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Mike DeWine’s smear campaign against pension board’s Wade Steen tarnishes his reputation

When all else fails, resort to smear campaigns and unethical tactics to achieve your desired result.


This is the political philosophy that Gov. Mike Dewine subscribes to.


A recent example of the governor's employing hit-job style politics is his unlawful removal of my father-in-law, Wade Steen, as his appointee to the Ohio State Teachers Retirement System board of trustees.


Instead of learning his lesson that such tactics are wrong, Dewine doubled down and raised a so-called “red flag” concerning STRS. If Dewine would take a moment to simply reflect on his actions, he would realize that he and his administration are the red flag.


STRS is a giant pension system that is dedicated to ensuring OHIO teachers have healthy and sustainable lives in retirement.


Steen, an accountant with significant auditing and investment experience, was appointed to serve on the STRS board of trustees twice: First by Governor John Kasich, and most recently by DeWine.


Like all trustees , Steen is a fiduciary who is charged with looking out for and promoting the best interests of STRS’s beneficiaries: Teachers.


When Steen be asking reasonable questions about the pension - why is the pension consistently under performing; why are staff receiving big bonuses; why are modest cost of living adjustments, not being given to retired teachers; should The Ohio Attorney General’s office investigate improprietary within STRS? - one would expect DeWine to applaud and promote the efforts of his appointee.


Instead, DeWine unlawfully and shockingly removed Mr. Steen.


The Tenth District Court of Appeals ordered Mr. Steen restored to his trustee seat.

The court’s opinion should be celebrated as a reasonable interpretation of the governor’s executive power. It should also serve as a smack in the face to DeWine and a warning not to engage in similar misconduct.


Apparently, an embarrassing and scolding court order was not enough to deter DeWine. Instead, he championed an anonymous and unsigned memo - the “ red flag” - to again attack Stein and those STRS TRUSTEES ASKING THE TOUGH QUESTIONS.


THE GOVERNOR’S promotion of this cowardly, false, and defamatory memo is misleading Officers within state government; So much that Attorney General Dave Yost filed a lawsuit based on this memo - to remove Steen and another STRS trustee, retired Wright State University economics professor Rudy FICHTENBAUM, who have done nothing but carry out their fiduciary responsibilities owed to Ohio teachers.


Ask yourself: What do unpaid, volunteer appointees like Steen have to gain by asking, tough questions and serving as fiduciaries?


Why is OHIO governor Mike DeWine suddenly raising a “ red flag” about the issues at STRS when people like Steen have been consistently raising red flags for years?


A simple answer might be: Follow the money and examine the donors to DeWine.


By Jeffrey T. Stavroff May 17, 2024 Op-Ed Columbus Dispatch


Columbus attorney Jeffrey Stavoff is State Teachers Retirement System board member Wade Steen's son-in-law. The former assistant prosecutor in the Columbus City Attorney’s Office now practices criminal defense and business transactions.



Rudy Fichtenbaum and Wade Steen are paying legal fees to defend themselves against the lawsuit brought against them by A.G. Dave Yost. ORTA will use donations from the Pension Defense Fund to help them pay their legal expenses. They have volunteered their time to support Ohio's teachers. Show your support for them. Make a donation today to the ORTA Pension Defense Fund.

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