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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Cleanup Time

An email appeared in my box yesterday containing a copy of an October 18, 2010 order from the Oregon Court of Appeals directing the Arken case (and, by implication, the Robinson Case) directly to the Oregon Supreme Court.  The Arken/Robinson cases were argued before the Oregon Court of Appeals last month.  Instead of ruling on those appeals, the Oregon Court of Appeals wisely decided to fast-track them to the Supreme Court without taking a time for a ruling.  They reasoned that both cases pertain to the Supreme Court's own ruling in Strunk and the City of Eugene. Since the Oregon Legislature directed appeals of the Legislative assembly's statutory changes in HB 2003 directly to the Supreme Court, and since these two cases fall directly out of those challenges, the Oregon Court of Appeals felt that the only proper jurisdiction for these cases was the Oregon Supreme Court itself.

I regard this as good news, as it expedites (I hope) the process of litigating these cases.  While I still hold to my original prediction of 2012, I am willing to assume that the decision will come sooner in 2012 than I had expected.  I don't if there is any more to do with the Oregon Court of Appeals (the White case remains there, but it has a different set of judiciable issues), but I think it is safe to assume that nothing further will be done with Arken and Robinson until the hearings before the Supreme Court, and awaiting the Court's decision.  The parties to all the cases will now have to prepare all the appropriate briefing materials for the OSC.

If you want to see a copy of the court's ruling, it should be posted at the PERS Library soon.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Ventilator Blues

(I've edited the date so this remains on top for awhile.  It is vitally important that as many as possible read it and have an opportunity to take action preemptively.)

The definition of insanity is trying to do something over and over and hoping for a different result.  Our local whoremongers and fishmongers over at the Whoregonian are wheezing out their last breaths on their ventilator.  Nevertheless, they have the unmitigated gall (chutzpah) to demand a public records hearing with the Marion County Circuit Court to get PERS to release, to them, the names (and more) of all PERS retirees earning more than $100K per year.   In addition to the names, the Oregonian asked for retirement date, employer, years of service, job classification, final average salary, regular monthly payment, any other monthly benefit, any other benefit from PERS monthly or annually (e.g. IAP).

The Whoregonian wouldn't take no for an answer from PERS, which claimed it was exempt from the request under ORS 192.502 (the public records disclosure statutes), as well as OAR 459-060-0020.  They went to Attorney General Kroger and requested that he order PERS to comply.  On October 2, the AG's office order PERS to comply.  On October 15, 2010, PERS filed a petition in the Circuit Court of Marion County to determine whether, in fact, the records request meets the standards set by the public records law.

Although I am not affected by the outcome of this decision, I know a few people who are.  Most are physicians who worked at OHSU; a few were heads of very large agencies managing near billion dollar budgets and thousands of employees.  You would expect those people to earn more than $100,000 in retirement just because you know what they earned when they were working.  It isn't clear that the Oregonian is after those people.  It appears to me that this is a "throw it against the wall and see what sticks".  I think the Whoregonian is searching for the more "ordinary" people who retired at more than 100% of their somewhat high 5 salary and whose earnings during the period from 2002-2007 pushed them into a money match retirement of 100% of salary + more.

If this is the whores' request, then Ted Sickinger is trying to serve two ( and possibily three) objectives in this request:   1) to up the electorate's outrage prior to November 2, 2010 and influence the outcome of the election; 2) to up the ante for new and continuing Legislators and the new Governor to take further action to reform PERS during the 2011 Legislative Session; and 3) to open the door to more requests for the same information for all retirees, or for at least those possibly earning more than 100% of FAS.

I think that point number 1 is probably moot now.  I don't see how the court will issue a ruling that can compel PERS to collect and turn over that information before the outcome of the election is known.  And I expect PERS to drag its feet as long as it can, even if it is ordered to comply.  However, if it is ordered to comply, then there can be no legal reason to prevent PERS from being asked for all the rest of the information.  After all, if the public records law ORS 192.502 does not apply to the cohort whose names and other information the Whoregonian is requesting, then it doesn't apply to anyone.

This is one of those cases where everyone should hope that PERS wins and it wins big.  I do not want my information to be made public.  I do not want to be held up to harassment and other forms of actions and neither do you.  You should be afraid, very afraid of this request.   This is an invasion of privacy of the worst kind.  When we accepted a public employment job, we agreed that our names and our salaries would be a matter of public record.  But we did not agree that our retirement benefits would be made public.  I knew that during my working career, all of the pertinent salary information on all public employees was available at the PSU library for the price of the time for looking for it.  But I never believed I had a right to go to my employer and ask for salary information on anyone else.  If I wanted it I had to work for it the hard way.  The whores at the Whoregonian want it the easy way, by demanding it.  They have no right to this information.  OAR 459-060-0020 states it clearly:  the financial records of a retired PERS member are exempt:  "unless, to do so would not constitute an unreasonable invasion of privacy and if there is clear and convincing evidence that disclosure is in the public's interest..."   I submit that disclosing such information has no public interest except voyeurism and exposure to harassment, and therefore is exempt. The Whoregonian has no right to this information, period!  Let's hope that the same Marion County Circuit Court that shafted us in City of Eugene will show the same legal fortitude it used in that case to prevent the Whoregonian from making our lives more miserable than ever.

If you are concerned about this, I suggest you find legal counsel to represent your personal interests.  If you don't care, don't say you weren't warned.