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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Money Made You Mean

Or at least confused as this PERS debacle goes on and on and on without a clear and final resolution. We're now entering the 4th year since the Legislature passed its "PERS Reform" and the 3rd year since the PERS Board entered into its chickenshit settlement agreement that sold the members' farms to the barbarians at the gate - we sometimes like to call them "our employers". But the basic problem here is that the lack of movement has caused people to completely forget what this whole legal rape is all about. I'm not going to remind you here; it just pisses me off and in the spirit of the holidays I try to keep my mood swings to a bare minimum. But I was reminded just how muddled this whole mess is when I started receiving emails from people who were claiming to have just gotten invoiced from PERS for "overpayments" resulting from retirements under FULL FORMULA. Holy cow dung batman, this just can't happen. PERS is dead wrong and is itching for trouble sending these out to people who, by now, don't remember who is and who isn't on the hook for repaying PERS. Perhaps this is simply a diabolical trick by PERS to take money from anyone dumb enough to pay it. After all, PERS is no longer an agency looking out for the fiduciary interests of its members; its only obligation seems to be to the employers, who certainly don't have their members interests at heart. In any case, let me say this as clearly and as loudly as I can. If you retired under FULL FORMULA (look at your Notice of Entitlement to confirm this fact), YOU OWE NO MONEY TO PERS AND PERS CAN GET INTO A HEAP OF TROUBLE IF THEY CONTINUE TO DUN YOU FOR MONEY YOU DON'T OWE. Members who retire under full formula have benefits computed on the basis of Final Average Salary and length of service plus a few other possible addons (e.g. sick leave). Account balance plays NO role in Full Formula retirements. Your benefit is not computed from your account balance; it doesn't matter what's in your account balance and it doesn't matter whether PERS paid 200% in 1999, 20% or 3%; it just isn't part of the calculation.

If you receive an invoice from PERS and you can CONFIRM you retired under Full Formula, you have only 60 days to contest this notice. DO NOT call PERS. Write them a letter - formally a "Notice of Contest" - challenging the invoice. If at all possible, hand deliver the letter to the front desk of PERS and make sure you see it stamped as "received" and make sure you get a photocopy of your letter with the same stamp on it. As a precaution, send carbon copies of your invoice and contest letter to 1) Paul Cleary, Executive Director of PERS, Steve Delaney, Deputy Director of PERS, and Steve Rodeman, Interim Head of Benefits Processing (responsible for sending the letters in the first place). Also send all paperwork to the offices of the PERS Coalition (AFSCME) and to its attorney, Greg Hartman (all addresses are easily obtained). If you want to start a lot of trouble, you might also send a copy to PERS Public Affairs Director, David Crosley, and consider sending your story to certain members of the media who might understand the significance of the problem (i.e. don't waste your time with the Oregonian).

This should not happen and you should be angry and mean if it does happen. Money has a nasty way of making us mean. When someone tries to take it away from you illegally, meanness usually has a way of turning ugly. PERS has run roughshod over us; turnabout is fair play.

Hope you're all enjoying the Christmas holidays. I had fun writing this using my laptop computer and my cellular modem. The house was pitch dark and there I was busily surfing the net, sending emails and carrying on like normal as 375,000 of us were without power for most of the night. I still have a hard time figuring out why so many people lose power, especially where I live, where there isn't an above ground power line for a radius of at least 5 miles. Oh well.

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