In 1974, the Oregon legislature referred the Oregon Ethics Code to the people for approval. The Ethics Code was adopted in the November general election by nearly a three to one margin. The Ethic Code went into effect in 1975 and it provided that a public office was a public trust and that no public official could use his or her office for private financial gain.
From 1975 to 1981, the legislature passed laws that allowed each legislator who had joined PERS, and most of them had, to: retroactively join PERS at minimal cost with maximum benefits; have their employee PERS contributions paid for them by the people of Oregon so that they would not personally have to pay one cent into their retirement plans; and, increase their lifetime PERS pensions by 48%. Each legislator held a public office and was subject to the Oregon Ethics Code.
The above actions taken by each legislator who had joined PERS resulted in personal financial gain to that legislator. The legislator’s PERS membership created a conflict of interest that was inconsistent with the obligations of a public trustee. Trustees have a duty of undivided loyalty to the beneficiaries of their trust and the beneficiaries of the legislators’ trust are all of the people of Oregon. The legislators were prohibited from promoting their own self-interest without the consent of the people after full disclosure of that conflict of interest.
Legislators know how to get the approval of the people. They did that when they referred the Ethics Code to the people for approval. If the legislators want to be PERS members, they must do the same thing. Until the legislators get approval from the people to join PERS they are in breach of their trust. That puts the validity of all PERS laws made since 1975 into question.