Why term limits were a really bad idea.

My father told me before the term limit legislation that we already had them, they were called “elections.” I didn’t agree- because we had already transformed “elections” into “auctions”- but that is why campaign finance reform should be first and foremost on anyone’s mind who wants to create “change we can believe in.”

The Dayton Daily News did a bit of serious journalism today, although, not telling anyone who pays attention anything they didn’t already know: our system of election-to-retirement perks is getting out of hand. All block quotes following are via Ex-lawmakers use contacts to boost careers.

Take the case of Republican Tom Raga, a former state legislator from Warren County whose political career ended with an unsuccessful run for lieutenant governor on the ticket with J. Kenneth Blackwell in 2006. Raga is now Sinclair Community College’s vice president for advancement, a job that pays $130,000 a year plus benefits.

Raga said he now uses the skills he learned in politics — fundraising, policymaking and relationship-building — to help Sinclair. “That was the expertise they were looking for,” he said.

Sinclair President Steven Lee Johnson said he hired Raga to help the school expand — Sinclair now serves 23,259 students at its main campus and three satellites — and kept him on because of his business management skills, knowledge of politics in Columbus and Washington, D.C., and his business and community connections.

“Tom is part of a really, really good (management) team. I’m glad he’s there,” Johnson said. “He’s really smart on a broad spectrum of issues.”

When Steve Johnson introduced Tom to me, I said I knew who he was- the lobbyist on staff. Raga and Johnson both turned beet red, and then tried to tell me I was wrong.  Raga was a primary tool to expand Sinclair into Warren County- something that should never have happened since Montgomery County tax payers have been funding Sinclair for years and Warren County taxpayers haven’t had to contribute a dime.

Tom Roberts is another piece of work. Resigning from his elected position so they could appoint Fred Strahorn to his seat should have precluded Tom from any pay at all from the State until his term was over. When you agree to serve the people for a term, and resign- it shouldn’t be to get a better, non-term limited job:

Democrat Tom Roberts resigned his Senate seat in March to take an appointment to the Ohio Civil Rights Commission. The new post pays $57,824 a year and requires preparation and attendance at meetings every three weeks in Columbus. And he’s keeping his part-time job at Sinclair too.

Roberts, who has worked in government for 36 years, including 22 years in the General Assembly, said term limits would have forced him from office in 2010 so he asked the governor for an appointment.

“For me, it kind of complements what I had been doing and it works out of me,” said Roberts who does most of his civil rights work from home.

Of course, the really choice jobs, where you don’t actually have to show up, should be eliminated:

Strickland appointed Republican Bob Spada to a six-year term on the State Employment Relations Board. The position pays $100,000 and doesn’t require that Spada show up at the office. A state attorney general’s opinion says a board member can arrange “his work responsibilities as he finds necessary.”

The benefits package makes the auto workers’ contracts look downright pathetic:

If an appointment pays just $250 a month, members can add to their retirement package in the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System. Under a provision in the pension law set in 1985, $250 a month is considered full-time. Nearly 2,500 Ohioans on boards and commissions, village councils and township boards benefit from this.

OPERS pushed legislation to change the threshold but it didn’t get through the legislature. The deal means members on any of those bodies could work part-time for 27 years, making just $250 a month, then take a full-time job with a higher salary for three years before retirement, and qualify for a 30-year pension — including health care and survivor benefits — based on the higher salary. (OPERS pensions are based on the average of the member’s three highest salary years multiplied by the years of service.)

The reigning queen of screwing the system is Joyce Beatty:

Democrat Joyce Beatty, a Dayton native, went from making $75,971 as House minority leader last year to making $320,000 a year as a senior vice president at Ohio State University. If she hangs onto the OSU job for three years, her pension will more than quadruple what it would have been if it had been based on her legislative salary.

Two other members of the Beatty family got appointments from fellow Democrats. Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner hired Laurel Beatty — Joyce’s stepdaughter — as legislative affairs director at $96,408 a year until Gov. Ted Strickland appointed her to the Franklin County Common Pleas Court bench at $121,350 a year.

