PERS payouts to be public

10/30/2010: Oregon Attorney General John Kroger and his Government Transparency Counsel Michael Kron have been making slow but steady progress improving Oregon’s public records situation – currently rated F.

Earlier this month they released the 2010 Public Records Manual with some potentially important re-interpretations of the law. Now, in response to a request from Ted Sickinger at the Oregonian, Kroger has decided to require PERS to release basic info on retired state employees getting more than $100,000 a year in PERS benefits – including names, final salary, and monthly benefits. Sickinger’s story is here, the editorial is here. This is serious progress towards Kroger’s stated goal of more transparency in Oregon government. This link includes pretty complete documentation, including the order from AG Kroger and the lawsuit filed in response by PERS.

When the PERS list is finally public, who will be at the top with the biggest payout? My guess is former Oregon Attorney General and UO President Dave Frohnmayer, rated as one of the 5 most overpaid university presidents and then given a special lucrative retirement deal by OUS Chancellor George Pernsteiner.

What did the PERS board decide to do in response to Kroger’s order that they release the records? They hired an attorney to fight it – Pete Shepherd. Shepherd was the Oregon Deputy AG in charge of public records opinions under AG Hardy Myers. Myers was Frohnmayer’s protege (and Kroger’s predecessor.) Shepherd wrote the 2002 Oregon DOJ opinions refusing to order PERS to provide similar PERS records, including this and this. Bit of a conflict of interest, eh?

What firm does Pete Shepherd work for now? Harrang, Long, Gary and Rudnick – same firm that Dave Frohnmayer was double-dipping at while he was still getting paid full time by UO, as part of his special deal with Pernsteiner. UO Vice Provost Russ Tomlin ended that arrangement retroactively on May 15, and Frohnmayer is now on a regular tenure reduction retirement contract.

Who will pay the legal fees for PERS and Harrang et al and Pete Shepherd to fight Kroger’s pro transparency, pro good government, pro common sense decision? Oregon taxpayers will pay. PERS is a public agency. Not only will PERS pay Shepherd, PERS also has to pay the DOJ attorneys for their time preparing the public records order that PERS is trying to fight in court. And, when PERS loses this case, taxpayers will have to pay the Oregonian’s legal fees too.

Who is in charge of PERS? These people. You can email them here and tell them your thoughts on their decision to spend your money hiding how they are spending your money.

Cosy little thing the people who run this state have got going. Thank you John Kroger for taking them on.

PERS Board Chair:

James Dalton (chair)
James DaltonJames Dalton was a senior vice president of Tektronix, Inc., a leading test and measurement technology company. He retired in 2008 after Tektronix was acquired by Danaher Corporation. He was a past member of the board of directors of RadiSys Corporation and the Multnomah County Library Foundation. Dalton received his bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Massachusetts and his J.D. from Boston College of Law School.

PERS disaster

11/12/2009: Jack Bogdanski, a tax lawyer at Lewis and Clark, has somehow obtained a copy of a draft report by former Secretary of State Phil Keisling on PERS. It’s a disaster. Employers are going to have to double, perhaps triple their contributions to the fund. Taxpayers may be hit up for additional revenue beyond that. UO’s cost per employee will soar:

By 2013-15, what one observers calls Oregon’s pending “PERS Tsunami” could literally “wash away” more than $2 billion in taxpayer funds that today are being used to provide actual government services – e.g. K-12 teachers and college professors, health care and early childhood education, building roads and repairing aging infrastructure, etc.

It’s not a good read.


10/24/2009: Ted Sickinger at the Oregonian does a lot of good reporting on PERS. I’m no economist, but a lot of strange things seem to be going on with their investment strategy – they have a politically appointed board which can and does overrule the staff about investment decisions. And when that board’s investment consultant starts making careful analytic justifications for investments like “I think (the CEO) has ice water running in his veins” you don’t need to understand Black-Scholes to think maybe they are just doubling down on a loss, with other people’s money. And of course there has been the slew of longtime legislators that Kulongoski has appointed to short term admin jobs to jack up their retirement payouts, and the similar shenanigans at UO with John Moseley, Lorraine Davis, et al. Those payouts have to some from somewhere. In this article Sickinger writes that state agencies may need to increase their contributions by 50% in the next few years to keep the fund solvent. This will add about 10% to UO labor costs. There goes Lariviere’s proposal to raise faculty salary’s to somewhere above 81% of Missouri – though we’re guessing Provost Bean will somehow find the money to give the senior administrators another round of hidden raises.