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Public pensions a travesty

Published: Sun, January 27, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)

First a reminder about the public pension system in Ohio: It is shrouded in secrecy with regard to the amount of money paid out to individual retirees.

You, the taxpayers who contribute to public employees’ pension plans, are permitted by law to only two pieces of information: one, whether an employee is retired; two, the salary at the time of retirement.

In an attempt to appease newspapers around the state demanding an end to the secrecy, the pension system has tossed out a bone — the formula used to calculate pensions.

It is as follows: The average of the three highest-paid years of public employment, multiplied by 2.2 percent, multiplied by the number of years employed.

Health care

Thus, an officeholder earning $100,000 a year (there are many more of those than you may think) in his three highest-paid years with 30 years of service would get an annual retirement of about $66,000. He would also receive benefits such as health care. (It is noteworthy that the value of the benefit package is never added to the bottom line.)

However, because of the secrecy, we will never know if the formula is legitimate, or is a ruse.

The issue of public pensions is in the spotlight — again — because a change in the cost-of-living adjustment is going into effect this year. Instead of a flat 3 percent annual increase in retirement pay, members of OPERS will get an adjustment based on the Consumer Price Index. That increase could be about 1 percent this year.

Thus, there is a rush to retire now so as to lock in the 3 percent for the foreseeable future.

But that does not mean they are leaving their cushy jobs. There are elected officials in the Mahoning Valley, for example, who retired before their terms expired, but then ran for re-election — and won.

Thus, they are raking in their annual salaries and their pensions. Unfortunately, we will never know officially how much they’re making, because ... it’s a secret.

We can guesstimate using the formula, but no one in a position to know will confirm the calculations.

Thus, the question: Can a formula be developed that would provide a more accurate picture of a retiree’s pension? Yes, it can.

First, take the established formula — the average of the three highest-paid years of employment, multiplied by 2.2 percent, multiplied by the number of years employed. Then, multiply that amount by 10 to reflect all the benefits enjoyed by public employees at taxpayers’ expense, including use of government vehicles and conferences in exotic places (plush hotels and meals.)

Vacation, sick time

After that, multiply the total amount by 20 in recognition of the brazen attitude of those in the public sector when it comes to vacation and sick time. Unlike the private sector’s “use-it-or-lose-it” rule governing vacations and access to sick leave when legitimately sick, the public sector has turned the two benefits into a gold mine. Not only is accumulation permitted, a percentage of unused vacation time and sick leave can be cashed out at retirement at the employee’s highest rate of pay.

Now, multiply that total by 30, to factor in the in-your-face behavior on the part of elected officials who seek re-election, but retire secretly before voters have had a chance to decide if they want to reward such breach of trust.

Using this formula, the monthly pensions of officeholders and others can easily total hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The Vindicator recently published several stories that focused on the large number of Trumbull County government employees, including officeholders, who have retired but remain on the public payroll.

We don’t know how much money they’re making in salary and pension payments. Salaries are public record; the pensions are not.

It’s an obscene amount.


Then show us your monthly pay stubs and retirement checks all you public employees who have retired, but are still on the public payroll.

Among those who reportedly submitted letters of intent to retire are Sheriff Thomas Altiere, Prosecutor Dennis Watkins, county Commissioner Daniel Polivka, Family Court Judge Pam Rintala, Common Pleas Court Judge W. Watt McKay and Warren Municipal Court Judge Thomas Gysegem.


1chuck_carney(499 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

What's going on? Another good job by Bert.

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2Letstryagain(218 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

Bert -

Did the pension system break the law providing the formula? Your claim of secrecy says the pension officials are only allowed to give out the ending salary and whether the employee is retired.

If the newspapers accept the formula for calculating the pensions, is that considered stealing public information. Even if the information is given freely could it be illegal to accept or use the infromation provided? I am not an attorney, but I wonder if all the newspapers using this illegal public information are liable for accepting information they know is supposed to remain private..

