My second full year as the Executive Director is coming to a close on December 31, 2013. There have been quite a few internal operational changes including but not limited to review of a majority of the organizational business relationships that we use on a day to day basis. I will be reviewing the effects of those changes after December 31st to determine if any additional changes should be made in order to make the organization even more stable moving into the future. In 2014 we will continue to move the General Membership meetings to other areas of the state to allow members the opportunity to attend. We will also be looking into moving our 2nd family day into the northwest part of the state.
During my first 2 years the OPBA has been involved with pension reform, a legal challenge to our collective bargaining rights from the City of Munroe Falls (article from the last issue), numerous representational elections, right to work legislation and a citizens petition from the Citizens4Norton that could have had disastrous consequences to our membership in Norton and throughout the State of Ohio. These are just some of the issues that the OPBA has been involved in the last 2 years.
Unfortunately the City of Norton issue has now been put back on the ballot in December 2013. This issue if it passes the 2nd time around would limit the amount the residents pay for sewer and water bills, alter sewer assessments and tie-in fees. The monies needed to pay for this issue if passed would need to come from the general fund and could have a devastating effect on city services and our members who provide services to the residents.
There is currently another citizen driven initiative ongoing for a right to work amendment which would place this issue on the ballot if enough signatures are obtained. Even though legislation that was introduced earlier in the year in the General Assembly has stalled this petition drive is ongoing. Recently Representative Maag has talked about his legislation that was previously introduced. The OPBA will continue to monitor this issue as we move into 2014.
The Ohio Police and Fire Pension Fund is under the scrutiny of the Ohio Retirement Study Council, ORSC, for not being within the 30 year funding mandate. The changes that SB 340 passage implemented have only been in place since July 1, 2013. OP & F will have to submit a plan by January of 2014 to bring the system into compliance with the 30 year mandate. The next ORSC meeting was to be held on November 14, 2013. We will hopefully have more information after that meeting concerning any potential changes.
It is that time of the year to consider any worthy officers for consideration of the 21st Annual TOP COPS Awards sponsored by the National Association of Police Organizations, NAPO our national representative in Washington DC. The TOP COPS will take place on Monday May 12, 2014 in Washington DC. The nomination form and instructions are in this issue as well as NAPO’s web site www.napo.org
Lastly, I along with the Executive Board and staff hope that you and your families have a safe, healthy and Happy Holidays throughout the New Year.
Last Updated (Sunday, 15 December 2013 14:50)
The OPBA has been active in Columbus along with the recruitment of new departments. I and/or our Special Council Justice Andy Douglas have been attending Ohio Retirement Study Council, ORSC, meetings. The first meetings that were attended the legislative members of ORSC questioned the financial stability of the OP &F Fund. The new Executive Director, John Gallagher, of the OP & F fund and its actuary spoke stating the fund had the best returns, 14.9%, in 2012, of a majority of the funds. They also stated that the changes from pension reform have yet to be fully implemented so their concerns were basically premature. In the most recent meeting attended, the ORSC made proposals on the authority that had been granted by the recently enacted pension reform bills for the OP & F, SERS, STRS and HPRS funds. The OPBA will continue to monitor activity with the ORSC, pension systems and legislature.
I recently testified at a Joint Senate hearing concerning School Safety of the Public Safety and Education Committees chaired by Senator LaRose and Senator Lehner respectfully. This committee was formed prior to any legislation being proposed because the committee chairs felt it was necessary to get input from the respective stakeholders prior to any legislation being introduced. The joint committee was going to review the 4 days worth of testimony to determine the best course of action moving forward with any possible legislation. Two issues that the committee members were to look more closely at were ratio of school psychologists to students as well as school resource officers.
The OPBA has recently been involved in elections in Garfield Hts. and Shaker Hts. Police Departments. In Garfield Hts. the OPBA filed petitions for election to have the patrol officer’s switch from the local FOP lodge to the OPBA. I would like to welcome the Garfield Hts. Patrol Officers who voted 21 to 13 in favor of the OPBA. The petitions for election at Shaker Hts. PD were for the OPBA to become the exclusive representative for the patrol unit and supervisors unit over their current representative the local FOP lodge. I would also like to welcome the Shaker Hts. patrol unit which the OPBA won 26-17 and the Shaker Hts. supervisors unit which was won by 8-5 margin. The OPBA is now in the transition phase with both departments. I realize that the OPBA must now show through action to the aforementioned departments that the choice made was the correct one taking their memberships forward. I believe that the OPBA will prove to not only our supporters but every member that the change was correct. The OPBA has recently been contacted by 2 Sheriff Departments and another police department.
