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. Thank you.
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Friday, July 27, 2007
As for the question of PERS' compliance with the Judge's ruling, there is considerable argument about whether they are, in fact, even close to being in compliance. First, there is the matter of "suspending" collection activity and invoicing after June 20, 2007. From evidence reported on OPDG, this isn't happening universally. For example, lump sum recipients who elected the installment payout option are exposed to the recovery. One recent recipient (retiring about 2003) is about to receive the final installment on a 5-year payment. The payment is due August 3, 2007 - nearly two months AFTER PERS told all members and the court that they had suspended collection activity. Not shockingly - but cetainly contrary to what they are reporting - this member is in receipt of the final payout letter, which informs that $18,500 will be withheld from the last installment to recover the overpayment from the 1999 earnings, in acccord with the Strunk/Eugene remediation plan (suspended June 20, 2007). It is a bit hard to reconcile a plan that is temporarily suspended, with an action directly contradictory to that suspension. So much for compliance.
As this freak show continues, PERS and its enablers seem almost Clintonesque in their parsing of the English language contained in court rulings. Pretty soon we'll be debating the meaning of "is" again. Deja vu all over again.
Thursday, July 26, 2007
P.S. Another Mac user reports success with Panther 10.3.9.
Monday, July 23, 2007
Sunday, July 22, 2007
What the SJ reported was not inaccurate; just very incomplete and the slant somewhat misleading. This is one of the reasons why attending the PERS meetings and watching and listening to the exchanges may alter your opinions about what is really going on. I'm really sorry I didn't get the opportunity to attend, but 3 emergencies in one week just was more than my quota and something had to give.
Note: minor corrections made 7/23
Friday, July 20, 2007
While this is a useful beginning, it is important to not be lulled into complacency. According to the Strunk ruling from the Oregon Supreme Court, PERS has no right to collect anything from retirees for they are receiving a legislatively defined "fixed benefit" that doesn't contain errors. No errors, no collection. And even more significant is that PERS has no legal right to withhold COLAs from any retiree receiving monthly benefits. Thus, today's action takes care of 2007, but still leaves 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006 as outstanding obligations. If you run my calculator (see left - SartainLipcomb files), you'll see how much PERS really owes you, contrasted with how much PERS thinks you owe them.
So, be happy you're getting something above your currently frozen benefit, but don't forget to keep your eyes on the prize.
Thursday, July 19, 2007
"Your report about PERS paying a COLA this year includes the following statement, which is somewhat misleading:
'PERS has been withholding COLAs for about 35,000 retirees, as a result of 2003 pension reforms, a string of court decisions and an out-of-court settlement of a ruling by Marion Circuit Judge Paul Lipscomb.'
"It is incorrect to say that, until Judge Kantor's recent ruling, PERS has withheld a COLA "as the result of" the pension reforms and a string of court decisions. The reforms that initially provided for withholding the COLA were ruled unconstitutional and a breach of contract several years ago by the Supreme Court in Strunk, and there is imply no "string of court decisions" that caused PERS to withhold the COLA.
"In fact, the only court to rule on the COLA issue before Judge Kantor's recent ruling was the Supreme Court in Strunk where that court ruled that the COLA could not be legally withheld. As for the ruling by Judge Lipscomb that you mention in connection with PERB's settlement agreement, that ruling said nothing about withholding a COLA, but actually cautioned against trying to make any recovery from retirees. Finally, Judge Lipscomb's ruling has been dismissed by the Supreme Court since the appeal from that ruling was dismissed as moot.
"Bottom line: Until Judge Kantor's recent ruling, PERB chose to continue violating the statute mandating a COLA be paid every year, notwithstanding the fact that the Supreme Court specifically ruled that a COLA cannot be legally withheld. The only event that has "resulted in" PERB continuing to withhold the COLA all these years is PERB's claimed justification of the "settlement agreement" which is itself still under review by Judge Kantor [White v PERB, mrf] to determine if PERB violated its fiduciary duty to retirees by entering into such an agreement. PERB simply does not have any statute or court decision that supports its withholding of the COLA all these years."
