You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.


  • ePAPER

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and interactive features. Starting at just 99c for 8 weeks.


Welcome to

Your source for Clark and Champaign counties’ hometown news. All readers have free access to a limited number of stories every month.

If you are a News-Sun subscriber, please take a moment to login for unlimited access.

breaking news

Honda supplier to add 85 jobs, invest $55M in Springfield plant

Ohio school pension board member collects OT for time missed at work

School Employees Retirement System trustee Barbra Phillips earns overtime pay for field trips and sports team travel as a school bus driver even when she is out of town on pension board business, public records obtained by our Columbus bureau show.

Ashland City Schools allows Phillips to sign up for overtime bus trips even though she is scheduled to be off work for SERS meetings. When she misses the trip, the school district pays another driver to cover it and then asks SERS to reimburse the district for Phillips’ wages and overtime. Money paid by SERS goes to Phillips.

Since October 2009, SERS has reimbursed Ashland City Schools $4,336 for 147 hours of missed overtime for Phillips.

Ohio Retirement Study Council Chairman Lynn Wachtmann, a Republican from Napoleon, called the arrangement “extremely unethical at the very least. Whether or not it’s illegal, that’s a question people need to look at.” He noted that he is discussing it with ethics authorities and county prosecutors.

“It seems like there is a planned effort on her part to pre-schedule her overtime when she knows she won’t be able to work to drive up her salary and other benefits,” he said.

Phillips, who is a long-time Ashland schools employee and president of the local union, did not return telephone messages seeking comment.

Email records show that sometimes Phillips doesn’t even sign up for the trips but is credited them anyway. Ashland’s accounts payable clerk Marcia Clark, who is the local union secretary, wrote in a March 4 email to transportation director Doug Shipper says: “Check to see if any field trips would have gone to Barb Phillips on any SERS days please. See below…Jan. 16, 17, 18 Feb. 4, 5, 20, 21.” Shipper wrote back that Phillips was eligible for a Jan. 16 trip.

As a trustee, Phillips is legally required to act in the best interest of the pension system.

Valerie Rodgers of the School Employees Retirement Organization was shocked to learn that SERS is paying for Phillips’ overtime assignments that she doesn’t actually work. “We would certainly want that to be investigated. Absolutely,” Rodgers said. “I simply don’t think that is fair to the retirees.”

Phillips is one of two trustees on the nine-member board who is traveling to Hawaii in May to attend the National Conference on Public Employee Retirement Systems. The SERS board will discuss its travel policy and the Hawaii trip again when it meets Thursday in Columbus.

SERS, which represents 192,558 school bus drivers, custodians, cafeteria workers and retirees, is second smallest of Ohio’s five public pension systems, yet over the past four years it has spent $241,391 for trustees to make 67 out-of-state trips to places such as Las Vegas, New York and Orlando, including $49,553 for Phillips to make a dozen trips.

It is also the only pension system that reimburses employers for trustees’ missed time at work. Last year, SERS spent reimbursing school districts $35,340 for the cost of the board members missing work.

SERS Trustee Catherine Moss retired and represents retirees on the board but she works another job at Lakeland Community College so SERS reimburses the college for Moss’ missed time.

State Sen. Shannon Jones, R-Springboro, who serves on the Ohio Retirement Study Council, said the SERS board deserves more scrutiny and attention from its membership.

“I would think this is a big wake up call for members of the pension system. People need to take responsibility for their system,” she said. “Obviously, the system members need to pay more attention to the people representing them on this board and to the policies and procedures that are being put in place.”

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in News

Spirit Airlines pilot’s likely overdose raises safety questions
Spirit Airlines pilot’s likely overdose raises safety questions

The suspected fentanyl-related overdoses of a Spirit Airlines pilot and his wife in their Centerville home raise a frightening prospect: Has the opioid crisis that is destroying whole families entered the ranks of pilots entrusted with hundreds of lives each day? Investigators have offered no indication that Brian Halye used drugs while piloting aircraft...
Police: Gunman shoots 6, including 2 children, in Florida
Police: Gunman shoots 6, including 2 children, in Florida

Six people were shot early Monday in a Florida neighborhood, the Sanford Police Department said. The shooting was reported shortly before 6:30 a.m. at a home on Hays Drive in Sanford, police said. Investigators said a gunman went to the home of someone he knows and shot two adults, an 8-year-old boy and a 7-year-old boy. One adult died. The other adult...
Dozens of dogs rescued from South Korea meat trade; arrive safe in Pittsburgh
Dozens of dogs rescued from South Korea meat trade; arrive safe in Pittsburgh

After a 7,000-mile journey, dozens of dogs rescued from the South Korea meat trade are now safe in Pittsburgh.The animals landed at JFK International in New York and were picked up by the Pittsburgh Aviation Animal Rescue Team. While eating dog is on the decline in South Korea, about 30 million are slaughtered in Asia every year. "These dogs were...
Virgin Airlines to be no more
Virgin Airlines to be no more

Being named the Best Airline in North America isn’t enough to save the brand name of Virgin Airlines. Alaska Airlines, which bought Virgin last year, has announced that it will fly both companies under the Alaska Airlines name by 2019, CNN Money reported. >> Read more trending news But Alaska Airlines said in last week’s announcement...
Library of Congress to host Gloria Gaynor disco party
Library of Congress to host Gloria Gaynor disco party

Historical texts and a disco ball?  They’re two items that you wouldn’t think to put together, but The Library of Congress will be the site of a disco in a few weeks. Gloria Gaynor, whose disco hit “I Will Survive” was added to the National Recording Registry last year, will headline the library’s &ldquo...
More Stories