I think the newspaper should give the formula back to the pension officials so they don't get in trouble.

Finally what is with the links embedded in the op-ed piece, specifically Pension Plans, Healthcare and Retirement. Where suppose to add value to your written word?

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3papa1(711 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

people should be outraged and up in arms over this! why isn't it illegal? because so many in important positions do it? this is one of the reasons the country is in such dire economic shape. this is the age of the cheater, whether it's in sports, government, or crime. people thinking they can steal money from little league sports teams and get away with it. why do so many try and do this? are they decent people? maybe, maybe not. they talk about the medicare fraud but do nothing about it. cheating is almost an american sport to see if you can get away with it. it's time people stop being so selfish and start thinking about those who are honest, hard working, and struggling to pay their bills and feed their families and maybe, if everybody does what's right (i know, it's a dream), the country and it's people, will prosper.

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4Snowday(7 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

Would Bert be this upset if he had such a pension plan working at the Vindy?

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5redeye1(5670 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

Hey Bert, What kind of pension plan do you have at the VINDY?

papa Why is it that someone has more then you they must have cheated to get it. You know some people work hard for what they got. Just because they don't give it to others doesn't make them a bad person to anyone, but you. Maybe if you had gotten better education you would be in the same financial situation as the rest of us.

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6redeye1(5670 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

What is the difference between a GM employee or a public employee who retires and get another job. A GM employee can collect their pension and if they are old enough they also can collect Social Securty too, while working a second job. So what is the difference? Can someone please explain that to me.

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7badeepster(124 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

Yay!! In yet another example of the crumbling, soon to be extinct Vindy, we have Bertie deScumbag's 323rd article about public employee pensions. We get it deScumbag. You chose the wrong path in life. You'll soon be pumping gas when the Vindy folds. Why don't you just title these repetitive articles "I'm jealous, and I'll soon be homeless"??

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876Ytown(1370 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

snowday & badeepster are obviously public employees. Can't blame them for being uneasy with anyone looking at their Cadillac benefits. Bit embarrassing that their salaries, vacations and pensions are paid for by the earnings of people who would only dream to have such benefits.

But there is a light at the end of the tunnel folks, we too can become government workers and get the very best pay and benefits. Obama is for big government. Soon the government will have plenty of jobs for all or if we can't find a job with the government, they at least take care of us.

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9Snowday(7 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

Well, then tell Bert and the Vindy to no longer endorse these public officials who are retired and run for re-election....like Mayor Chuck and others.

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10Snowday(7 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

Bert never met a public employee he didn't like. He must have had a really mean first grade teacher who didn't allow him to beat the erasers against the school building after school.

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11Snowday(7 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

Me bad...never had an employee he did like....

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12topo_gigio(1 comment)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

What on earth makes you think ALL public employees make this kind of money? I am a public employee & I am tired of people thinking we ALL are making buckets of money & have all these perks! I make about 30K a year. I pay into my retirement fund. And my health insurance is a high deductible plan. I will pay 5K out of pocket every calendar year before my benefits kick in. I contribute a portion of my check every pay to a savings account to cover my medical expenses that occur prior to my insurance kicking in. And the municipality that I work for contributes nothing to that account like some other municipalities do for their employees, or even like some companies in the private sector. I have no taxpayer funded vehicle to drive. I had to take out a loan to buy my used car & make payments on it like everyone else. I show up for work when I'm supposed to be there very rarely taking any sick time. And I do my job for 8 hours a day. The job I do for the government earns twice as much in the private sector. We are told the reason we are paid so much less for doing the same work is because we get such great health benefits. But they keep chipping away at our benefits every year costing the employees more and more & not increasing our salaries sometimes for multiple years in a row to help us compensate for the rise in costs.

A commenter before me mentions "honest, hardworking, stuggling to pay their bills & feed their families." So are you insinuating that myself & others like me aren't any of those things?

