Who waits eagerly to get his/her hands on the names and benefit amounts of PERS retirees. It may be an identity thief who, with a few keystrokes, could easily access the rest of the information needed to pull off a rather simple theft of identity. It may be someone who hates PERS retirees and their benefits who simply wants to do harm to someone doing better than he/she. Same ease of gathering the needed information. Or perhaps an ex-spouse or a child would just love to know how much the "old man" is bringing home in retirement. Maybe we could just confuse him and get him to sign over some of that "unneeded" money to a worthy (not) cause.
These are just a few of the scenarios both the Oregonian and the Statesman Journal will face if they release the information that PERS seems to be obligated to turn over to them in two installments. If nothing changes between now and November 21, the first wave of information will hit the desks at both newspapers. It will include the full name of the retiree and the amount of the current benefit, uncorrected for any court rulings that have recently taken place. In short, for 38,000 of the retirees who retired between 2000 and 2004, their information will be overstated. On March 8, 2012, the remainder of the information will be turned over. This will include FAS, method of retirement (Money Match, Full Formula, Formula plus Annuity), initial benefit. It won't include any additional "personal" information as if this weren't enough.
Fortunately, the PERS Coalition is taking this matter quite seriously. Earlier this month the members of the Coalition voted to seek a temporary restraining order to prevent the initial release of the information on privacy grounds relating to some (and more) of the issues raised in my first paragraph. The Coalition is collecting names of potential plaintiffs and a filing will take place in sufficient time for a court to rule on the restraining order before November 21. I think the objective is to prevent any release of this information until the Legislature, which convenes before the next data dump would be scheduled to clarify its legal intent of the current records law.
As I get more information, I will post it forthwith. I suspect that the Coalition might seek some contributions from retirees. I'm all in with whatever I can afford to contribute. This is a really, really, really important issue. Whether you believe in open government or not, I have NO problem with the release of benefits individually provided no names are attached to the particular benefits. It provides nothing significant and furthers only one agenda - harassment of retirees - which is not the intent of the open records law. There is no public "need to know" any of our names. They are welcome to my benefit amount so long as they don't know whose specific benefit it is.