Please don't post your comments more than once. I moderate all comments and a delay between posting and appearing is part of the drill here. I get to all comments in due time. Please don't continually repost the same comment. Only one will be posted. Also, due to the volume of email I'm getting right now, I am unable to guarantee that I will respond to all personal emails sent to my email address. I am being buried alive under an avalanche of email. Please go to the PERS Oregon Discussion (POD) Group, linked below (left) under LINKS to post your question and get a variety of answers. Thank you.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
To keep you up to date, the Oregon Supreme Court has yet to rule in the fee award dispute in the Strunk case. Both OPRI and the PERS Coalition have argued that they should be awarded attorney fees. If OPRI is awarded attorney fees, they will receive back much of what we, as individuals, contributed to their legal defense fund. Should we find ourselves in a position of having to pursue additional litigation, I'd want OPRI to use recovered funds first before asking me for more - especially since they promised to return my donations if they won fees in the Sartain/Strunk case. So, first I want to see if they win. Second, I want them to offer to return my donations and only if they do that would I consider letting them keep those funds and receive more to pursue the final phase of this shaggy dog legal case. I just wouldn't rush to send money to anyone quite yet.
Thursday, June 21, 2007
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
As in any legal proceeding, this battle is far from over. There is the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court that still await. But for now, we can savor the victory that we have waited several years to have. It feels good right now. It would feel a lot better if Judge Kantor had explicitly told PERS to start paying COLAs on the fixed benefit immediately. The next COLA is payable next month and it probably wouldn't be too much of an effort for PERS to start that process now while taking a bit more time to restore the previous 4 COLAs that have been frozen. That's probably too much to expect right now. It will probably require PERS to be told at the point of a legal gun that it has to do that. Apparently the Supreme Court doesn't haul enough big steel to make PERS quake in its boots. Perhaps now the thought might cross their minds. THAT would be the best of all possible worlds. In the meantime, I'll savor this moment of complete vindication. Frankly, I didn't think I'd live to see this day.
Sisters & Brothers,
Judge Kantor, Multnomah County Circuit Court, has issued opinions in both the Arken and Robinson cases. He has ruled in our favor in both cases and has enjoined PERS from additional collection efforts
with regard to PERS retirees. Additional analysis from our attorney. Greg Hartman, will be forthcoming soon.
I am seeking independent verification, but it appears that stage one in the long waiting game may be over.
P.S. 11:50 a.m. Judge Kantor's office confirms that the decisions were filed this morning. I will have copies of both rulings by FAX later this afternoon and will try to have them posted by tomorrow.
Here is a copy of the decision.
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
The moral of this story is that if you are an active PERS member, make sure you have a named beneficiary attached to your PERS account. Don't make any assumptions. If you are in doubt, fill out another form to make double-dog sure you're covered.
"I reviewed the verbiage in the disclaimers and will have some changes made. Also, we corrected the "2005 ending balance" to 2006 for the variable portion.
The disclaimer at the beginning of the calculator will be changed to read: "The PERS Benefit Estimate Calculator calculates an estimated retirement benefit based on the data you provide. The calculator is not connected to your earnings record, PERS information file, or your employer's information file. As a result, near-term retirement dates tend to produce more accurate results. The accuracy of your estimate
will depend on how closely the information you provide matches the information used to calculate your benefit at the time you retire."
I will also have the updated disclaimer highlighted in bold. A member must agree to the statement before he/she can produce an online estimate.
I will also have information bolded regarding the calculator's limitations (what the calculator does not do):
· Estimates for judges, legislative members, and TIAA-CREF members.
· Costs and impacts associated with optional purchases. For information on purchases, please contact PERS Customer Service.
· Estimates if any part of an account balance has been or will be distributed to an alternate payee, or if a benefit will be adjusted as a result of a divorce decree.
· Disability retirement benefits.
· Estimates where any of your total service time includes time accrued under the Oregon Public Service Retirement Plan (OPSRP).
Our Benefits Calc section tells me that the calculator provides an estimate that is within pennies of a written estimate for Money Match.
If Money Match provides the highest benefit estimate for a member, the verbiage at the top of the estimate page states: "The information you have provided indicates you MAY BE affected by the City of Eugene vs. PERS settlement. The impact of the settlement is not included in the figures below. If you would like to estimate the impact of the settlement on your benefit, please click here."
The member is then directed to a page with a disclaimer that will be updated to read: "This calculator is not connected to your earnings record, PERS information file, or your employer's information file. As a result, near-term retirement dates tend to produce more accurate results. The accuracy of this estimate will depend on how closely the information you provide matches the information at your retirement."