I just wish people would stop assuming we are all greedy, all lazy, all over compensated, and are all around evil people. Yes there are some that make big money, just like any company in the private sector might have their share of fat cats. But don't forget just like those companies have their lowly worker bees that keep the place running, so do your government offices. And we are not just hanging out in a govt building all day laughing at the taxpayers with our hand out. The majority of us are working, doing our jobs, and providing a service.

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13badeepster(124 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

76 I am not a public employee. The rules are what they are and the jealous complain. Most public employees earn less than you think. deScumbag only talks about the very top. Everbody wants what someone else has.

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1476Ytown(1370 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

topp_gigio: Thanks for your comment. Yes, you are correct that not all public employees are over compensated. Unfortunately it is the ones that are being paid egregious amounts that are getting the attention in the time of $16 trillion debt and $1 trillion budget deficits. http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/ticket/wa...

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15papa1(711 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

topo-gigio, your comments were excellent but it sounds to me what bertram was mainly referring to when he said "public workers" were the politicians. let's face it, they are the most proficient, expert, conniving, and selfish cheaters of all. again, great comments. i think you explained it very well. good luck to you.

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16RustOnMyBelt(172 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

Unused vacation time should be paid-out upon retirement.Unused sick time? Your "payment" is that you were blessed with good health so just be thankful for THAT. People should understand,however,that public workers do NOT draw from Social Security later and DO pay taxes like everyone else. Representatives in government jobs should have the same health plans the rest of us have. How can these high-earners make any decisions regarding health care when it may never be a concern for them on a personal level?

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17fd6636(289 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

You OK. How many times can you beat a dead horse? How many more ways can Bert put a new spin on the same old story? SB5, was defeated, and the Republiturds have been defeated, and turned back. You seem to lop all Public employees into this same old spin of greedy, over paid employees. Stop. It's called "Cadillac pensions" when puublic employees retire. OK. If your so outraged about these "outragous" pensions, why no out rage about CEO's who get millions in bonuses while the same company they work for goes belly-up? (Hostess), and screw hard working people out of their jobs after they took concesion after concesion, and still lost. Some of you out there hide behind their key board, and bit#h about public employee wages/pensions when they themselves make 6-7 digit figures themselves! The Vindy editor is asking for clarity in politicians pensions/benefits. Show us berts wage/benefit package. Show us the top dawgs in the vindy wage/bene/pension packages. I believe they will tell you they dont have to, its private. Huh? Didn't we ask for berts info when SB5 was going on? No response. Why does bert care soo much about this? Resentment? oh yeah, he cares sooo much about the people and the valley tax payers. My man was so wishey-washey on SB5, you didnt know where he was comming from towards the end of that nightmare.I guess people like that always wanna be on the winning team. Remember this: We all chose our path in life. Some made good choices, some bad. Accept yours! What you and yours out there should really be upset about is priests who touch little boys, Companies that go belly up making CEO's dirty rich while working men get unemployed, the east coast screwed over because of no support for the sandy victims, etc, etc................ Move on.

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18repeaters(314 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

righteous and indignant.......really? Those of us who railed over the same old names on the ballot, the same old ' it's for the children' school levy baiting, WERE NOT WRONG. Yet, we take a verbal beating from this newspaper and from all those glorious folks with the 'D' after their names and/or groups. NO ONE deserves a COLA included in their pension, especially when it's paid with taxpayers dollars. I should have to adjust my budget every year to the minus so they can have theirs adjusted to the plus? You public sector blood suckers need to trade places with those whom your bleeding dry, and see how you like it.

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19kurtw(1827 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

for: badeepster

It seems to me anyone who writes posts such as yours has forfeited the right to be taken seriously- to be accepted as anything but an illiterate jerk.

If you disagree with the man- fine- that's your privilege but to refer to someone as "descumbag" is loathsome. I guess the Neanderthals didn't go extinct after all- some of them are right here in Y-Town.

