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ORTA leaders confront STRS Ohio Board

ORTA's Executive Director, Robin Rayfield; President, Dean Dennis; and President-Elect, Stephen Seagrave confronted the STRS Ohio Board during Public Comments on May 16, 2024.


Here is what they said.


Good morning. My name is Robin Rayfield, and I am a STRS retiree and the Executive Director of ORTA.

As I reflect on my nearly 7 years of advocacy for STRS members, I have been critical of many decisions and actions of this board. I am proud of the advocacy of ORTA members and the thousands of individual members that voted overwhelmingly for changes to this board. 

I also understand that none of the members that ORTA endorsed over the last several elections have the financial where with all to restore promised benefits and make retirees and active contributors whole. STRS members are encouraged to know that changes to our pension system are possible. The members of STRS stand with those elected members that will support transparency and investment strategies that rely less upon high cost, high risk active investments and alternative investments.


As you consider the proposed budget submitted by STRS management and the PBI policy the I trust that each of you will recognize that change is difficult and often painful for those that are negatively impacted by change. Just remember, retirees suffered through a severe reduction of benefits that were promised and guaranteed by Ohio law, and active contributors suffered through changes that caused them to pay more, work longer, and collect much less than they were promised.


I ask that you do your best and work to change the culture at STRS. The membership should be the highest priority, not the employees of the organization. 


 

My name is Dean Dennis, 35 years Cincinnati Public, President of ORTA, Administrator in STRS Ohio Watchdogs, and Ohio STRS MOF member.


Last week the Columbus Dispatch reported that an STRS staff member delivered a 14-page anonymous document to Governor DeWine’s office. This is the second time in 2 years Governor DeWine’s office has been approached. Coincidentally both times were when a “reform” minded candidate won a Board seat by a large margin. Both times, the individual or individuals remained anonymous.


This time there was a discernable difference. The first time our then-executive Director acted like he was caught off guard and pled ignorance. This time, an STRS member delivered the 14-page “anonymous document” to the Governor’s office.  


The questions are who wrote the document?  Who knew it was going to be delivered to the Governor’s office? Who crafted the contents of the document? 


The questions I am presenting to the Board are these, did staff bypass our current Executive Director? If so, what action is being taken? How can she continue as Executive Director if she wasn’t bypassed and approved of the document?  


The document was condescending. Teachers who vote are not stupid.. The document was also inflammatory and full of unprofessional innuendos. Our elected members aren’t on the take. The individual(s) who wrote this document and then ran to the Governor must be shown the door. They regard us as hostile and we cannot trust them to work on our behalf. 


 

My name is Stephen Seagrave. I am a retired educator from the Liberty Center Schools in Henry County with 43 years in education. I am a member of the Henry County Retired Teachers Association and of ORTA.


I am not going to repeat the points I made when I addressed this board in December.


TO THE STATUS QUO MEMBERS – Do you understand why teachers across the state are so angry at your “business as usual” approach? Do you understand why the transparency movement for reform has grown to the point that transparency candidate Michelle Flanigan received 85% of the vote? When status quo members oppose transparency and change, what we teachers hear is, “Forget getting back your lost benefits”.


TO THE STATUS QUO APPOINTED MEMBERS – Why are our elected politicians who appointed you siding with the insiders at STRS, the investment staff and their Wall Street friends? We know the investment staff with their giant raise last summer and bloated bonuses every year have a big ladle in the gravy train. With the lack of transparency in these Wall Street deals, who else is in this gravy train?


We have been asking for transparency and reform for years and have been ignored. Why are your bosses only interested NOW that another transparency candidate was elected? If STRS becomes fully transparent, as it should be as a governmental organization, what will be revealed that so frightens the politicians?


The lawsuit filed by Attorney General Yost based on an anonymous letter, in my opinion, is morally repugnant. Since there was no investigation, it is just a political move to help the STRS insiders and their Wall Street buddies avoid transparency.


TO THE TRANSPARENCY MEMBERS – I support you. Teachers across the state support you as shown by the 85% vote for Flanigan. Stay the course. Do not let politicians bully you. Be logical, thoughtful, and factual in your deliberations so that in the end STRS will return to serving the best interests of its members.






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