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Tuesday, June 10, 2008
In the meantime, another PERS-related case is scheduled for its first hearing in the Marion County Circuit Court. This is the case captioned "Kay Bell" in the Hartman archives. This lawsuit tests the proposition that PERS should be held accountable for its information as employees relied on PERS' representations to make retirement decisions. The case is scheduled for July 15th. While it would be nice to get a definitive ruling on this, it seems to me that both the Strunk hearings and the Arken hearings touched on this issue. Each time it gets brought up, some judge or Justices swat it down. I'd like to think that Kay Bell will get a fairer view, but I'm not encouraged by the previous rulings. What those rulings say to me is that if you depend on PERS, you do so at your own peril. PERS can lie to you either explicitly (Notice of Entitlement) or implicitly (by failing to tell you some crucial piece of information, such as that the earnings for one critical year in your retirement account may not be the same as what you've been led to believe). This has always seemed to me to be the Achilles heel of the PERS system, and the courts haven't been very sympathetic to retirees on this one. We exchange our jobs for a promised retirement benefit. Our jobs are filled and no longer available even if we wanted them back. Then PERS gets to turn around and say, "whoopsie. We boo booed and you get to suffer the consequences." This has never struck me as fair. The analogy is always drawn to a bank error, but the difference to me is that banks don't wait four or five years or more to tell you and then go to great lengths to recover the money. There, at least, ought to be some statute of limitations at play here. Six years is way too long in a retirement setting. The banks usually find the error in a matter of days, if not weeks. I know of no example where a bank has come back on an error years after it occurs.
What do you think about this? Fair or unfair?