P.S. What's your real name? I'll bet if I knew I could figure out someway of making it ridiculous, obscene, or scatological. It doesn't take much intelligence to do that- the brain power of a Neanderthal would suffice.

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20Groovethang(36 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

The rush to retire is not now as Bertram states. The rush ended January 1, 2013 with the guaranteed 3% COLA's for life.

He makes it sound like using a government vehicle to travel in is a luxury. It really isn't and it actually saves local governments thousands of dollars a year as opposed to reimbursing employees the IRS approved rate of $0.565 per mile driven using their personal vehicle. He throws around the words "plush" and "exotic" as if government employees are staying two weeks at five star hotels on the French Riviera or Waikiki Beach when more often than not, it's one overnight stay at a Red Roof Inn or Microtel on the outskirts of Columbus.

He talks about government employees making $100,000 a year (with the added comment that there are many more of those than you may think). A good journalist would have published the list of who these six figure employees are in the tri-county area (not including YSU as they are in a different league) since he is claiming to know there are many. Or is it just another unsubstantiated hunch that he has. My bet is the latter.

The rants of the multiplication factors of 10%, then 20%, then 30% are pointless mumbo jumbo that could have been written by an average 8th grader.

Retire/rehire is an entirely legally thing to do. With a shrinking tax base and state governement balancing it's budget on the backs of local government, retire/rehire is now a necessity for many political subdivisions and school districts as you can hire the same person back for half of what they were making and on a part-time basis thus not requiring that health care be provided for that employee saving even more money.

Bertram and others may not like that (and I detect some jealousy), but as a business move, ten out of ten financial analysts would tell you it's a no brainer, a fiscally prudent move to make.

However, for a retire/rehire to come back full time, with benefits and at the same rate of pay as they had at retirement, is a piggish move that should be disallowed as all of the financial gains are in the favor of the retiree, not the local government.

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21NoBS(2832 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

If deSouza is demanding, or even asking, that anyone reveal their pay stubs, he ought to be man enough to reveal his own. Why won't he?

"He doesn't have to" doesn't cut it. He wants others to reveal information "they don't have to" - he ought to be forthcoming with his information.

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221loaf(100 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

Mr.De Sousa is not often as right as he is on this subject. Not all public employees are parasites but the majority is what gives them that reputation. I think the hard working public workers who are doing their job and recieving a just compensation for it should yell as loud as the private sector workers who are paying the bill. Really they should yell louder because they know who is taking advantage of the system and if they don't speak up they are just as guilty. The only solution is to serve one term and then go back to work for a living and when one retires they can not work in the trade they retired from. The teamsters have have had this rule for many years. As long as the folks allow this and support the crooks in public office today nothing will change. Politics as a career is a recipe for corruption. Harry Reid's son lobbies congress. This is just one of hundreds of relatives of congressmen and senators who lobby for federal funds. Does anyone think they are hired for their lobbying skills?????

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23badeepster(124 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

for kurtw: Sorry to offend you. Now I won't sleep tonight.

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2476Ytown(1370 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago


The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis data show that 2011, federal civilian workers had an average wage of $84,671. By comparison, the average salary of the nation’s 102 million private-sector workers was $53,463. And, when benefits such as health care and pensions are included, the federal compensation advantage over private sector workers gets bigger, according to the BEA data. In 2011, federal worker compensation averaged $128,226, or about double the private-sector average of $64,560. The CATO institute states ”It isn’t just rocket scientists that are earning high federal compensation, it is also workers in many run-of-the-mill bureaucratic jobs.”

The analysis by Cato does not, of course, resolve the dispute any more than the findings by the Federal Salary Council.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) stepped into the fray recently. Its study concluded:

The wages of federal workers are 2 percent higher than similar private-sector workers, on average.
The benefits of federal workers are 48 percent higher than similar private-sector workers, on average.
The total compensation (wages plus benefits) of federal workers is 16 percent higher than similar private-sector workers, on average.

