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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Great Escape

Awhile back I wrote a detailed letter (email) to Greg Macpherson, who has announced his candidacy for Oregon's Attorney General. Macpherson is currently a representative in the Oregon House and happens to have represented my district (in both of my houses) since his election in 2002. In his "real" life, Greg is a lawyer with Stoel, Rives specializing in pension law and private benefit plans. It is that background that thrust him onto center stage in the 2003 Legislative session as Governor Kulongoski's "go to" guy on PERS reform. While Bill Gary's fingerprints are all over HB 2003 and HB 2004, Macpherson, with Kulongoski's blessing, if not his direct input, was instrumental in hammering out the details of HB 2003 and HB 2004 that didn't seem to be going anywhere under Gary's orchestration. In addition, it was Macpherson who helped grease the skids for the passage of HB 2020, which created the new "Tier 3" pension plan as well as the loathed IAP for current Tier 1 and Tier 2 members. It is Macpherson who helped the Oregon Senate General Government Committee, under Tony Corchoran, hammer out the compromise that became HB 2003, HB 2004, HB 2020, and HB 3020 (the bill that corrects all sorts of technical issues and errors that arose in HB 2003 and HB 2004 after passage). Such artful compromises as the "break in service" language that has confounded and confused both PERS and everyone else since 2003 have Rep. Macpherson's fingerprints all over it. Moreover, while Macpherson was probably not directly responsible, he participated in the travesty known as the COLA freeze and the 0% return for Tier 1 members until the deficit was paid out. Both of these were rejected by the Oregon Supreme Court. While PERS has reinstated the 8% guarantee for active members for 2003 and 2004, PERS has steadfastly refused to implement the Supreme Court's ruling in the Sartain case (part of Strunk et al). This was the ruling that rejected the COLA freeze as a breach of contract and held that the Legislature had defined a "new" benefit, called the "fixed benefit" that cannot be said to contain errors. Representative Macpherson was certainly involved in orchestrating this fiasco and if he is a pension lawyer, he can't be very smart or principled as to have NOT seen the inherent contractual violation. Furthermore, he certainly was not anxious to listen to the current Oregon Attorney General or the Legislative Counsel who both advised that these parts of HB 2003 (and 2004) were not going to survive a legal challenge in the Oregon Supreme Court.

So, I write all this in an email to Representative Macpherson. I explain that I can't support his candidacy for Oregon Attorney General and that I plan to work personally and through my blog to support his opponent (not then announced), John Kroger - a Lewis and Clark criminal law professor and former Federal Prosecutor. Macpherson writes me this "personal" response that more or less says: look, you don't understand how complicated this is. We (the legislature) tried to write legislation that wouldn't go back into retirees' accounts (true enough as far as it goes), but we didn't expect all this litigation.

HELLO!!!!!!! You want to be Attorney General? You want to give advice to the Legislature about the legality of proposed legislation and you can't even read a simple and straightforward letter. You can't grasp what I'm saying. I am blaming the original legislation for this entire mess, and you're telling me that your heart was in the right place. Bullshit!! You don't want to accept responsibility for failing to take proper legal advice. You don't want to accept the blame for the current fiasco. You can't think of any way to bring all this to a close in a way that will remove most of the basis for litigation.

Welcome John Kroger. I'll be posting more about him in a future post. In the maintain, let's watch Representative Macpherson try to plan his great escape from both the Legislature and the AG's office as PERS retirees and members thoroughly thrash his chances to succeed the quiet, soft-spoken, but incredibly prescient Hardy Myers. Greg, you aren't any Hardy. You aren't even Ed Meese. You're arrogant and you deserve to go. Bye, bye, bye.

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