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Friday, July 27, 2007

Out Come the Freaks

Readers of this blog are quite good about keeping me posted on their interactions with PERS and others involved with PERS. My letter-writing campaign challenged retirees to communicate with several of the key players with influence on Governor Kulongoski, who has been temporarily laid up following spine surgery. I sent letters to Ted, to Tim Nesbitt (Ted's Chief of Staff), Representative Greg MacPherson, State Senator Richard Devlin, and former State Senator Tony Corcoran. Of that group, only Senator Devlin has had the courtesy to respond. Friends have now sent me several responses they've gotten from Tim Nesbitt, and also an updated response from Senator Richard Devlin. From these responses, it is clear that PERS is providing no more information to their inquirers than they are to retirees. The answer Senator Devlin provided reads like a verbatim quote from PERS' website outlining what PERS has done in the wake of Judge Kantor's ruling. Mr. Nesbitt's response is more of the same, but includes the statement that could be interpreted to mean that the Governor's office still believes PERS has to find a way to recover the overpayments. In short, it appears that the Governor's office is not going to get involved in stressing to the PERB or to PERS Staff that the combination of the Supreme Court ruling and Judge Kantor's ruling combine to indicate that there is actually nothing to collect as the benefit being paid is legal and without errors. Both Nesbitt and Devlin have shared the information that those of us who haven't yet been invoiced by PERS will see a COLA on our monthly benefit, when our July payment comes out next Wednesday. Oh happy day, but the failure to ask the relevant questions is just palpable.

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.

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