In effect, the federal compensation advantage varies by education level according to the CBO. People with low and middle levels of education generally do better in the government, while people with doctorates generally do better in the private sector.

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25Groovethang(36 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

Bertram states "You, the taxpayers who contribute to public employees’ pension plans, are permitted by law to only two pieces of information: one, whether an employee is retired; two, the salary at the time of retirement.

In an attempt to appease newspapers around the state demanding an end to the secrecy, the pension system has tossed out a bone — the formula used to calculate pensions."

Bertram is at minimum one of the following: lazy, intellectually challenged, guilty of bearing false witness to his readers.

Anyone with an internet connection (it's free at the public library) can go to the following websites to learn probably more than you care to know about the state's four employee retirement systems:


These websites are available 365 24/7 and include a plethora of information of everything you want to know about pension and retirement health care benefits for public employees in Ohio They include articles, graphs, charts, videos, up to the minute news releases, links, forms, etc., etc. These sites have been available for years and best of all, you don't need to register, you don't need to get special permisssion from an "insider", and you don't even need a secret password to visit these sites. So much for shrouded in secrecy. Bertram has been barking to have a bone thrown his way from the Ohio retirement systems and it's been sitting in his bowl for 20 years.

Also, about ten years ago, Vindicator golden boy George Tablack, the poster child for retire/rehire, retired under OPERS after he was County Auditor and was subsequently hired by Mahoning County as County Administrator at a much higher salary than when he left County government. Betram and the Vindicator political writers weren't the least bit critical of this retire/rehire. In fact, this retire/rehire story apparently wasn't even worth the ink to print. Not a mention. Not a peep. Bertram was probably intimidated by George's pompous demeanor and didn't want to get on his bad side by reporting what should have been a double dipper of a story.

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2676Ytown(1370 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

BornRaised: When comparing salaries, benefits are a big part of what you earn. That's why companies love to provide your year-end benefit statement showing total compensation. Retirement benefits and insurance being huge differences public vs private.

Some studies say that government employees tend to have higher education therefore higher pay. Public sector does not always compensate based on education. There are many college grads in the public sector who are working at jobs in which they are overqualified.



"With Americans increasingly likely to live well into their 80s, critics question whether paying lifetime pensions to retirees from age 55 or 60 is financially sustainable. An Associated Press survey earlier this year found the 50 states have a combined $690 billion in unfunded pension liabilities and $418 billion in retiree health care obligations."

"most private-sector workers no longer receive defined-benefit pensions that will pay them for life. Most must wait until age 65 or 67 to collect their full Social Security benefit or draw from 401(k) accounts that are invested in the stock market and, in many cases, have sustained significant losses during the recession."


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27TheTruth4U(29 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

Outrage is understandable. But it is appallingly misdirected. Here in the Mahoning Valley where we know the value of being in a union, the outrage should not be that our public employees have a job with a pension and good benefits. Our outrage should be at the private companies that have cut their employee's pension and benefits in a race to the bottom. I have been in business for over 40 years, I have never 'bought' the idea that companies could not afford to pay good wages and benefits. My business has always done so and never missed making a profit.

Certainly in a day and age when corporate profits are at an all time high, you have to wonder why they aren't paying good wages and benefits. In Germany, the companies favor their employee unions, have union Board members and pay some of the best wages and benefits in the world.

Outrage? Where is the outrage when Walmart actually advises their new employees on how to get food stamps and other tax-payer provided benefits instead of paying them a living wage and benefits? It has been calculated that doing so would change their bottom line by 1%. Yet they continue to have each of us pay to subsidize their profits. This from one of the most profitable PRIVATE companies in the world, owned by a small number of family members who 'can't afford' to profit 1% less!

Bertram is just a tool of the corporate culture that tries to divide workers, public and private, so we don't look at how they are screwing all of us.

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28repeaters(314 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

This is for all of you who STILL don't get it. http://www.forbes.com/sites/joelkotki...

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