For the record, JRS is a retired prosecutor (attorney). Perhaps "the Law" would like to clarify his article publicly. I'm happy to offer him the opportunity to reply to all, as well as whatever individual response he may offer to JRS.
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
In the meantime, PERS seems hellbent on continuing its vendetta against retirees, all under the guise of "fairness to actives". If the retirees win, the actives will be forced to subsidize retirees. Nonsense. The Supreme Court answered the question quite clearly. If the fixed benefit is a new benefit created by the legislature, it cannot have any errors. No errors, nothing to collect, no subsidy by actives. The retiree benefits are paid from the BIF (Benefits in Force ) reserve. COLAS are normally funded by the BIF reserve. Benefits are funded by the BIF. In short, the money to cover retirees has already been collected from retiree accounts and from employer matches and sits in either the BIF or the BIF reserve. The BIF reserve is huge right now as a result of a stellar stock market for the past 4 years and continuing. There is no PERS crisis. The reforms permitted and permissible have been implemented; the stock market has soared and PERS is fully funded and sitting on top of more than $2 billion in reserves. The PERS crisis was over 2 years ago.
It is time for us to do our part to pressure the "heavy hitters" to start putting the screws to the PERS Board. The Governor is the heaviest of the heavy hitters. He appointed this board and he can influence its behavior. He may not be directly responsive, but letters pointing these facts out aimed at Representative Greg Macpherson (D, Lake Oswego), Senator Richard Devlin (D, Tualatin/Lake Oswego), Tim Nesbitt (Governor Kulongoski's Chief of Staff and former Oregon AFL-CIO President), and former State Senator Tony Corcoran all have strong influence with the Governor. Your own legislator may also be influential if he/she is from the same party as the Governor. If not, the influence may be limited. I am assembling all the needed email addresses and will place them in a link to the left later today. Now is the time to start exerting the pressure. We need to be respectful, but we don't need to be patsies any more. We won in the Supreme Court; we've won in Judge Kantor's court, and we stand before Judge Kantor real soon now to request even more. The PERS Coalition has placed compelling issues before Judge Kantor. They will be hard for him to ignore. It is time we begin to exert our own influence and remind those "heavy hitters" that they were put in those positions by the actions of "organized labor" and its subsidiaries. The reforms have worked; the crisis is over. Accept the gains and stop fighting about the losses. Give us what we are entitled to and shut down this expensive, draining, and foolish tilting at windmills. Otherwise, we are doomed to another 4 or 5 years of litigation. Pretty soon the courts will get tired of us, tired of PERS, and tired of this bickering over issues that were settled in 2005. Enough is enough already. Pay me what you owe me and I'll go away and live my retirement the way I had planned.
Update 1:30 PM. I have posted the list of those representatives and others who carry sway with the Governor in a pdf file accessible from the top link on the left. I am certain of the email addresses for all listed EXCEPT for Tim Nesbitt, whose email I'm still trying to verify. I'm pretty sure it is correct, however.
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Monday, July 16, 2007
There are some who are very suspicious of PERS' actions and motives for doing this. I would be derilect if I were not to acknowledge the downside of the PERS decision. It could be that PERS is doing this to look like a good citizen before going before Judge Kantor on August 16. If they had just let another COLA go unpaid, they could be subject to all kinds of repercussions from Judge Kantor. This may be nothing more than another attempt by PERS to distract attention from what they are really doing. At this point in the game, I wouldn't put this past them. On the other hand, PERS has admitted in its staff memo that COLAs are automatic UNLESS there is an exclusion list, which has been what all window retirees have been on since 7/1/2003. If COLAs are automatic and all it takes is a "no exclusion" switch in their RIMS system, it will make it much harder for PERS to claim hardship if the court orders restoration of all past COLAs. So, even if PERS is just playing legal games, this could come back to bite them. Too bad, so sad. (And BTW Curtis, I agree with you. Arken/Robinson is the catalyst that makes everything else happen. It deserves more credit than I gave it above. The COLA resumption is driven by Arken/Robinson, not the reverse.)
