Teachers’ retirement system gets two new board members

The appointment of one member was controversial while those trying to change the system have applauded the new elected member.

Credit: Laura A. Bischoff

Credit: Laura A. Bischoff

The State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio has two new members, after a newcomer won an election on Friday and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine appointed a new member to the board.

But the changes are controversial, with some STRS members accusing DeWine of illegally appointing a new member when he did not have the proper authority.

STRS is the board that oversees the teachers’ retirement system in Ohio. Teachers pay a percentage into the system and get money out of the system when they retire.

But retirees and current teachers have been organizing and pushing for changes. Last year, the Ohio Auditor of State published an audit finding no evidence of fraud or illegal acts, in response to a 2021 report commissioned by the Ohio Retired Teachers Association, titled, “The High Cost of Secrecy: Preliminary Findings of Forensic Investigation of State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio.”

The new elected board member, Pat Davidson, received 20,410 votes, while the current member on the board seat, Arthur Lard, received 8,853 votes. Davidson’s term begins Sept. 1. The board is made up of 11 trustees, with four appointed seats and seven elected by members.

DeWine’s new appointee is G. Brent Bishop, a business and real estate investor. He will replace Wade Steen, who has been calling for changes to the system. Bishop’s term extends through Sept. 27, 2024.

“I am not for tipping the scales in favor of select money management firms. Most critically, I am not in favor of board members failing to advocate for our retired teachers and the long-term health of their retirement funds,” DeWine said in a statement. “I made a change in my appointee to STRS in part because, since September, this appointee missed three meetings and only partially attended three others.”

Steen said he missed just one meeting in October. He said he had been asked to resign last Thursday, and then told soon after he would be terminated. He was appointed to the board by former governor John Kasich.

Steen said he believes he serves his term, and not at the pleasure of the governor.

“I still believe that I cannot be removed, and that’s probably come through pretty clear, but I don’t know how I get to a solution on that,” Steen said.

ORTA executive director Robin Rayfield said the organization supported Davidson in the most recent election. ORTA has been one of the organizations pushing for change, along with STRS Watchdogs.

“We won the last five elections against status quo candidates,” Rayfield said.

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