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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Casino Nation

We all know that gambling in Las Vegas or elsewhere always favors the "house". Traditionally, gambling establishments make their lucre by setting the odds in such a way that the "house" wins only slightly more than half of the time so that people won't get discouraged and stop throwing their money at this ultimately lost cause (for the gamblers). The house never loses because it has an infinite amount of money to play with and it can eventually bankrupt any player and recoup its losses relatively quickly. If I were inclined, the true moneymakers on the stock market would be the companies that run/own gambling establishments.

What does this have to do with PERS? Nothing, except for the fact that PERS has things set up so that the "house" always wins, 100% of the time. I have been tallying the results of emails I've received from my many faithful readers who appealed their "brown envelope" from PERS detailing the outcome of their recalculation of benefits based on the Strunk/Eugene "remediation." The results would make a Las Vegas oddsmaker blush with embarrassment. I have actually gotten email or read reports elsewhere of 987 people who have appealed so far. The results are clear - *no one* has gotten an appeal passed past PERS. We are 0/987 as of this morning. No successes in 987 reports. PERS is taking no prisoners with these appeals. People report that the appeal responses are as generic as their appeals are specific. It looks as if PERS isn't spending any time at all with the appeals. It just sends out a near form letter with some canned responses to the standard appeal bases. I don't post this to discourage you from appealing; I post because I find the outcome to be so preposterous. It doesn't matter what the courts say. It doesn't matter what attorneys say. It doesn't matter that this defies all rational expectation. PERS isn't going to let anyone win for any reason except for a bonafide arithmetic mistake. And you have to have some awfully good information to figure out whether PERS made a mistake or not. The numbers don't jump off the page. The computational algorithms aren't obvious and PERS doesn't make a habit of sending you an explanation of how they obtained the results. You can get this information, but you have to request it specifically.

Judge Kantor: if you read these kinds of things, you might want to know that most of us out here in PERS land are getting pretty fed up with your lame non-excuses for a non-ruling. PERS is running amok and they're doing it claiming you gave them permission. If we have any hope of restoring our benefits before many of us die off, you are going to get off your behind and issue a ruling - soon. Our patience is wearing thin.


8 comments:

Ryan said...

I'm a post-window retiree so I don't expect to get one of those letters.
What is the normal response after the failed appeal?
Do you pay up, set a payment schedule or wait to see what happens?

Ryan

gary said...

As always, I appreciate all of the work you put into keeping this blog up to date and entertaining!

Two questions. First, I suggested you develop an on line petition that we could all sign that could be sent to the judge. You said you were looking into it, but apparently it didn't pan out.

Second, in the absence of direct information from our lawyer, it seems that he's not putting enough pressure on the judge. Maybe it's poor form to pressure judges to make a decision, but as far as I'm concerned that's part of what lawyers are paid to do-advocate for their clients.hv

mrfearless47 said...

Ryan:

No collection is involved. The Judge has enjoined PERS from doing so right now. All you get is a bill and a notice of reduced (or increased) benefits along with a bunch of numbers showing how the new benefit was calculated (good luck figuring out how they arrived at the numbers). The bill is just lurking, awaiting a later ruling from some court.

Gary: online petitions don't do much good and I can't figure out a form to use that would have much impact.

As for the lawyers pressuring Judge Kantor for a ruling, that would probably be ill-advised. PERS isn't in any hurry, nor are any of the other defendants. The plaintiffs are in a hurry, but would you like to be the person who decided to pressure a judge into issuing a ruling before he is ready. I've already posted last week that Greg Hartman is certainly aware of the delay and is equally frustrated. But what, realistically, can he do? He is an advocate for his clients, but he has several more cases docketed with Judge Kantor. I don't think I'd want to "poison the well." According to some of my sources, there are time limits on rulings, but the time limits depend on the type of litigation involved. This is a civil action, to be sure, but it falls under Administrative Law, which does not, so far as I can tell, fall into that area where timely rulings are obligatory. I have heard nothing that a settlement of some sort is in negotiation, although others have suggested that this *might* be what is going on. I seriously doubt that any such negotiations are taking place.

The closest I can come to an online petition would be a "poll", which would say what?

JMS said...

Marc, I think your comments (sad but true) reflect the reality here. But what I'm wondering is, is Judge Kantor running for re-election? If so, is it a contested race? (I'm in Salem and so I'm out of the loop on these questions).

If "yes" to both, some of your readers might be inclined to go to any kind of campaign event at which he might appear, and ask him if all of his rulings take as long as these are taking. If so, then does he practice "justice delayed is justice denied"?

JMS

mrfearless47 said...

JMS

To the best of my knowledge, Judge Kantor is running for reelection unopposed. I'm not in Multnomah County but I've followed this relatively closely. He wins no matter what we do. I thought the election might be the cause of his tardiness, but that doesn't appear to be the case, unless he simply wants to be certain that he isn't hurt by any decision he makes. I can't figure out how this happens in an unopposed election, but stranger things have happened.

mrf

gary said...

I guess if I wasn't so lazy, I could go back on this blog and find out just what it is we're all waiting for from Judge Kantor. It's been so long that I can't remember. He's already issued a ruling (along with other courts) in our favor, right? Then he had his conference with both sides months ago to accomplish I'm not sure what. Then, months later we all wait anxiously for his next move. Meanwhile, PERS keeps doing it's thing except for collecting money from us we don't owe, according to the rulings. So, PERS is apparently complying, for now at least, with part of the rulings, but not the rest.

So, are we basically waiting for the judge to tell PERS "and I meant what I said and do it by this date"!?

Clueless Gary

mrfearless47 said...

Clueless Gary:

We are waiting for Judge Kantor to issue his final ruling in the Arken and Robinson cases, and to hear and rule on the White case.

At issue in Arken is whether PERS has the right to *adjust* the benefits, not simply to *not* collect amounts alleged to have been overpaid. During the status conference, Judge Kantor acknowledged that he hadn't (unintentionally?) addressed the issue of whether PERS could go ahead and amend the benefit amounts even though he explicitly told them he couldn't assess members charges for amounts in dispute. PERS interpreted his non-ruling to be effectively an affirmation of their plan to continue to adjust benefits. Kantor has promised a clearer ruling when he finally issues his opinion.

In Robinson, the issue is more complicated. Robinson argues that PERS has no authority to collect overpayments and no authority to adjust benefits because the Legislature created an exclusive remedy for the City of Eugene case. This remedy, referred to as Section 14b of House Bill 2003, requires PERS to offset alleged overpayments to retirees by taking the amount from administrative expenses or reserves, not from the members themselves. PERS has argued that this (section 14b) is illegal and would place the interests of retirees ahead of the interests of active members. So they refuse to comply. Judge Kantor has ordered them to comply, but PERS maintains that the AG's office won't let them.

The White case has been lingering since April 2004, a month after the settlement agreement became "official". The White case charges the PERS Board with a breach of fiduciary duty in signing the settlement agreement in the first place. It argues that PERS is a trust set up for the exclusive benefit of its members. By signing the settlement agreement, Robinson argues that the PERS Board breached that fiduciary trust and took actions that harmed the very people it was supposed to protect. The case seeks to void the settlement agreement. If it did, it would leave nothing in its place, as the case "settled" has been mooted and vacated and it is too late to refile the same case.

That, in a nutshell, is what you're missing.

gary said...

Just curious. Have any of the blogs' readers tried calling the judge's office and leaving a message letting him know about our keen interest in his upcoming decisions? Maybe if enough of us called him it would wedge the idea into his psyche that he needs to get moving on this.

Not shy by retired,

Gary