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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Burn Down the Mission

The posts of the last several days have provoked many more questions than they seem to have answered. The paramount concern seems to be how "window" retirees should respond to the notification letter they are about to receive sometime this month. For those just tuning in, the notification letter is the official start of PERS' efforts to "recover" the earnings allegedly overcredited by the PERS Board in 2000 for the 1999 earnings year. This letter will notify "window" retirees of the overpayment and provide retirees with a copy of the Board order authorizing PERS to begin recovery proceedings. The letter will not contain any individual details, but is a generic letter describing the process and the timetable. Members will have 60 days to file an appeal to this notice in either Marion County Circuit Court or in the Circuit Court of the County in which they reside. On the face of things, it seems straightfoward -- somewhere between 23,000 and 37,000 "window" retirees flooding the legal system with appeals to their local circuit court. While that may seem to be the logical thing to do, most of us would like some advice on what we ought to do in the face of a pending class action lawsuit challenging PERS' actions in this very matter. At the present time, the lawsuit has been filed and served and is awaiting certification as a class-action. Without class-action certification, it is difficult to see how the Arken case can do anyone except the specific plaintiffs in that case any good. So, in digesting all this information, my readers and I have come up with the following list of possible options/questions. I am attempting to get some guidance from PERS Coalition members and attorneys on these, and will post redacted versions of any responses I get:
  • When does the 60-day "clock" begin? January 27th (the date of the PERS Board order authorizing the process to move forward)? The date of the PERS letter? The postmark date of the PERS letter? The receipt date of the letter? And, how come PERS is sending these letters by ordinary first class mail? Shouldn't they be sent via certified mail since the matter is quite time sensitive?
  • Should all recipients of the letter automatically appeal to preserve their appeal rights under the law? If so, is there some boilerplate language that could be recommended since few of us are lawyers?
  • Should all recipients hang back and wait to see whether the Multnomah County Circuit Court certifies Arken et al v. City of Portland et al as a class action suit before the 60-day window expires? If it does, should we not file separate appeals? If it doesn't, should we file separate appeals?
  • Should recipients bombard the PERS Board and PERS senior staff with protests and appeals directly? The OPRI website has a list of the email addresses and phone numbers of all PERS Board members and senior staff for those recipients who'd like to use this approach. Is this a good idea? A practical idea? A prudent idea? What do recipients actually expect to accomplish by this other than to disrupt PERS' day-to-day operations significantly?
There are lots of other questions unrelated to the specifics of the Arken case. Non-window retirees want to know how Mr. Hartman's claims that the revised 1999 earnings is a fait accompli affects their situation. It is clear that the natives are growing very restless and it would be really helpful if potential recipients of this letter contact their representatives on the PERS Coalition (AFSCME, AEEO, OPRI, SEIU, OEA, AOF, AAUP, AFT and others) to start getting some helpful answers. Once that letter arrives, all of us are playing beat the 60-day clock. If we want to avoid everyone trying to burn down the mission at the same time, answers would be most welcomed and helpful.

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