If you wish to help support the ongoing costs of running this blog and you haven't purchased anything through Amazon on this site, please consider a small donation to defray basic costs. It isn't free to me to keep this site current. I have to pay for bandwidth, costs of duplicating documents when they exist only in paper form, and keep printer ink around to read lengthy documents, and the time to do the research. Thank you. Marc Feldesman, site owner and publisher.
Oregon PERS Information is Copyright Marc R. Feldesman (c) 2003 - 2017 All Rights Reserved. Posts may not be reprinted without prior consent.


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

Looking for Elvis

That's an ugly rumor started to explain what Judge Kantor is doing instead of making his final ruling in the Arken/Robinson cases. It has been quite awhile since the last status conference (see over to your left and you'll notice this little counter that keeps ticking off the seconds, minutes, hours, and days since that status conference in August). At the time I'm writing this, Judge Kantor has managed to tick off more than 103 days since hearing the latest arguments. That works out to about 3.5 months so far. I *hope* he's not trying to best his previous record for delaying a preliminary ruling in those same cases - almost 8 months if I recall correctly. In the meantime, Judge Kantor, if you are really looking for Elvis, here's a tip direct from the source. Elvis is dead. Kicked the bucket. Pushing up daisies. Singing to the Lord. In short, it's a great snark hunt in which nothing ever will be found. Stop looking already and rule.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Livin' in the Future

This post is a reprint of an earlier post. The FUTURE is NOW, TODAY. PLEASE GIVE SERIOUS THOUGHT TO DONATING. WE ARE GETTING CLOSER AND CLOSER TO OUR GOAL. HELP US PUSH PAST THE TARGET AND GIVE US SOME BREATHING SPACE. WE NEED ABOUT $500 MORE TO REACH OUR GOAL
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
c/o PEG
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:
http://oregonpers.info/

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 :
info@oregonpers.info
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

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

One of the last of the true believers, Steve Delaney, has announced his resignation from PERS effective soon. He will become the Director of the Orange County (California) Public Employee Retirement System. I always found Steve to be one of the nicest, most courteous, and most helpful PERS employees. He never failed to answer a question, was always helpful whenever I had meetings with senior PERS staff (not recently, alas), and has been a true professional during this entire period where PERS has been "front and center" in the news. I wish Steve nothing but the best in his new position. It sounds like his experience within the Oregon PERS System will prepare him well for the Directorship in the land of Disney. Goodbye and good luck, Steve.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Give Me Something

Anything. According to my little widget PERS has been failing to comply with state law for 1599 days, 19 hours (for those who don't think that way, that has been since 7/1/03). While PERS would argue that they HAVE been following the law, the key elements of HB 2003 were overturned March 10, 2005 and specified that PERS members be restored to their position on 7/1/03. To date, that has never happened, and if PERS has its way, it never will. If I were you, I'd be angry, very angry. But being angry isn't enough. You have to be willing to do something about it. Electing the right candidates is one approach. Organizing a large constituency to petition Judge Kantor to hold PERS in contempt f Court would be another matter. Sitting on your hands is not, in my opinion, an option. The more inactive you are, the flatter you will be when the PERS steamroller runs over you. Use every lick of intellect you have. Fight back and get others to fight along side you. The PERS Coalition can't do all the heavy lifting. At some point personal responsibility comes into play. As we rapidly approach 1600 days of willful disobedience of the law, now is as good a tiime as any to start kicking ass and taking names. Better late than never.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Changing of the Guards - Part 2

I was sorely tempted to title this post "Alas poor Orrick", but I decided that was stretching artistic license too far and would break my music oriented theme. In any case, I finally have my answer about how Orrick came to be the attorneys of record for the PERS Board. Rather than try to rephrase the complicated story, I'll let David Crosley's answer speak for itself:

"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

Good Times Bad Times

As Dickens once wrote, "these are the best of times, these are the worst of times." In the latter category, more people than ever are being invoiced and readjusted from PERS and more people are waking up after 5 years of somnolence to discover that while they slept, the Legislature and PERS did a whole big bad number on them and now they're pissed. I'm glad to have these folks now at the party; I just wished they'd been paying attention in school when the Legislature was giving them their assignments. Just keep reading folks - the party isn't over until the fat lady sings (or until Judge Kantor gives his opinion, whichever comes first).

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

Excitable Boy

I woke up this morning and checked in with the blog to see if there were new comments to moderate. I hadn't been paying attention to the hit counter for quite some time. Today I see that we're past the 499,000 mark and closing in rapidly on 500,000 hits since October 2003. That's pretty amazing and I'm excited. Half a million page views in 4 years is pretty impressive. Not CNN and not Jack Bog, put compelling nonetheless. Either PERS members have nothing else to do, or the site has proven to be a valuable source of unexpurgated opinion, facts, and (occasionally) humor. The information never stops flowing; my brain never stops working overtime trying to figure out this whole mess. I guess I'm just an excitable boy who's enjoying retirement. Keep up the entertainment PERS. If I didn't have you to kick around, I guess I'd have to kick my dog. She's too cute to kick, so I guess I'll have to console myself that you're not cute, you're not cuddly, and your actions are ugly, mean-spirited, and illegal.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Jigsaw Falling Into Place

We had a pretty good turnout for yesterday's poll. About 77% of the respondents wanted Governor Ted Kulongoski to advise the PERS Board to settle the litigation with the PERS Coalition and be done with this mess. I'm not really surprised by those results, as that has been what the PERS Coalition has been aiming for all along. We want OUR settlement agreement along the lines of the City of Eugene settlement agreement, only in reverse. This time we want what we have won, legally, in court. If we happen to win the Arken case outright, that is icing on the cake, but we've already won and people just can't figure out why we have to keep fighting to get what is already ours.

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.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Funny How Time Slips Away

I was bored this morning while waiting for my daughter to get ready for school. I have the new Mac operating system, Leopard. It comes with Dashcode - a very nice developers tool for whipping out Mac widgets. This are little tiny applications that run from OS X Dashboard and do things useful. I have a widget available to pull RSS feeds from this site. I've just built a new widget called "PERS Lawbreakers" just for fun. If you have a Mac running Tiger or later, you can download this widget just for fun from my personal widget factory. Stuffit will unpack the widget. Just click on the widget and it will load into your Dashboard. For your information, the base date is July 1, 2003. Have fun - or get really pissed off, take your pick.