When I began my first term in January of 2012, I had stated that I truly believed that the OPBA provides unparalled representation and service to its membership. I believe it is because of that representation that we won the aforementioned elections. I personally became involved in those representational services the evening of March 17, 2013 with an officer involved shooting in Solon. I made contact with a staff attorney minutes after being notified of the incident, and upon arrival at the local hospital the involved officers were put in contact with the an attorney within the hour. It is this type of service that OPBA provides that sets us apart.
The OPBA has continued to move membership meetings around the State of Ohio. On March 7, 2013 our membership meeting was held in Columbus. John Gallagher, Executive Director, and Scott Huff of OP&F, Fund as well as Mr. Gordon Gatien, Government Relations officer from OPERS, attended our meeting. These representatives made presentations and answered questions from the members in attendance.
This is the second year that we have had a second family day in another area of the State. The OPBA wanted to provide our membership that is spread throughout the State the ability to participate in a family day without having to drive a prohibitive distance. This year our second event will be at the Dayton Dragons at Fifth Third Field, Dayton, Ohio.
Last Updated (Friday, 14 June 2013 09:20)
The first year of my term has almost passed. After the hard fought battle with Issue 2 in 2011 we immediately moved into 2012 with pension reform issues. The OPBA became extensively involved in the bills prior to them reaching the House.
One of the more significant changes that the OPBA took in January of 2012 was the decision to retain retired Justice Andy Douglas to be Counsel to the Board of the OPBA. It was with his influence and guidance that meetings were set with the Speaker of the House. At that meeting the concerns with certain facets of the pension reform bills, particularly granting the Pension Board authority to make changes, were raised by the OPBA. I testified at the first House sub-committee hearing on pension reform in August of 2012. The OPBA was present at a majority of the hearings and with Justice Douglas’ assistance a personal meeting was set with the Executive Director of OPERS during the hearings. It is the intent moving forward that the OPBA will become more involved at the State level as it relates to the issues that affect our membership.
There have been many changes to the internal workings of the organization that will not be noticeable to the average member. Once the changes that have been instituted are in effect for a while and the others that are in transition are totally implemented there should be increased efficiency to our day to day operations. The OPBA will continue to move the General Membership meetings throughout the State each year which will allow those members living a prohibited distance from North Royalton the opportunity to attend. The March 2013 General Membership meeting will again be in the Columbus area.
The OPBA will continue to rotate an additional Family Day throughout the State in 2013. We will continue to have a Family Day with the Cleveland Indians but in 2013 we are looking into a family day with the Dayton Dragons for our membership in the southwest part of the state.
The most personal and emotional moments of my first year came with the attendance of the services and wakes for those who had passed. One of the last that I attended was for Officer Jason Gresko of our member Department, Willoughby Police Department. This service brought back many personal memories especially the affects these incidents have on not only the officer’s immediate family but their extended police family, the department specifically and the entire police community in general. We must never forget the sacrifices that these fallen heroes have made along with their families.
It also reminded me of a poem by Linda Ellis entitled “The Dash”. The poem focuses on the significance of each person’s dash. Each and every one of our members should be proud of the services that they provide in their chosen professions as they continue to make a difference in the performance of their chosen careers. My pledge is to continue to work for the betterment of our organization and law enforcement in general. The “union” is and always will be the cohesiveness and camaraderie that each and every department maintains and fosters. The OPBA will continue to provide its members with unequaled service and representation.
The elections are now over and with the makeup of both houses on the National and State levels basically remaining status quo along with the President winning re-election we must now wait and see what direction they take. We must continually adapt, anticipate and plan for changes that may be occurring in the future. Health care benefits in retirement must be continually monitored since it is not a benefit that is statutorily guaranteed. I have been in contact with a major insurance company in an attempt to determine if they could offer an alternative post retirement health care plan that could be negotiated into contracts other than those currently available. My former department has a VEBA plan, post retirement health plan, but there are few companies that offer such plans. This new plan from this insurance company may allow beneficiaries to be added unlike the plans that are currently available. This will allow members an additional choice that could possibly be negotiated into future contracts to assist with health care premiums and deductibles. As more information becomes known I will make it available.
