition. Teachers use it when STRS has not fulfilled its duty to us which makes STRS a poor example of a fiduciary. We also use it when the STRS staff and investment group receive lavish bonuses, raises and lots of perks, which aren’t a part of being a fiduciary to the teachers. Many teachers are living in destitute, poverty conditions and/or living paycheck to paycheck. I would like to travel more but I can’t because I have everyday living expenses to take care of first and lack of COLA has caused this. 
As a reminder what a fiduciary is:
“A person who acts on behalf of another person or persons, putting their client’s interest ahead of their own, with a duty to preserve good faith and trust. Being a fiduciary requires being bound both LEGALLY and ETHICALLY to act in others best interests.”
So this means that STRS is to put TEACHERS ahead of ALL the employees here as we are to be your first concern because without TEACHERS, you would not be employed here. But maybe that’s the biggest problem, STRS employees think teachers are their cash cow, where money has no other purpose than to be squandered because, hey, it’s not theirs so who cares?!! Wrong attitude to have and teachers have been telling you for years what you should be doing FOR US first above all others. There are 6 STRS board members that have more fiduciary integrity than I have ever witnessed in this room so a “hostile takeover and violation of fiduciary responsibilities” is utter nonsense. This entire pension is a complete train wreck, needs no fiduciary counsel and is here to pay teachers. 
To quote Dale Butland, “The Spectrum” April 21, 2024 “When a pension fund loses $5B dollars in a year and then tells teachers there is not enough money for COLA, but then turns around and pays $10 million in bonuses to the same “geniuses” who lost the $5B in the first place, CLEARLY there is something wrong and there needs to be some reform made.” 

Suzanne Laird to STRS Board: Where are your morals, that you would allow a Director who cannot control his actions back inside this institution?

Suzanne Laird's speech to the STRS Board

May 16, 2024

Good morning, Members of MY Board:

Yesterday was a good day. Finally, a little bit of light, after months of darkness. Did ya notice all the bright lights? Yeah, the media is finally catching up to the story, the real story. We will correct the misinformation “anonymously” perpetrated by STRS and soon, we will have Michelle Flanigan here to help refute the false narrative. 
There was good news on Wall Street! The three indexes hit all-time highs yesterday! Do you suppose our one hundred investment advisors can meet their benchmarks? Or should we fire most of them, save the bonuses, and invest in index funds? 
More good news: the former Executive Director, the one with anger issues, the one placed in time out, should be on his way out. I say, “should” because one never knows, with Ohio politics. The “honorable” Governor, who has inserted his heavy hand in our elections not once, but twice, may attempt to influence this decision, as well. For years, I have worked to end gerrymandering and fought for free and fair elections; never did I think I would need to stress that ALL Board members should be advocating for fair elections at STRS. Every single one of you should have been up in arms last year when the integrity of the election was illegally circumvented. 
You who were here in November of 2021, as I was, know full well that your fellow Board members were not attempting anything for their own gain. They were doing the fiduciary duty that you all were sworn to do: protect this pension system. You should be up in arms that the “honorable” Attorney General is claiming otherwise, and you should be speaking up!
Where is your outrage? Where are your morals, to sit back and let them be persecuted? 
Where are your morals, that you would allow a Director who cannot control his actions back inside this institution? 
Now that we have a majority of Board members working toward transparency and accountability, you could find yourself on the right side of history. 
We’re waiting. 
Join us.

