top of page

STRS board meets as investigations are underway

The fight over how the teacher pension fund in the state is being handled is taking center stage with investigations, a lawsuit filed by Attorney General Dave Yost and shifts with board chairs for the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio. 

What You Need To Know:

  • STRS members voted out Dale Price and the chair of the board and voted in Rudy Fichtenbaum against counsel advice

  • Both Wade Steen and Fichtenbaum are named in a lawsuit filed by Attorney General Dave Yost

  • AG Yost is asking the Court of Common Pleas to permanently remove the two board members 

  • Another option is for the court to stop the defendants from serving on STRS’ Investment Committee in any way

As the STRS board met for their monthly meeting, it didn’t take long for tensions to rise in the room. This, as some members were troubled by how the last meeting ended. It wasn’t long after that there was a call for Dale Price to be replaced as the board chair, along with Carol Correthers to be replaced by another vice chair.

After some debate, advice from counsel not to make the change in the meeting, and recognition that no policies were in place for such removals, board members chose to move forward. They voted to replace member Price with Rudy Fichtenbaum as the new Board Chair and replace Correthers with Elizabeth Jones as Vice Chair. Fichtenbaum’s term ends on Aug. 31. Jones’ term ends Aug. 31, 2026. 

All of this was in addition to board member Wade Steen, and other board members showing they were unaware until seeing the news just before their meeting, Yost filed a lawsuit against Steen and Rudy Fichtenbaum. The lawsuit alleges the two board members violated fiduciary responsibilities and “sought to steer as much as 70% of STRS’ current assets” or $65 billion to an illegitimate company. 

“The mention of $65 billion is patently false,” Steen said. “That was never proposed by me or any other board member. As I’ve stated earlier, he’s hiding behind litigation that’s defamatory. It’s not true. I thought there was going to be a fair and impartial investigation.”

Fichtenbaum added that he too did nothing wrong in a lengthy Facebook post. 

“The majority of the members of the board believe that I have carried out my fiduciary responsibilities,” Fichtenbaum said.

Both vowed to zero in on teachers getting their cost of living before any bonuses are paid out to STRS staff. 

“We have reason to believe, based on the information presented in the allegation documents and the preliminary investigation, that certain STRS board members acted inappropriately and disregarded their fiduciary responsibilities,” said Bethany McCorkle, communications director for Yost. “The investigation is ongoing.”

“STRS’ loss of its governance consultant is concerning. The governor looks forward to seeing how the STRS board will address the governance concerns from recent audits that AON was addressing,” said Dan Tierney, Gov. Mike DeWine’s press secretary. “The governor believes retired teachers deserve cost- of-living adjustments for their pensions while having a retirement system that is financially sound. The STRS board should work to fulfill both goals.”

This lawsuit filed by Yost on Tuesday follows anonymous documents sent to the attorney general alleging several things including:

  • Concerns over alleged statements about STRS committing fraud and its performance and investment staff incentives 

  • A company vetted and rejected more than once who sought to gain partnership with STRS in order to boost STRS’ performance as long as they were given $65 billion to generate $4 billion

  • A claim that this same company, called QED convinced the Ohio Retirement for Teachers Association (ORTA) and board members that STRS could get educators back their COLA despite the impact on the system and would have reduced how much active teachers would have to contribute   

  • That some board members who backed QED would make millions because of their connection to it

  • That ORTA and QED worked together to change the makeup of the STRS board in exchange for votes to have business go their way, which would include QED

  • The severed tie of the STRS governance consultant AON

Ohio for Retired Teachers Association, Executive Director Robin Rayfield said reformers want transparency with all STRS’ dealings as the impact on teachers is taking a toll. 

  • Cost of living adjustment was cut years ago, and inflation hasn’t helped

  • Their contribution levels into the system have increased

  • And they’re having to work longer before they can retire with full benefits

“For active teachers that meant you pay more, you work longer and you get less,” Rayfield said. “And for retirees, it was, you don’t get what you were promised the day you retired, and that obviously didn’t rest well with any teachers active or retired. “

“It’s been a democratic, fair process by which reformers have taken over this system,” he added. “The other side, the other people who are angst, STRS management and the governor and attorney general, they want to call it a hostile takeover. Well, there’s nothing hostile about campaigning and winning on winning the battle of ideas. And we have clearly won the battle of ideas.”

For now, several entities looking into STRS are expected to come back with their findings. As for STRS’ board, they are now set to find another governance consultant to help them manage their business.  

By Tonisha Johnson  Spectrum News

May 15, 2024

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. Now it's time for us to show our support for them. Make a donation today to the ORTA Pension Defense Fund.



Commenting has been turned off.
bottom of page