In the following pages there is a TOP COPS Awards Nomination Form from The National Association of Police Organizations, NAPO, our National Organization. This event honors those officers who have gone above and beyond the call to duty. Ohio has had several Top Cop award winners and honorable mentions in years past including most recently the 2011 Top Cop winner from Copley P.D. , Officer Ben Campbell. If you know of any officer who may be deserving of this honor please complete and submit the nomination form. Even if they do not receive the TOP COP award they may receive an Honorable Mention. The incidents or case that they are being nominated for must have occurred or concluded between January 1, 2012 and December 31, 2012.
Finally with the Holiday season upon us the OPBA wishes everyone a Happy Holiday and a New Year that is filled with good health, happiness and prosperity.
Last Updated (Saturday, 09 March 2013 12:51)
Summer has passed and our 2 family days with the Cleveland Indians and Columbus Clippers were well attended. The latter, however, was on the eve of the funeral for Deputy from Delaware County Sheriff Department Detective Dan Otto who died in a tragic accident while in California. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, friends and department for their loss. Our Annual Golf Outing was held on July 18, 2012 at Mallard Creek and it was also well attended and a success. This outing is the only formal fundraiser for the Police Benevolent Fund to date.
The attention now turns to the pension reform bills that are proposed in Columbus and the elections this November. Justice Douglas, the CPPA and it representatives and I met with the Speaker of the House prior to the release of the pension reform study. The message that Justice Douglas and I left with the Speaker was that the legislature needs to act on the proposed changes immediately. These changes have been almost 3 years in the making and further delay to will affect the viability and solvency of the pension systems. The OPBA expressed our reservations with the granting of authority to the pension board to make changes to the systems without legislative interaction. The links to the respective bills S.B. 340, OP & F, and S.B. 343, PERS, can be found on our website by clicking on Senate Bill Analysis for the respective bills. Testimony should have been heard by the House in August with an eventual vote hopefully before the November elections. The report on the 30 year plans for the pension systems may be viewed on the Ohio Retirement Study Council web site at http://orsc.org check under the reports section: thirty year funding plan. If you go to the Ohio Legislature website, http://www.legislature.state.oh.us/, you can check for updates on the status of these bills.
Health care is a concern as our members approach retirement and are in retirement. We have met with the Executive Director to voice concerns for OPERS proposed changes but to also educate me on the plan. Unfortunately, our health care benefits are not guaranteed in our public pension systems by statute. As stakeholders, members should voice their concerns and objections to their respective systems as well as any objections that may come from the OPBA. I have directed the members of the Executive Board that are in OPERS-LE to monitor and advise me of relevant information since I have never been a member of that system. The lack of any guarantees for health care is the reason that I have written two articles on post retirement health care plans to be negotiated into contracts. In my former department, Solon PD, we had negotiated that provision into our contract in 2005.
The National Association of Police Organizations held its Annual Convention the last week of July. Invitations had been extended to both Presidential campaigns. Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. addressed the convention; however, there was no response from the presumed Republican Presidential candidate, Governor Romney, or any representative from the Republican Party. The endorsement was unanimous for President Obama. I realize that personally there may be reservations with this but Governor Romney has stated he favors defined contribution pensions over our defined benefit programs. Governor Romney also stated his unwillingness to support expansion of collective bargaining rights. Executive Secretary Tom Austin has a separate article with the endorsements to date of candidates from Ohio. Justice Terrence O’Donnell, Justice Robert R.Cupp and Justice Yvette McGee Brown who appear on the front cover were endorsed by the OPBA for the Ohio Supreme Court.