David Pepper on Standing Up to Bullies (the NEW STRS Board)

Update: Standing Up to Bullies 

NOTE: Use this link to see the 4 videos referenced in the article below; you absolutely don't want to miss them: 
Teachers and their Representatives Stood Up -- in Elections, and Yesterday
MAY 16, 2024
In this topsy turvy political world where the bullies too often win, yesterday marked a day where everyday people stood up to them. 
And won.
And I was lucky enough to see it happen in person….
Yesterday morning, I updated you  on the chaos in the Ohio’s teachers pension board over the last year, where Ohio’s Governor has displayed this terribly bad habit of meddling in election outcomes of teachers voting for pension board seats that represent them (as in, these aren’t your seats, Governor).
And shortly after I sent my post, as I worried, the next stage of that orchestrated chaos occurred when Attorney General Yost filed a suit attempting to remove two members from the board, which would again undo the now two-seat majority reform-minded teachers have elected in recent years. Just as DeWine attempted to fire a board member a year ago to undo a one-seat majority (but failed when courts found that he acted illegally).
It’s amazing how they go after the exact number of people they need to reverse the majority, isn’t it? 
Standing Up 
But then something amazing happened.
The board stood up. The new and legal majority of that board, that is.
First, at the meeting’s outset, they refused to even support approving the minutes of the prior meeting because those minutes left an impression that that meeting had been adjourned correctly—when that clearly wasn’t the case. Against efforts to dismiss their concerns, the majority refused to approve the minutes until they clearly reflected that the prior meeting had been ended in violation of Robert’s Rules of Order. And so they were corrected. A small step, but whenever you can stop the censoring of history—especially in the formal record—you do so.
When that was settled, the new majority immediately moved to replace the sitting chair and vice chair of the board.
No surprise, there were attempts to scuttle this effort, with procedural complications and legal complexity thrown up as excuses. (Trust me, I saw this when I was in office. The oldest trick in the book…legalese by lawyers used to force the hand of board members to take or not take certain positions).
But the new majority wouldn’t budge.
The Attorney General’s lawyer even suggested that they wait a month before acting. At which point one of the board members asked point blank why they should trust her advice, when the Attorney General had only hours before filed a complaint (and blasted it out to the press) to have him and another member removed from the board. And also, as he correctly pointed out, when the board’s counsel hadn’t said a word when he was illegally ousted a year ago.
Now that’s standing up.
Other members tried to intimidate the new majority by suggesting they were violating their fiduciary duty simply for wanting to change leadership. An absurd allegation.
And soon enough, the roll was called. The chair and vice chair were voted out.
Next came a vote for who the new chair and vice chair would be.
When the smoke cleared, one of the teacher representatives—one of the two that Yost is targeting for removal from the board through yesterday’s court action—was elected chair of the board.
How’s that for standing up to bullies?
And the vice chair they an elected is a retiree board member from Cincinnati.
Watch…and listen… 
That applause you hear at the end of the roll call is the culmination of years of demands and votes by thousands of teachers and retirees, seeking transparency and answers to questions about their pension fund.
After a short break, the seats were shifted so that the new chair and vice chair could lead the meeting. Again, this photo, and that shift, are what retirees and teachers have been demanding through their votes for years:
One other thing—during that break, one of the reform members being attacked explained the type of transparency and shift in thinking the new majority is looking for: 
Then he asked the question many of us have been wondering for the last year: what are these people so afraid of?
What’s interesting as I watch this: this is a guy (by the way, he’s a Republican and the Governor’s appointee) they are accusing of all sorts of nefarious acts. Smearing him across Ohio. But here he stands in front of the entire statehouse press corps and answers every question they throw his way. All by himself.
So….why isn’t Governor DeWine doing the same thing? When will he stand in front of the press and answer questions that need to be asked of him—did he know about the election results in advance of taking his illegal action a year ago? And his action last week? Who told him about those results? Will he turn over records from each of these crucial weeks, where he openly meddled in elections as they concluded? How does he account now for the fact that two courts have confirmed that he broke the law? And so on.
Talk about a contrast in transparency!
Final Points
I left shortly after this point.
But what’s interesting was that the meeting proceeded for hours more with no drama. The board is again meeting today.
So think about it: the Attorney General rushed to court insisting that this new board had to be stopped ASAP because they are planning an imminent “private takeover” of the fund. That’s the plot he says he and the Governor are rushing to stop, and alarming the entire world about with their dramatic announcements and interventions.
Funny thing—the reform group had the majority yesterday, no takeover.
And what’s even more interesting is that later in the day, more news dropped.
The court released the schedule of the “trial” of the two members Yost and DeWine are seeking to oust.
The trial date?
June…of 2025.
One of the two board member’s term will have expired by then. For almost a year.
But my bigger question is—by June of 2025, the new “reform” majority seated yesterday will have been in control for a year. (Unless Yost and DeWine come up with another way to stop them—which they will of course try).
Which begs the question of AG Yost: if the alleged “private takeover” hasn’t happened in all that time, will you cancel the trial? Will you walk all this back?
It’s a year away. We’ll be watching.
But in the meantime, let us all learn the lesson that Ohio teachers and retirees taught us in recent years, and again yesterday:
Always stand up to bullies!

