Ohio Pension Trustees Live Good Life Off of Employees

Two trustees of the Ohio Police & Fire Pension Fund have spent nearly $220,000 of the Fund’s money on travel expenses since 1998.  The trustees as a whole have spent $612,451 on travel costs between 1998 and this past July.  Dayton fire fighter David Harker and Dayton detective Thomas Bennett have spent more than 1,100 days since 1998 traveling to pension fund conferences out of state and meetings of their pension fund in Columbus.

The board members’ expenses have come under particular scrutiny as the $7.4 billion fund lost $1.67 billion from 2000-2002, and this year imposed huge increases in the premiums paid by retirees on their health insurance, with monthly bills rising by anywhere from $40 to $500.  Agendas from the 36 conferences attended by Harker and Bennett show only 10 with full-day schedules.  Many of the conferences had only half-day work sessions, with afternoons available for softball games, golf tournaments, boat rides and other recreational activities.  Harker and Bennett arrived early or stayed late for a conference more than a dozen times. 

In March 2001, Bennett flew to a conference at the Ritz-Carlton in Palm Beach, Fla., but stayed at the Four Seasons — more than 2 miles away — for $522 a night.  Ironically, employees of the pension fund are usually allowed to spend no more than $50 a day for meals, and are not allowed to charge mini-bars, in-room movies, and laundry for trips of 5 days or less to the Fund.  These rules don’t apply to the trustees.  Harker also took time off from his public safety duties for 20 days between April 1998 and May 2003, ostensibly to attend board meetings in Columbus.  But there are no records of any such activity on those days.  There are 27 such days for which Bennett cannot account since 1999.

Ohio Attny. Gen. Jim Petro says that as state auditor in 1996, he suggested banning reimbursements for alcohol, Fund credit cards held by trustees, and a $3,000 yearly travel allowance.  “It was not greeted with raves and applause,” he said, noting that the trustees ignored most of his proposals.  State Sen. J. Kirk Schuring (R) plans to introduce a bill providing the means for recalling trustees, who are elected by fire fighters and police officers every four years. [Dayton Daily News, 9/10/03]

Frmr. Police Union Pres. Charged in Puerto Rico Court
Jose de Jesus Serrano confessed on Sept. 5 to scheming to steal $2.7 million in dues from the Organized United Police Front.  He pled guilty to 1 count of conspiracy to commit fraud in the U.S. Dist. Ct. for Puerto Rico in San Juan. [Orlando Sentinel, 8/30/03]