Strickland also put Otto Beatty III — Joyce’s stepson — on the State Lottery Commission, which pays $5,000 a year plus public pension credit.

That’s a lot of political favoritism to one family.

Our former GOP leader, Jeff Jacobsen, who paid himself quite well as GOP chief without properly disclosing it, is also still sucking off the public tit:

The public pension law includes another twist that benefits elected officials. If they’re short on the number of years required to get a 25- or 30-year pension, they are allowed to purchase a certain amount of time that is then added to their service. That’s not permitted for other public employees.

Republican Jeff Jacobson is in a position to benefit from both provisions.

Strickland appointed Jacobson to the State Medical Board, which pays $157.60 a day for two days a month and requires 1,200 pages of monthly reading. More importantly, it includes public pension credit.

Jacobson, who spent 16.5 years in the Legislature, could buy 5.5 years and then serve another eight years on a state board to qualify for a 30-year pension.

“I’m happy to be able to serve in a way that gives me credit for PERS. I spent, you know, half of a career in state government. It’s very hard to just walk away from that,” said Jacobson, now a consultant.

“When you go back to the private sector you completely have to start from scratch.”

However, this list is so incomplete it’s obscene. I’m sure my readers can contribute a few other examples of “public service” turning into a turn at the trough, public or private, based on their “service” to government.”

A few that come to mind:

Idotha Bootsie Neal worked for years at Central State West, and then was given a position as director of Wright Dunbar that paid over $100K yr. Other people with more development/rehab experience were passed over.

Former Clerk of Commission, Jim Francis, was paid as a “marketing consultant” by Mandalay Entertainment after helping get the legislation for 5th/3rd field approved.

Former Dayton Mayor, Richard Clay Dixon, was allowed to gracefully retire from his job with Dayton Public Schools after being caught claiming sick days to the school when traveling on City business. He later ended up as a “consultant” for a cell phone company- helping them site new towers.

Former County Commissioner Chuck Curran is “teaching” at Sinclair.

Term limits don’t seem to be an obstacle from keeping the money flowing to politicians, and the electorate being asked to fund their “favorite sons.”

There are no doubt others: anyone care to contribute any other offenders they know about?

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8 Responses

  1. Jeff May 3, 2009 / 1:02 pm
    The idea behind the term limits concept was to open up the process by removing entrenched political figures who stay elected by virtue of the intertia generated by incumbency.

    Instead, what has happened was what was reported today by the DDN. 

    But there is also the case of political musical chairs, where the politician gets term-limited out of on office only to return by running for another office.  This is perhaps more common in suburban local government.   Probably the best-known example of political musical chairs in the area is Rhine McLin, who was (correct me if I’m wrong) term-limited out of her statehouse seat, and then ran for mayor.

    So there is this fairly consitent “political class”, a pool of politicians and adminstrators, who move into and out of elected or appointed office.    I include adminstrators because they shift around too. Example would be Minnie Fells Johnson, who retired as RTA director and then came back as a consultant.

    It all does sound rather clubby. 

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  2. Joe May 4, 2009 / 2:16 am
    Is it contributing 250 a month to OPERS or making 250 a month total from a State of Ohio position qualify for “Full Time”? OPERS takes %10 off every pay, even for substitutes and adjuncts. Same as STRS (State Teacher Retirement System) SERS (State Education Workers?) and a few others I think. Adds up, I hope I’ll get to see it some day. If its still there in 25 or 30 years.

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  3. David Esrati May 4, 2009 / 5:53 am

    @Joe- I believe it’s making $250 a month- not contributing that much. Many township councils still pay very little for public service.

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  4. Greg Hunter May 4, 2009 / 2:26 pm
    Term limits were a bad idea as the public refuses to exercise its rights or duty to vote people out.  However,  the article that the DDN did was an example of the kind of reporting that should be done on a daily basis, not just once in awhile.  The question is why do they only do it once in a while?  Just like the article on not for profit medical, it almost feels like a shake down.  Get more money our way or we are going to have to do our job.  God forbid that they should do there job and increase circulation.

    Take a look at the newly appointed Kettering Councilwoman, who took Lehner’s seat.  Talk about hand picked group think.

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