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Friday, October 03, 2008

White Rabbit

The case known as the "White" case goes before Judge Kantor on October 23. The hearings are scheduled for three days - October 23, 24, and October 27. It is hard to gauge exactly how much time a complex case like this will take. At issue is the "legality" of the settlement agreement the PERS Board entered into to settle the City of Eugene case. For those unaware of the exactly how that agreement affected us, consider that it was finalized in early 2004, before the Supreme Court had heard and ruled on the Strunk case. While the Strunk case concluded that the Legislature could not withhold COLA increases for retirees, and concluded that the Legislature had, in effect, created a new benefit for retirees - the fixed benefit - which could not be said to contain errors, the settlement agreement effectively undermined the principal Strunk ruling. It enshrined what I've called the "nuclear option". It basically said that if the Supreme Court ruled that the COLA freeze option was unconstitutional, PERS would use an alternative and more costly mechanism (to retirees) method for getting back the alleged "overpayments". The settlement agreement also asked PERS to switch sides in the City of Eugene case. It required them to admit to wrongdoing -- something they argued vociferously against in the City of Eugene case - so that the 1999 earnings crediting decision could be classed as an "error" and be subject to ORS 238.715 (the collections statute). There are many other unsubtle elements to the settlement agreement, but any rational analysis leads to the conclusion that the PERS Board, which is charged with primary fiduciary responsibility to its members, retirees, and their money, violated that responsibility and took action directly in conflict with its responsibilities. The White case charges the PERB with exactly that, and more, and seeks to undo the settlement agreement. This is a very important case that will ultimately go all the way to the Oregon Supreme Court.

So that people can plan in advance, I urge every member and retiree to try to find time and means to attend all or part of the hearings. I firmly believe that attaching human faces to the dry proceedings playing out in a courtroom gives all sides a look at who is affected by the litigation before them. The hearings are held in the Multnomah County Courthouse in downtown Portland. I will be posting directions and other information as time goes on. For those who live in the Eugene or Salem areas, carpools typically get formed and this makes it easier and less costly for people from the valley to attend. I will help facilitate organizing these carpools through the PERS_OREGON_DISCUSSION group (POD). You can access the newsgroup by clicking on the link to the left of this post. I hope to see many people there.


MollyNCharlie said...

Thanks, Marc, for getting us started planning to get to Judge Kantor's court for this important case. I'll be there and I'm bringing at least one friend! I'll go over and post an offer of rides on POD. I look forward to seeing old friends and making some new ones, too!


mrfearless47 said...

Thank YOU Peg for your generous offer to provide transportation for up to two additional people. The more people who show up in court, the more Judge Kantor sees that people are interested and that this isn't just an arcane battle of legal wits between two all-too-familiar opponents.