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, November 27, 2007
Monday, November 26, 2007
For the past three months, a small group of PERS retirees have been working to construct a comprehensive library of Oregon PERS material in an attempt to address the public information access problem. This repository will eventually include more than 1,000 documents containing material related to litigation, legislation, studies, communications, audit reports, administrative rules, internal but public e-mails, and articles. The site currently offers a manual search of a limited number of documents. The manual process has many limitations especially when trying to follow a sequence of events about an issue over time.
Team members (myself included) have volunteered time, expertise, and money to get us to this point. Now the library development group has contracted with a developer to construct a database that will greatly simplify and amplify the process for locating records. Other database options have been considered and rejected. We believe this is the best and most cost effective solution. The cost of the database is estimated to be between $3,000-4,000. Half of this amount has already been pledged by members of the development group and generous donors have contributed nearly $2000. We're so close to our fund raising goals that I'm hoping another repeat of this message will send us over the top.
In the past, many PERS retirees have expressed interest in contributing to the struggle to preserve retirement benefits. While not directly related to current litigation, the PERS document library will be an important resource of information for the public about PERS decisions.
Contributions can be sent to:
OPDG Library Project
6550 Huntington Cir SE
Salem OR 97306-1481
Make checks out to: OPDG Library Project. Credit card donations may also be made through a Pay Pal link at the library site.
For a better understanding of this project and for a view of the density of material already collected, visit the library web at:
I have written previously about this in my entry "Power To The People" (October 5, 2007). Support for this grass roots effort affords all PERS workers and retirees an opportunity to make a difference in the struggle for our retirement benefits. No donation is too small. We will publish a final accounting of the project when work on the database is complete. Questions should be directed to :
In the information age, documents are the raw material that fuel research, analysis, and understanding of decisions and events. Complex issues unfolding over many years produce a flood of documents. Often these originate from many sources and are stored in many forms. Access can be difficult under the best of circumstances which means that most people don't know where to go or how to locate needed records. Over time, documents are destroyed, lost, archived, or otherwise made unavailable. With critical information unavailable the media and public are often unaware about key facts in events which can lead to skewed perceptions of events and decisions. Your support for this effort is one direct way you can make a difference.
PERS Library Development Team:
JRS, Marc (mrfearless47), PEG, & Greg
**Post appeal footnote:
When the project is complete, any balance in the donated development funds will be returned to contributors on a proportional basis. The only exceptions will be for refunds that are less than $1. To be eligible for a refund, contributors will need to provide a return mail address with their donation.
P.S. If this note looks familiar to subscribers to OPDG, it is because Greg, our chief cook and bottle washer, entered a variant of this appeal on the OPDG newsgroup. We are looking at empowering as many PERS members, retirees, legislators who do not always have a clear view of history, journalists who also do not always understand the central issues or the seemingly peripheral elements that make the trivial seem meaningful and the reverse, lawyers, indeed anyone with an interest in PERS history over the past dozen years. We hope you'll contribute to this incredible asset and we hope you'll use it. It is there, and once the new searching suite gets posted, will be quite simple to use for complex searches.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Friday, November 16, 2007
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
"In August 2003, acting upon a request by PERS, the Attorney General granted approval for PERS to retain fiduciary and litigation counsel independent of DOJ pursuant to ORS 238.657. An answer or other first appearance to the Oregon Supreme Court and the U.S. District Court was due by August 21, 2003 in response to lawsuits relating to PERS Reform.
The request for proposal (RFP) required each firm to provide a statement of qualifications and answers to questions regarding its background and qualifications.
Using the authority granted in OAR 125-247-0295, the PERS Board received responses to the RFP from Lane, Powell, Spears, Lubersky LLP (Lane Powell); Bullivant Houser Bailey PC (Bullivant); and Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP (Orrick).
