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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Somewhere There Is A Someone

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.

10 comments:

Unknown said...

Are they still looking for potential plaintiffs? If so, do you know who to contact or have an email address? While my monthly benefit is not so large it is above average and is about 150% of my FAS. Do you think the coalition might be interested? I'm sure there are some PERS haters out there who will be if my benefit, name and FAS get published.
peg

mrfearless47 said...

Probably your retiree branch of the organization, or OPRI would be the first place I would inquire.

RussinOregon said...

Peg:

I can pass on your name if you want to provide me with your full name at my usual email address. I'm in Arizona at this time, but I keep in touch with OPRI regularly. Continuing the discussion of why releasing our names could prove problematic: I was noticing that my new smart phone can track me even when I'm in the middle of the desert in a remote canyon, and last night when I checked, it not only provided an aerial photo of my AZ home, but it also knew which corner of my house I was in. I know that I can turn this feature off, and I know that only certain people are supposed to be able to track me, but as we get older and the phones become even more complex, and we start to tell others of our whereabouts for safety reasons (ironically), we may be getting tracked by friends of friends who don't share our friends' love for us. Russ

Unknown said...

Thanks for the offer Russ. I called the OPRI number today, left my name, phone number and email address with the receptionist. She promised to pass it along to the right person. You may or may not know but my name is problematic, one of the reasons I object to this information release. The name I gave the receptionist is: P Peg, if you have any input.
peg

Rivrdog said...

I see one glimmer of a problem in POD, one which I hope I'm overstating.

If the counsel doesn't want people whose retirement benefit exceeds their FAS, then counsel is losing the opportunity to explain, in open court, why this happens, and the fact that it happens rarely.

Secondly, if counsel "jiggers" the plaintiffs to only have those who have a bare minimum retirement, does counsel REALLY think that opposing lawyers won't then bring up those with benefits exceeding FAS? This limiting of plaintiffs this way will have a back-fire that could well poison the entire case.

I say run some of those PERS "heavy hitters" up in front of the jury. Most of them are suave executives, anyway, and that type of person is not usually going to fade on the witness stand.

George Schneider
aka, Perspac

jgotime said...

I have two small clarifications with this particular post.

First, it says that PERS will release your "initial benefit" in March. I have read the settlement and do not find any mention of "initial benefit." I believe the benefit that will be released (in November) is the benefit you are currently receiving. At the last PERS board meeting there was a mention of this. There was no mention of any "initial benefit." being released either in November or in March.

Second, the post says that in March PERS will release your final average salary. However, the agreement does not say "final average salary," it says "final salary." The quotes are used in the agreement, which made me wonder. So, I asked a knowledgeable source who told me that final average salary is not what will be released. It will actually be the salary you were receiving when you retired. For most folks that is not too different from their final average salary, but for some it is not even close. It could be hard for anyone to draw valid comparisons without additional information.

I think I am right on both the above, primarily because a huge issue with PERS in arriving at the agreement is that they want to avoid the cost of researching everyone's records. PERS has just spent years changing their computer systems and they did not transfer everyone's complete record. They had no reason to believe that would be worth the cost because they rarely need to look in any retiree's file. Once you retire, there is usually no reason to do so. There are 110,000 PERS retirees. Just imagine how much it would cost them to get into everyone's file to post extra information like final average salary or "initial benefit."

I think this is a major reason why the agreement lists the specific information that it does. An example of this is that the first information to be released is easy. It is all on your PERS retirement check stub. Look at the name on your stub. I am just guessing on this one, but I expect that is the exact form of your name that will be released. Also on that stub is the PERS benefit your are receiving. PERS has that information on their computer because they use it every month and is therefore easy (cheap) to release. It may not, however, be the information someone who wants to compare your benefit to someone else's would need. Your benefit could be much different than theirs because they made different choices than you did upon retiring.

Hope this help!

mrfearless47 said...

@jgotime. You are probably right about those specific details. If they don't release FAS, which is generally higher than FS, there may be more people earning greater than 100% of FS than FAS. Not sure why they would do that except that it is an easier piece of information to extract and is less complicated to explain. The other reason is that it will deflate the final salaries somewhat.

As for the benefit(s) released, it was my understanding that the November release would be the benefit you received on November 1, 2011 (or close thereto), while a second benefit amount would be released in March, which was to be the original benefit you received on your complete benefit check when you retired. The intent was to show how the 2003 legislation affected the initial benefit. But, I didn't read the settlement agreement down to the nth detail and this one eluded me. I'm happy they are not releasing this. I hope they never get to release anything, but I'll be happy if they release everything but the names.

Unknown said...

Per the Salem Statesman Journal, the hearing is set for 1:30 on Nov 21 and Hartman and the PERS Coalition are hoping to get PERS and the 2 papers to hold the initial information release until after the hearing/ruling. It sure feels like we are all hanging by a thread. At this point I have very little faith in the good will of either the papers *or* PERS where it concerns PERS retirees or members.
peg

mrfearless47 said...

As I understand things, PERS isn't required to release the information before the close of business on the 21st. I suspect that PERS will have the data in two forms on the 21st. One with and one without the names. Depending on the judge's real-time ruling, one or the other will be provided to the newspapers. I wouldn't trust the newspapers to withhold some of the names if they had them and I doubt PERS wants to be hung out to dry for violating a court order.

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