Other speakers at the convention included Director Bernard Melekian of COPS U.S. Department of Justice who spoke on the COPS program and from the U.S. Department of Justice; Thomas Abt, Chief of Staff; Office of Justice Programs spoke on the Public Safety Officers Benefit Act, PSOB. There was a pledge by Mr. Abt to reduce the delays in the granting of benefits to the families requesting them. NAPO has worked with member organizations to assist them in receiving the benefits for families from their organizations in obtaining benefits that may be delayed from PSOB. NAPO has argued that benefits from PSOB should not be tied to officers wearing their bulletproof vests if purchased through the assistance of the federal government. There is more information in the articles from the NAPO July Washington Report on PSOB and COPS funding.
The next General Membership meeting in October will be held in the Toledo area. The remaining Board of Directors meeting in November and General Membership meeting in December will be in North Royalton. The movement of the General Membership meetings will continue to rotate throughout the State of Ohio to afford our departments throughout the state a chance to attend meetings.
Last Updated (Sunday, 09 September 2012 09:15)
I became the 4th Executive Director of the O.P.B.A. on January 1, 2012 replacing Terry Gallagher. I would first like to extend my appreciation and thanks to Terry Gallagher for his dedication, passion and service as the Executive Director for the last 16 years. I would also like thank him for his assistance in my transition. The last year of his tenure was extremely pivotal not only to our organization but for every public sector worker in the State of Ohio.
I believe that my almost 32 years in law enforcement, over 2,500 hours of training, and 25 years as a Director and negotiator even prior to collective bargaining for my former department, the Solon Police Department, will assist me in performing my duties as the new Executive Director. My educational background in the Labor Relations field will also assist me in those same duties.
I would like to lay out one of the goals that I have set for myself which hopefully will make the OPBA more effective and efficient moving forward. I have been in contact with a company to redesign our website. This redesign should enable us to communicate with members more quickly in the future. There will be a members only section where each member in good standing will need to register with the required information to receive a password for access. Your registration will accomplish several things. It will provide us with your email addresses which will allow us to communicate with you more quickly. It will also, in the long term save the organization money by eliminating the need to use the mail system. We will be able to post videos, our by-laws, legal updates and any pertinent information to our members. Ultimately, my goal with the implementation of this new website is greater information sharing. It will, however, require each member to take the time to register. There will be more updates on the status of this website as it progresses.
The OPBA will be moving the General Membership meetings around the state to allow those that live a prohibitive distance from North Royalton to allow them the ability to attend meetings. In addition to moving the meetings, I will personally visit different areas and departments. This meeting location change will be occurring for our 1st General Membership Meeting on March 1, 2012 which will be moved to the Columbus area.
The OPBA will also become more involved with what is going on in Columbus. We need to have a greater presence in Columbus. The OPBA has hired retired Supreme Court Justice Andy Douglas to assist in achieving that goal along with others. Justice Douglas will also be monitoring all legislation that would impact our members. I believe with his knowledge, expertise, character and passion the OPBA will become even stronger moving into the future.
The OPBA has set a date for the golf outing at Mallard Creek for Wednesday July 18, 2012. The OPBA is looking to make it a shotgun start and by doing so we will be limited to 288 golfers. The golf outing is one of the only ways that we have been able to fund the Police Benevolent Fund. The OPBA is also looking at other changes to the format and events of the outing. More information will be forthcoming when the costs and arrangements are finalized.
I am looking forward to serving as the Executive Director. It is my goal to make our organization even stronger as we move forward into what is an uncertain future. I believe that the OPBA provides unparalleled service due to our in house staff and outside attorneys that provide service to our members. We must not forget the long protracted battle, emphasis on battle that we won on November 2, 2011. We must stay cognizant of potential changes that may be introduced in the future. The strength of the OPBA as an organization is only as strong and cohesive as each of the individual departments that we represent throughout the State of Ohio.
It is with deep regret and remorse that in December of 2011, January of 2012 and early February 2012 we mourn the loss of 5 members of the O.P.B.A. The Executive Board and Staff offer our condolences and deepest sympathy to each of the families, immediate and extended, and their respective departments. You are in our thoughts and prayers. We ask our members to keep the officer’s families and departments in their thoughts.
In Memory of:
Cpl. James Ball, Beaver Township Police Department
Ptl. Dale Thomas, Lordstown Police Department
Sgt. Donald Scheuring, retired Parma Hts. Police Department
Disp. Rosemarie Dunning, retired Newburg Hts Police Department
Ptl. Patrick Carroll, retired South Russell Police Department