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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.



mrfearless47 said...

As a piece of followup, please do note that the additional information the Oregonian is requesting includes any other money managed by PERS. That would mean the 457 plan (deferred compensation), and the IAP. This is a gross invasion of privacy, especially since the 457 money is actually our own money taken as deferred compensation in lieu of salary. There is no public money there unless you consider that because it was earned salary, it is public money. The 457 money has your name on it; it is not in the BIF fund, and you can draw it out anytime you want for any purpose once you've retired and have met the magic 59.5 age.

Jackie said...

On the PERS web site is "Pers by the Numbers" that gives the information they want except for inidvidual names and addresses. I wonder why they want names and addresses. They can't be considering anything violent, can they? That's crazy. I'm probably stupidly missing something here.

mrfearless47 said...

The AG disagrees with our interpretation of what is protected by the statutes and administrative rules. The AG argues that we don't have any expectation of privacy concerning our names, our salaries, and our work history. They have no right to our addresses or other identifying information, but anyone with two functioning neurons could read a name, look at where the person worked, and probably locate an address. I'd be harder to find because I work hard to protect my privacy, but a determined stalker could find me easily. I am strongly opposed and consider the Oregonian's request to be a gross invasion of my privacy.

MollyNCharlie said...

And now John Kroger has announced that he is ready to lobby the 2011 Legislature to "significantly overhaul the public records law to encourage greater transparency and greater public access to their government." Read 'further erode the right-to-privacy for current and former public employees.

I was taught in school that my rights end where someone else' rights begin. It is starting to feel to my like that boundary has been completely lost.


mpguy said...

Why not have PERS provide the information about salary, years worked, account balance, benefit levels, and other statistical data without revealing any information (name, address, employer) that would identify an individual member?

It seems that the right wingers could get whatever info they really need (and want to spin) from the various stats. (For example, "There's a PERS member who worked for three years and made $12,000 a year who's making $75K in annual benefits, or whatever nonsense they want to put out to the public.")

mrfearless47 said...

Mpguy. This has been my response all along

Scotty Books said...

It's that time of year: variable transfer into regular at year's end, or stay with variable?
Have you addressed this issue in the past; or could you freshly summarize pro's and con's for your readers?