This will be in bold text as well.
Our Benefits Calc section tells me that the calculator provides a "var at reg/var at var" estimate that is very close to a written estimate."
Hopefully, these clarifications and disclosures will make the benefit calculator more useful for members and will make transparent the areas where the calculator is apt to produce either too optimistic or too pessimistic estimates.
Sunday, June 17, 2007
In another development, PERS released its latest "PERS By The Numbers" with a June 2007 date. It continues to prove the point made by the PERS Coalition that had the Legislature done nothing in 2003, the structural problems with PERS would have resolved themselves and the PERS Board could have made incremental fixes along the way that would have been relatively benign for all members and retirees. I doubt we'll see the media touting this document as proving *this* particular point; if it gets mentioned at all, it will be cited as further proof that the reforms were both necessary and are working. It completely belies the Ron Saxton claim that the reforms were too little, too late. You can read the whole document here
As expected, Judge Crater is still missing. He didn't release any decisions in the Arken or Robinson cases, and the White case continues to spin slowly. The Legislature will adjourn for this year on June 29th; perhaps we'll see decisions after they go sine die for 2007.
Thursday, June 07, 2007
Sunday, June 03, 2007
There is considerable debate among window retirees and others targeted for collection efforts as to whether the PERS Coalition should push for an injunction to stop PERS from its collection efforts if it wins either or both cases at Judge Kantor's level. PERSonally (sorry, couldn't resist), I'd prefer PERS continue its collection efforts rather than stop part way through. There is no way I can imagine that PERS would suddenly decide to grant COLA raises on the original benefit. Consequently, I could see an injunction having the effect of freezing our original benefit indefinitely. I'd rather be getting COLA adjustments on my revised benefit than to have my current benefit frozen for another few years. Most window retirees are at or near the point where the revised benefit with COLAS exceeds the current benefit. Not seeking an injunction at this point would probably mean that we'd all get something more than we're getting now (MOST would; a few continue to be screwed by some bizarre unintended consequences that make their benefits significantly smaller). And we'd continue to get COLA each August 1. I hope the PERS Coalition sees the disadvantage of trying to force an injunction unless they pursue one that restores the COLA to the original fixed benefit.
This will probably be my last post until after June 16th. I will be on the East Coast visiting friends and family (and catching a few plays) for the next several weeks. As always, I will monitor email and try to respond to urgent issues. I will also keep watching for any significant events that are "of the moment" and will attempt to update this blog from a distance via Internet Cafes. I can get email on my phone, but I can't do blogging from it and I'm not taking a notebook computer with me this time. Enjoy the great weather while it lasts. Since the Rose Festival has started, it is a given that crappy weather will soon be upon us. Just remember the Oregon summer law - "in Oregon, summer begins on July 5th".
Note added at 5:30 p.m. In my haste to write this, I omitted a couple of other significant issues that remain to be resolved. The "White" case challenges the settlement agreement itself. Should this case finally get a hearing and a ruling, it has the potential of overshadowing any of the other extant cases as it would invalidate the settlement and make both Arken and Robinson unnecessary. Similarly, the Supreme Court appointed a Special Master to take up the matter of attorney fees in the Strunk case. To apportion attorney fees, the court has to decide who are the "winners" and who are the "losers". In a perverse twist of fate, the Special Master concluded that the "window retirees" won their case, while the opposition argued that the "window retirees" won nothing and are worse off now than they would have been if the Sartain case had never been filed. The special master recommended that PERS pay attorney fees and PERS has decided that "window retirees" should be dunned for "winning". PERS has no independent money to foot these bills and all such judgements eventually come out of administrative expenses. The Supreme Court has not accepted the Special Master's conclusions and has not issued a ruling. Those of us who think deeply about such things think that the SC may be trying to dodge a ruling here as a declaration of "window retirees" as "winners" and their attorneys as deserving of attorney fees might require the SC to clarify what it meant in its ruling. Nothing would please me more than to see the SC forced to explain its ruling in the Sartain (COLA freeze) case. If they explain it the way they wrote it, PERS has a very difficult time justifying what it is doing now and it would trump all existing legal cases. Some part of me is enjoying imagining the SC squirm. The other part of me is wondering how the "current" SC can interpret what a "previous" SC might have meant. Needless to say, the SC will eventually have to issue a decision and no matter how they choose to parse it, it *will* clarify (or further obfuscate) the Strunk decision. This is one of those few legal decisions I await with some glee. I like watching the SC twist slowly in the wind.