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Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The Last Carnival

Begins on Friday June 5 at 9:00 a.m. in the Multnomah County Courthouse. Judge Henry (the slow) Kantor will be holding taking oral arguments (or something like that) in the case captioned "White." This case has been hanging around since mid 2004 and is the last remaining case in a long string of cases emanating from the City of Eugene litigation. White challenges the legal authority of the PERS Board to enter into a "settlement" of the City of Eugene case without notifying, involving, or engaging the PERS Coalition, which was a party in the City of Eugene litigation.

White argues that the PERS Board ignored their fiduciary responsibility to PERS members and retirees by entering into an agreement to settle the City of Eugene case on terms unfavorable to members and retirees. In particular, the Board agreed to the revised mechanism for calculating the employer variable match for Tier 1 retirees, it agreed to the recovery mechanisms that became known as the Strunk/Eugene method, and it agreed to a variety of other measures that were designed to thwart any ruling against the Legislature and PERS in the not-yet-decided Strunk et al cases stemming from the 2003 Legislative reform.

Judge Kantor has resisted any efforts to move this case along, deciding instead to rule on Arken and Robinson before deciding White. The former two cases are now before the Oregon Court of Appeals. White has the potential to undermine both the rulings in Arken and Robinson, especially in the unlikely even that Judge Kantor rules in favor of the White plaintiffs.

While I am not encouraged by Judge Kantor's speed in deciding any case, I am hopeful that we will finally see some movement in White at week's end. There is no way that any decision will be rendered in Court on Friday, but we should be able to judge from the questions and answers whether Kantor is in any way disposed towards the White group. It is yet another chance for us to see the PERS Coalition attorneys, led by Greg Hartman, go up against a very overpaid (by us) California "wideboy", and probably another highly overpaid Stoel, Rives local "wideboy."

I strongly recommend that retirees and actives in the Portland and Salem area plan to be here to see the carnival up close and personal. There is nothing quite like seeing the actors all playing their roles on the stage rather than waiting for someone else to summarize the play through an admittedly biased lens.

The activities begin at 9 a.m. in Room 560 (Kantor's Courtroom) at the Multnomah County Courthouse in downtown Portland. Plan to arrive at least 30 minutes early as security in the Courthouse resembles airport security stations. There are a variety of parking options on Fourth Avenue (the Courthouse entrance side) including Smart Parks where you ought to be able to park for under $5 for a half day. You can also take public transportation into downtown Portland and be less than two blocks from the Courthouse. Please try to make it. The more actual members and retirees present, the harder it is for the Judge to claim disinterest or to suggest that there is no impact on retirees or actives. When you show interest by attending, you send a very powerful message. Let's do that.


MollyNCharlie said...

I'll be there. I have 2 or 3 PERS retirees joining me. It should be an interesting day. I'm also looking forward to meeting some of the regular posters from POD.


mrfearless47 said...

I hope it isn't a full day. I'm boxed in after lunch. I can't imagine why this would take more than a couple of hours. Please.....

Anonymous said...

PERS... Courts have ruled that portions of the law ARE a Contract, but courts have also ruled that portions ARE NOT a Contract.

The Board HAS a fiduciary responsibility, but just TO WHO is a bit "fuzzy", and the political forces writing the rules have changed that duty over time.

This whole thing is like a bowl of pasta, with intertwined noodles of connectivity where one tug pulls something else entirely.

And of course, unprincipled Legislators have been tinkering with this for years, causing all the problems for us and for them by taking what was a simple promise and making it so convoluted as to be completely unrecognizable in an effort to satisfy various constituencies, but I digress: The questions before the Court are relatively simple, although the answer is complex. Did and does PERS have a fiduciary duty to the MEMBERS? Did that duty, if it existed, require inclusion of their interests in settling the former case?

If the answer to these question is found to be yes, expect the entire bowl of spagetti to rapidly spill from the bowl and all over the floor, and expect those responsible to expect someone else to clean it up.

mrfearless47 said...

Indeed! XQQme. You've hit the nail on the head, although I expect that the courts will find a way to make the outcome, which is really quite simple (yes or no), into something that will satisfy no one and launch into yet more litigation. I've decided that Chapter 238 of the ORS is nothing more than a full-employment act for pension lawyers.

Russ said...

We might be able to make it to the judge's show tomorrow, but since we are from out of town, mapsgoogle and mapquest show several different addresses for the courthouse in a four block radius, my wife is disabled, and it might be raining, do you have simple directions for getting to the correct building and entrance? Thanks

mrfearless47 said...

Russ: The Courthouse is officially at 1021 SW Fourth Avenue in downtown Portland. The only public entrance is at that address. If you are coming from I-5 South (coming from Vancouver, WA for example), you will want to take the I-405 exit and exit at Fourth (or 4th) Avenue. This street runs northbound and you will find public parking facilities less than a block from the Courthouse. If you are heading up I-5 North (from south of Portland), you will want to also take I-405 and get off at the same Fourth Ave (4th) exit. The only exceptional direction is if you are coming from the west and end up heading into downtown via the Sunset Highway (US 26). You will end up on I-405 south and you will want to exit at PSU (the 6th Avenue exit). Sixth avenue also runs parallel to fourth and at Market Street (at the end of the PSU campus), I would advise you to turn right and jump down to Fourth where you will turn left. From there the directions are the same as everyone elses'. If you need more refined directions, please email me and I can locate a detailed downtown map online and show you exactly where you want to be.

Hope this helps.

Russ said...

Thanks, Mark. Hope to see you all tomorrow.