In 2009, Oregon PERS legislators passed a law that created a Wheel of Fortune for all PERS members who had not yet retired. And the PERS Wheel of Fortune is better than the Wheel of Fortune TV show. It’s much better.
Over 1,000,000 people each year apply to be on the Wheel of Fortune TV show. From that very large group, only six hundred are selected to be on the show. Those six hundred persons, in groups of three, then compete against each other for the chance to win a fortune.
In the PERS Wheel of Fortune, things are very different. There is no contestant selection process. Every PERS member who has not yet retired gets to play and when they play the PERS Wheel of Fortune, they are not competing against anyone. In the PERS Wheel of Fortune game every single unretired PERS member can win a fortune.
This is how the PERS Wheel of Fortune came into existence. In one of the legislature’s first acts during the 2010 Special Session of the Oregon Legislature, 71 members of the Senate and House voted to override Governor Kulongoski’s veto of SB 897. In 2009, the legislature passed Senate Bill 897 without a single dissenting vote. That bill provided, in part, that a PERS member could request a written verification of the PERS retirement data. The bill then provided that the the PERS member’sverified data MUST be used to compute that PERS member’s retirement benefit, even if the data was wrong, unless one of three exceptions applies.
The incorrect data will not be used if: (1) it reduces the PERS member’s retirement benefit from what the PERS member actually earned; (2) incorrect data will be adjusted for a net loss in the account balance or used sick leave that occur after the verification date; and, (3) it will not be used if the PERS member knew that the information was incorrect and did not notify PERS of the error within 60 days of receiving the data.
Exceptions (1) and (3) are perfect examples of how the conflict of interest that PERS legislators have affects their reasoning when making PERS laws.
- Exception (1) only applies if the incorrect data reduces the PERS member’s retirement benefit. It does not apply if the incorrect data it increases the PERS member’s retirement benefit. There is absolutely no logical reason for that distinction except to give retiring PERS members a no-risk chance to increase their retirement benefit.
- While exception (3) sounds good, it is meaningless. PERS members have no obligation to read the verified data that is provided to them and exception (3) only applies if they do read it not less than 60 days after it was provided to them. If the verified data is not read within that 60 day period, the PERS member cannot know if the data is wrong.
That is why Senate Bill 897, know known as ORS 238.285, is a Wheel of Fortune for PERS members. They have no risk of loss and by simply requesting verification of their retirement data within two years of retirement, they may win fabulous, unearned wealth for the rest of their lives.
Oh, and one other thing. If a PERS member disputes the verified data provided by the public employers, the PERS member can take the dispute to court. But if a public employer believes that the verified data is wrong, the public employer cannot take the dispute to court. The public employer has no remedy at all after sending the data to PERS, even though that data will then be complied and processed by persons outside the control of the public employer. Only PERS members have a remedy in the PERS Wheel of Fortune.
The PERS Wheel of Fortune is an outrageous abuse of power by PERS legislators. It needs to be repealed.