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Wish we could vote out our crackerjack AG for his lack of sense and professionalism if nothing else. Read on!!


(See video here)
From Spectrum News
May 15, 2024
"All of this was in addition to board member Wade Steen, and other board members showing they were unaware until seeing the news just before their meeting[that] Yost [had] filed a lawsuit against Steen and Rudy Fichtenbaum."

STRS board meets as investigations are underway 
COLUMBUS,Ohio -- The fight over how the teacher pension fund in the state is being handled is taking center stage with investigations, a lawsuit filed by Attorney General Dave Yost and shifts with board chairs for the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio.
What You Need To Know:
•  STRS members voted out Dale Price and the chair of the board and voted in Rudy Fichtenbaum against counsel advice
•  Both Wade Steen and Fichtenbaum are named in a lawsuit filed by Attorney General Dave Yost
•  AG Yost is asking the Court of Common Pleas to permanently remove the two board members
•  Another option is for the court to stop the defendants from serving on STRS’ Investment Committee in any way 
As the STRS board met for their monthly meeting, it didn’t take long for tensions to rise in the room. This, as some members were troubled by how the last meeting ended. It wasn’t long after that there was a call for Dale Price to be replaced as the board chair, along with Carol Correthers to be replaced by another vice chair.
After some debate, advice from counsel not to make the change in the meeting, and recognition that no policies were in place for such removals, board members chose to move forward. They voted to replace member Price with Rudy Fichtenbaum as the new Board Chair and replace Correthers with Elizabeth Jones as Vice Chair. Fichtenbaum’s term ends on Aug. 31. Jones’ term ends Aug. 31, 2026.
All of this was in addition to board member Wade Steen, and other board members showing they were unaware until seeing the news just before their meeting, Yost filed a lawsuit against Steen and Rudy Fichtenbaum. The lawsuit alleges the two board members violated fiduciary responsibilities and “sought to steer as much as 70% of STRS’ current assets” or $65 billion to an illegitimate company.
“The mention of $65 billion is patently false,” Steen said. “That was never proposed by me or any other board member. As I’ve stated earlier, he’s hiding behind litigation that’s defamatory. It’s not true. I thought there was going to be a fair and impartial investigation.”
Fichtenbaum added that he too did nothing wrong in a lengthy Facebook post.
“The majority of the members of the board believe that I have carried out my fiduciary responsibilities,” Fichtenbaum said.
Both vowed to zero in on teachers getting their cost of living before any bonuses are paid out to STRS staff.
“We have reason to believe, based on the information presented in the allegation documents and the preliminary investigation, that certain STRS board members acted inappropriately and disregarded their fiduciary responsibilities,” said Bethany McCorkle, communications director for Yost. “The investigation is ongoing.”
“STRS’ loss of its governance consultant is concerning. The governor looks forward to seeing how the STRS board will address the governance concerns from recent audits that AON was addressing,” said Dan Tierney, Gov. Mike DeWine’s press secretary. “The governor believes retired teachers deserve cost- of-living adjustments for their pensions while having a retirement system that is financially sound. The STRS board should work to fulfill both goals.”
This lawsuit filed by Yost on Tuesday follows anonymous documents sent to the attorney general alleging several things including:
•  Concerns over alleged statements about STRS committing fraud and its performance and investment staff incentives
•  A company vetted and rejected more than once who sought to gain partnership with STRS in order to boost STRS’ performance as long as they were given $65 billion to generate $4 billion
•  A claim that this same company, called QED convinced the Ohio Retirement for Teachers Association (ORTA) and board members that STRS could get educators back their COLA despite the impact on the system and would have reduced how much active teachers would have to contribute
•  That some board members who backed QED would make millions because of their connection to it
•  That ORTA and QED worked together to change the makeup of the STRS board in exchange for votes to have business go their way, which would include QED
•  The severed tie of the STRS governance consultant AON
Ohio for Retired Teachers Association, Executive Director Robin Rayfield said reformers want transparency with all STRS’ dealings as the impact on teachers is taking a toll. 
•  Cost of living adjustment was cut years ago, and inflation hasn’t helped
•  Their contribution levels into the system have increased
•  And they’re having to work longer before they can retire with full benefits
“For active teachers that meant you pay more, you work longer and you get less,” Rayfield said. “And for retirees, it was, you don’t get what you were promised the day you retired, and that obviously didn’t rest well with any teachers active or retired. “
“It’s been a democratic, fair process by which reformers have taken over this system,” he added. “The other side, the other people who are angst, STRS management and the governor and attorney general, they want to call it a hostile takeover. Well, there’s nothing hostile about campaigning and winning on winning the battle of ideas. And we have clearly won the battle of ideas.”
For now, several entities looking into STRS are expected to come back with their findings. As for STRS’ board, they are now set to find another governance consultant to help them manage their business.

