The Columbus Dispatch
Today more than ever, public pension funds must be accountable to their members and the general public. At a time of leaner budgets and with public employees being asked to make sacrifices to ensure their future retirement security, the School Employees Retirement System should rein in its out-of-state travel expenditures and adopt a formal policy about such spending to ensure that excessive travel bills donít eat into the retirement funds of bus drivers, custodians, food-service workers and other hard-working retirees from the public schools.
The issue came to light last month after The Dispatch reported that the pension fund planned to send three board members to a national conference for public-employee retirement systems in Hawaii in May, at a cost of $11,000. An examination of the travel outlays of Ohioís five major public pension funds revealed that SERS spending was out of whack: Last year, its board racked up almost $160,000 in travel expenses, more than the other four state pension funds combined.
Since then, one board member has bowed out of the trip, citing health issues. That leaves two who are going, and who were part of the 4-3 board vote in March to go forward with sending themselves to the five-day conference at the Hilton Hawaiian Village resort despite mounting criticism and the recommendation of state lawmakers that they cancel the tripÖ.
If the School Employees Retirement System board doesnít say aloha to over-the-top travel on the public pension fundís dime, the Ohio legislature should step in and compel them to put a reasonable policy in writing.