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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Parallel Universe

I've decided that PERS and its paid henchmen from California must live in a parallel universe. In their universe, they get to make and interpret all the rules. They get to decide what a Judge means even when he doesn't say anything. Let's take a recent case. You've read my commentary about the Arken/Robinson Status Conference held yesterday. If you want more first-person accounts, you can go to the OPDG (see left for link) where you'll find a variety of perspectives, none terribly different than mine. Imagine my surprise today while walking through my local Pet Smart looking for supplies for our soon-to-be new puppy "Emma" ( a yellow lab for those who are interested). My cell phone starts ringing, I look at the number, I don't recognize it, but it is a 503 prefix. I figure it's a wrong number, but instead it turns out to be Steve Law from the Salem-Statesman Journal. He wants information on the status conference, which he didn't bother or have time to attend. I give him a brief synopsis, he asks me questions for "on the record" (I don't care), and then I suggest to him that he do what I've told others to do - read my blog, and go to OPDG - to get first hand accounts of the proceedings. His tone is argumentative; my responses fairly neutral. He asks me who I "represent". I explain that I am a "free agent", acting out of my own self-interest. He then asks about OPRI. I explain that no OPRI rep was at the hearings, as far as I can tell, and comment that I think OPRI is pretty much "out of it" except for paying dues in the PERS Coalition. I'm busy and so I blow him off so I can concentrate on getting stuff for "Emma", our not-yet-home Golden Lab.

While I'm in Costco shopping for something else, probably unnecessary and in the 55 gallon drum size, my phone at home rings. I don't get the call because I'm not home. But when I listen to the message, Steve Law is there telling me that he's talking with Paul Cleary of PERS and they have plans. Steve Law wants my comments. It is now 6 pm on Friday night. No Steve, no comments. Based on the fact that Judge Kantor did not explicitly tell them NO, PERS is planning to start up the recalculation of benefits again. This time they will ignore the overpayments and focus only on the recalculation of 1999 earnings at 11.33% and the revised benefit it results in. The PERS slimebag lawyers told Judge Kantor that for all but a few PERS members, this will result in a slight increase in benefits while the rest of the issue of repayment for past overages continues to play out in the Courts. Now, I sat through the entire hearing, listening closely, had more than 31 witnesses to what Judge Kantor said and didn't say. While it is true that Judge Kantor did not comment directly on PERS statement that they will do this, because it does not constitute getting into PERS members accounts, Judge Kantor also said, and conveniently forgotten by Mr. Malkin (Kreacher), that he would be issuing his final order so that PERS would have no trouble understanding what he meant. This does not sound like the solid support PERS would have you believe they have going into this next phase. They are clearly living in a Parallel Universe where the laws of gravity, physics, finance, and general law apply to everyone else but them.

The betting line holds that PERS is going to try for a "severability" approach to getting rid of opposition to this plan. Bets are being taken that by virtue of the Strunk Court's ruling that the COLA freeze in section 10 was unconstitutional, that the rest of the clause makes no legal sense. If that argument holds sway, the "fixed" and the "revised benefit" language, which the Supreme Court held to be controlling goes away. They have to convince the court that by severing the COLA from section 10, there is nothing left to implement. On that groud, PERS can argue that the "revised" benefit is correct for all members and retirees and that adjustments CAN be made under ORS 238.715.

I love Parallel Universes. They let you imagine anything, do anything, screw anyone, and all without any consequences. Let's hope that PERS Parallel universe collapses like the 1986 Challenger - perhaps taking a few California lawyers with them.

P.S. (note added 8/20). A fellow member of OPDG has raised a fascinating question. If PERS goes for severability (ORS 174.040) on Section 10 of HB 2003, not only will they kill the fixed vs revised benefit, but they will also kill the 11.33% rate for 1999. Since the City of Eugene case is now vacated and has no legal effect on anyone, what will be PERS' argument for the "correct" rate for 1999? It seems to me that if PERS chooses that route, it will be caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Poor souls. I feel their pain.

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