Sunday, July 15, 2007
Saturday, July 14, 2007
Windows users can go here for the program. Mac users will find their version at this location. The Mac version is a "universal" binary that will run under OS X 10.4.5 and higher and should run on older Macs with the PPC chip, while also running on the newer Intel-based Macs. Good luck with your calculations and let the light shine in corners it has never shone in before.
Thursday, July 12, 2007
Apropos of that justice, after the service I had a chance to talk "shop" with Scott Jonnson, the attorney who represented Martha and retirees in the Sartain v State of Oregon case that was part of the Strunk consolidated matter ruled on by the Oregon Supreme Court two years ago. Scott filled me in on the tardiness of the Oregon Supreme Court in issuing their final ruling in the "fee award" portion of Strunk. In her final days, Martha was concerned about the disposition of "her" case should she die before PERS was forced to implement. Scott assured her (and then me) that he would continue pursuit of PERS until they complied so that Martha's estate could get what she was denied in her lifetime, not to mention all the retirees she represented. There is no legal uncertainty created by her death. He also noted that Martha would live on forever through the case, as legal precedents are always referred to by the cases in which they were decided. Thus, "Sartain v State of Oregon" will become an historically important case and will continue to be cited in both Oregon and other state pension cases. One interested factoid emerged that I was unaware of. The attorney fee award in the Sartain case was tripled by the Special Master because he wanted the award to be sufficient to cover expenses and the donations made by OPRI members to subsidize the litigation. This is to prevent double jeopardy to OPRI contributors - the original donation plus the cost levied against retirees to pay OPRI for the legal fees incurred in its litigation against PERS. Thus, OPRI will have a difficult time NOT offering to refund the donations once PERS pays them what the Court is expected to order. The Court (in particular Judge Breithaupt, Special Master) made this an important part of its recommendation.
Finally, I now know the date, time, and place of the Arken/Robinson status conference. It is scheduled for August 16, 2007 at 9:00 a.m. in Judge Kantor's courtroom in the Multnomah County Circuit Court. A nice turnout would both honor Martha and provide us with important clues about how PERS is going to treat the ruling. Scott thought that with a summary judgement, PERS may have about 90 days (probably not any more) to decide whether to appeal. Nearly 30 days have already elapsed and we'll be up to almost 60 by the time of the status conference. PERS is going to have to fish or cut bait fairly soon and no one seems to be certain what they'll do.
Sunday, July 08, 2007
I don't want anyone to get the wrong idea about what this calculator is for. Its existence in no way suggests that PERS has rolled over and will suddenly pay us what they've refused to do for 4 years. But, if the contrast between the Lipscomb outcome and the Sartain result motivates apathetic window retirees, many of whom have seemed to accept their fate without a fight, to rethink the importance of the battle, then I will consider the outcome a success. I don't know how much work this will involve - I've only briefly examined the Lipscomb source code. I'm guessing it will take me a few weeks to get a clean run and so watch for the revised calculator in early August -- before the status conference on the Arken case.
Thursday, July 05, 2007
Note at 6 p.m. PERS have changed the date on their web site to August 16th. It is unclear whether there has been a genuine scheduling change, or the date was wrong initially. I will try to clarify and repost soon with a correct date (and maybe time).
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
I will remember Martha as a smart, savvy, and keen observer of the goings on at PERS, and an impossible person to put something over on. I'll remember Martha's companionship through endless hearings in Strunk, in Arken, and in the final days of the hearings related to fee reimbursements of lawyers in the Strunk cases. I'll also remember her generosity in sharing copies of court transcripts and her persistence in getting audio documents of important hearings for me to use in writing my blog. Without her assistance, many of my posts would have been impossible to write.
Martha was a tireless advocate for "window retirees". She served on the OPRI Board with distinction and should be credited with getting the Board to recognize "window retiree" issues and for pursuing an agenda of openness and use of modern technology.
Martha's memorial service will be held on Thursday July 12th [NOTE: corrected date] at Belcrest Memorial Park Cemetary in South Salem at 2:00. Martha's family asked that in lieu of flowers or charitable gifts, please "instead treat your family or a close friend to meal out .... and remember friends".
Godspeed Martha. We will all miss you.