Why are they SO DESPERATE to crush those who want only to put teachers first (instead of the greedy STRS staff)? WHAT ARE THEY HIDING? I think we already know. Just follow the money.

Ohio AG files suit to remove 2 from teachers' pension board. Board stands by members 
Yost is seeking removal of Wade Steen, who is the governor's appointee to the board, and retired professor Rudy Fichtenbaum. The board voted Wednesday to make Fichtenbaum the board chair
Columbus Dispatch
May 15, 2024
(See video here)
Key Points 
•  State law allows the attorney general to bring a civil case to remove public pension board members if they failed to act in the best financial interest of the system
•  Last week, Yost opened an investigation into whether some board members may have violated their fiduciary duty
•  Gov. Mike DeWine sent documents to Yost and other state agencies that allege that STRS Ohio is facing a "hostile takeover" by private interests
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost filed a lawsuit on Tuesday to remove two board members of the State Teachers Retirement System, saying they breached their fiduciary duty to protect the pension fund. 
Yost filed the case in Franklin County Common Pleas Court just before the 11-member board began its monthly meeting.
Yost is seeking removal of Wade Steen, who is the governor's appointee to the board, and retired Wright State University economics professor Rudy Fichtenbaum. 
But the lawsuit did not shake the board's confidence in Fichtenbaum. Instead, the board voted 6-5 to remove teacher Dale Price as chairman and install Fichtenbaum.
STRS Ohio oversees about $90 billion invested on behalf of 500,000 teachers and retirees. The system is facing historic turbulence as control of the board tips toward "reformers," its executive director is on paid administrative leave and Aon, a national consulting firm, opted to cancel its contract early. 
Last week, Yost opened an investigation into whether some board members may have violated their fiduciary duty. State law allows the attorney general to bring a civil case to remove public pension board members if they failed to act in the best financial interest of the system.
Yost argues in the new lawsuit that Steen and Fichtenbaum as well as two former board members, Yoel Mayerfeld and Bob Stein attacked STRS and advocated for QED, a relatively new investment firm. 
Yost said in the lawsuit that Steen and Fichtenbaum have "backdoor ties" to QED and have tried to steer $65 billion to QED.
Steen on Wednesday questioned whether Yost conducted a fair and thorough investigation in the five days between when he received documents and then filed the lawsuit. He also said that the lawsuit complaint is full of defamatory statements against him. 
Steen said he never suggested earmarking $65 billion for QED to manage.
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