Travel, Conference Costs Excessive
Members of the boards of Ohio’s five public employee pension programs are right to use educational and networking opportunities at conferences to help them administer the systems.
But either the program for non-teaching public school employees requires a lot more of that than the other four – or extravagant spending has become a problem there.
Last year, board members for the systems handling teachers, highway patrol officers, other police officers and firefighters, and other public employees spent $132,870 on travel and conferences. Board members at the program for non-teaching school employees spent $159,078, more than the other four combined.
Concern over travel and conference spending by members of that board mounted after it was revealed three of them plan to attend a conference in Hawaii. That prompted the Ohio Retirement Study Council, which oversees all five pension systems, to ask questions. Three School Employee Retirement System board members were asked to attend an ORSC meeting to explain why they think it is important to attend a conference in Hawaii. None of the three was able to attend.
As we have pointed out previously, conferences at posh resorts, sometimes at unnecessarily high expense to taxpayers or, in this case, pensioners, occur because not enough people object to the sponsoring organizations. And there is the fact most such gatherings are well attended.
SERS board members should send a message to organizers of the Hawaii conference by canceling plans to attend. Then, members of the oversight council should look into whether the school employees pension board members need to be spending as much on travel and conferences.