The factors in choosing Orrick were based on the selection criteria in OAR 125-247-0295: (A) The knowledge, skills and ability of the Firm that will provide Authorized Legal Services. The Firm's ability to provide Authorized
Legal Services includes the training and expertise of the Firm attorneys, including Outside Counsel. Outside Counsel must be a member of the Oregon State Bar pursuant to ORS 180.235(2);
(B) The Firm's experience, level of expertise and suitability to perform the Authorized Legal Services; (C) Whether the Firm's available personnel possess any required licenses or certifications required to perform the legal services for the Authorized Legal Services, such as licenses to practice law in the appropriate jurisdiction, or to appear in a certain forum; (D) The Outside Counsel's availability and capability to perform the Authorized Legal Services and meet the Agency's needs; (E) The commitment the Outside Counsel and Counsel's Firm can make to the Authorized Agency to meet the Agency's needs; (F) The value of the Firm's legal services, taking into account the cost of the Firm's legal services; and (G) Other factors the Authorized Agency considers relevant to accomplish an optimal, timely outcome. "
So there you have the story of how Orrick came to have the contract with PERB to represent it in the ongoing litigation. I'm particularly interested in how Orrick met criteria (B) and (D) and how (F) and (G) can be reconciled with the actual costs being incurred. I still have this visceral feeling that the deck was stacked in favor of Orrick and nothing in the responses to the RFP would have changed that outcome. I don't know what leverage Orrick has over State agencies and why it has insinuated itself into almost every level of state and local government. I *know* the firm specializes in certain fiduciary instruments, such as bonds, but I still cannot find a whit of evidence that they are experts in public employee pension law. And so, for $750 an hour, PERS (and its members) are paying for a firm that specializes in bonds and high stakes litigation. Draw whatever conclusions you wish. I'm still not buying the argument that the RFP process produced a level playing field. This was a time for a changing of the guards and I suspect Orrick was right there ready and willing to jump into the fray. They acted just like Willie Sutton, the infamous bank robber, who robbed banks because that's where the money was. Orrick robs our public employee pension fund because that's where the money is in the State of Oregon. Nice work if you can get it.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
On the best of times department, I am happy to report that the subject of one of my blog entries "Linda" has finally won her victory over PERS. "Linda" persisted until PERS accounted for every penny of her account, correcting error after error along the way. You'll recall that I told Linda's story back in September ("Fixing a Hole", September 26). Hers was a case of impeccable records butting heads with sloppy files. "Linda", the CPA, wasn't going to back down and, with my encouragement, tracked down some helpful people at PERS who *finaly* got her account straightened out. It only took her two and a half months, not 30 days, but would have been impossible without some intervention. What Linda's case communicates to me is that PERS is shooting itself in the foot over and over again, pissing members off, making others suspicious, and contributing to a culture of incompetence and/or malignity. It is awfully nice to hear of these stories of victory. They are all too rare these days.
On another note, our database project is growing daily. We're getting good community support with donations coming in nearly daily. We haven't reached our $4000 project goal, but we can make it with your donations. If you read this blog, please consider giving a donation as recognition of what this blog contributes to your information content. Now, imagine the information level times 50, which is what the document site is. It is a collection of a staggering array of documents to help you understand this entire mess and help you to understand how things got where they did. It costs money to build a first rate search engine. People have asked what they can do for ME to repay ME for my hard work. Donate to the library. I'm involved there and it is a project that I've contributed many documents from this site to. You can get all the information you need at OregonPERS.info
Thursday, November 08, 2007
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
The perverse twist in all this is that we've got this California law firm, called Orrick, that keeps billing PERS at $750 per hour and has no incentive to settle. They've got this cash cow going and they're milking PERS (the members and retirees) for every nickel it can get. Digging deeper into this manure, Orrick has its fingerprints all over Oregon government, dating back to at least the 1980's. So they've been suckling at the public teat for a very long time. What's odd is that if you look at Orrick's legal portfolio, they clearly have little or no experience in public employee retirement plans or litigation thereof. You have to wonder why, of all the law firms in the US, in Oregon, in the Northwest, would a Public EmployEE Retirement System hire a firm with so demonstrably little experience in litigating pension legislation. Head wide boy Joe Malkin, who oozes sleaze from every pore, specializes in "high stakes litigation" and has represented such clients as the tobacco and drug industry. While I realize that the current PERS litigation is "high stakes" (for retirees, chump change for PERS), nothing in it has any resemblance to product liability litigation. Maybe I'm just living in a different world, one where you'd choose your attorney on the basis of his/her skill set in representing your interests in the type of litigation needed. While I haven't a shred of evidence to support my conjecture, I'd almost be willing to bet that there's a Neil Goldschmidt connection somewhere in all this. Orrick just appears, like Minerva from the brow of Zeus, to rescue PERB in about October 2003, about one month after the new PERS Board takes over and not long before the Goldschmidt scandal breaks into the wide open. I've scoured the net and I find all sorts of possible connections and exposure to Orrick by current PERB members. Maybe they just knew Orrick's work and it was the first name that rolled off their collective tongues. Perhaps they didn't think that Stoel, Rives' great pension attorney - Greg Macpherson - might have a recommendation (or maybe he did. Wonder if Macpherson's run for AG is being financed in any way by donations from Orrick? Note to self - check finance lists).
This post is beginning to wander. In any case, the poll indicates that a large percentage of our readers today think Governor Kulongoski should get on the PERS Board's case to settle the litigation and move on. And I suspect that won't happen, not because of what we think or even what the Governor thinks, but because Orrick is milking too much money out of these cases to quit. Ah, I can see the jigsaw pieces falling into place.