POP has a self-perpetuating closed governance structure in which the members’ only role is to fund the corporation.Author’s conclusion
This post will be of interest primarily to Ohio public employees, particularly those who are retired. Approximately a quarter of American public employees–Ohio’s among them–participate in public retirement systems separate from Social Security.
I am pretty good at keeping up with email, but I tend to get behind on postal mail. Just last weekend I opened a mailing that I received, probably weeks ago, from Protect Ohio Pensions, Inc. If you’re one of the thousands of Ohio retirees who got their mailing, perhaps you’ll want to read what follows.
This wasn’t the first time I’ve heard from POP–Ohio retirees have been getting their mailings for years, and as an OEA-Retired delegate I’ve gotten questions before. Some of what I’ll report here I’ve said in other settings.
Their webpage says that POP will “support and protect the defined benefit pension plans” of Ohio public retirees “by educating members on issues that could impact the stability of the funds and their ability to continue providing a meaningful retirement pension and benefit package, and by educating the public about the cost savings to them, and the economic value to their local communities, by maintaining Ohio’s current pension programs.”
Those are worthy purposes. To fund their efforts, they offer memberships priced from $20 (a year) to $300 (for a lifetime membership for currently-working public employees). But before you send them any money, you might want to know something about their governance structure.
As provided in their constitution, POP is governed by its board of trustees, which can consist of as many as nine people: four officers and five representatives from Ohio’s public retirement systems. There are presently seven trustees, since some representative positions are vacant. The board includes four officers, who serve as its Executive Committee and presently constitute a majority. None of this is unusual: lots of organizations have boards, and boards frequently have executive committees, and vacancies happen.
Here’s what’s unusual: POP has a self-perpetuating closed governance structure in which the members’ only role is to fund the corporation.
- The trustees appoint the officers. The trustees, including the officers, appoint the members of the board of trustees. The members elect no one.
- Trustee and officer terms are continual.
- Trustees serve without compensation (beyond reimbursement for expenses), but may hold staff contracts. Two of the trustees, who live at the corporate address recorded by the Ohio Secretary of State, are also employees.
I’m not alleging corruption. I haven’t looked at POP’s books, I don’t know what the officers who are staff members are paying themselves, and I have no idea what they’re doing with the income from membership fees. And I appreciate that their constitution is placed so prominently and transparently on their website.
But that governance structure is problematic, and I’m not sending them any money.
Most of us belong, or have belonged, to organizations that do what POP claims to do: they are called public employee unions. In my experience, they are very interested in protecting the interests of their members, both active and retired. And they are governed democratically. If you retired from your union without purchasing a retired membership, perhaps that’s where you should spend your money. And if you decide to join POP, caveat emptor: let the buyer beware.