Most Legislators Resisted Efforts to Disclose Their PERS Status in 2010

During the Special Session of the Oregon legislature in February 2010, I sent each one of them an e-mail.  That e-mail requested the legislator to tell me if he or she was a PERS members.  Only the following ten legislators provided that information to me:  Sen. Ferrioli; Sen. Boquist; Sen. Telfer; Rep. Esquivel; Rep. Gelser; Rep. Greenlick; Rep. Huffman; Rep. Riley; Rep. Whisnant; and Rep. Wingard.  The other eighty simply ignored my request.

My next step was to send a formal public records request to each of those eighty members.  The legislative counsel, acting on their behalf, denied my request stating that the PERS membership status of the legislators was personal information and was not subject to disclosure.  In response to this denial, I ended up filing a public records request lawsuit against one member, Sen. Courtney.  Shortly after the suit was filed, Sen. Courtney provided his PERS membership status to me.  Thereafter, all the remaining members eventually provided that information.  Fifty-nine of them had joined PERS as legislators.  Thirty-one had not.

I have had legislators and others tell me that the  retirement benefit the legislator could get from PERS is too small and insignificant to influence how they vote on PERS matters.  But that just does not ring true to me.  If it was true, why would they sell their  independence on PERS matters for just a few pieces of silver?  And why would they refuse to disclose the PERS membership until faced with a lawsuit?

In the current legislature, the gap between PERS legislators and non-PERS legislators has narrowed but PERS members still have total control over legislative changes to PERS.  The Oregon Senate has thirty members and at least twenty-two of them are in PERS.   Oregon’s governor is a PERS member as is every Oregon judge.

If you like PERS members having absolute control over the PERS laws, you should feel very good about the present situation.  If you would prefer independent PERS control, however, it is a very discouraging state of affairs.


About Dan Re

I am an attorney who has lived in Bend and practiced law since 1981. In educating myself about the Oregon Public Employees Retirement System (PERS), I was shocked at how the PERS laws were changed by the legislature, once legislators were allowed to join PERS in 1971, 26 years after PERS was first created. Those changes personally benefitted the legislators who made them at the direct financial expense of the people they were elected to represent. That is wrong and I intend to change it. In 2009, I started a non-profit 501(c)(4) corporation, In RE The People, Inc., for the purpose of informing concerned citizens of what happened regarding PERS and other issues of social and civic importance. I then created this blog to further that objective.
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