I-TEAM: State probes target teachers’ retirement board

TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) – The Ohio Teachers Pension Fund and the board that runs it are now the subject of three state investigations.

As the drama unfolds, Ohio’s retired teachers are losing money.

The Ohio State Teachers Retirement System (STRS) has been under scrutiny for more than a decade following the reduction and possible termination of cost-of-living adjustments for its members.

Teachers who spoke to 13 Action News said the change has cost them tens of thousands of dollars.

I spent 30 years in Genoa. Then I was an interim principal, said James Firestone, who spent 46 years as an educator.

His monthly pension payment was supposed to increase by $55 each year indefinitely. Then, in 2017, STRS reduced cost-of-living adjustments.

We didn’t get anything, and to retire as quickly as I did, it’s hard, James Firestone said.

James Firestone estimates he lost $11,000. For his daughter, an educator, they said it’s closer to $20,000.

It might not seem like a lot to some people, but, you know, if that’s what it depends on to pay your bills, yes, said Angie Firestone, daughter of James Firestone and a retired educator.

Last week, Ohio’s governor, attorney general and secretary of state announced investigations into STRS. The investigations were prompted by allegations outlined in a 14-page document written anonymously.

Many of us have written to all three of them for many years and received only canned responses and we signed our letters. And now they say this anonymous letter is raising red flags, Angie Firestone said.

For Firestones, it’s the latest development in a downward spiral. and as the fight continues at the state level, their livelihoods and those of Ohio’s nearly 500,000 teachers hang in the balance.

the anonymous letter alleges a hostile takeover of a public pension system by private interests.

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, Secretary of State Frank LaRose and Attorney General Dave Yost released the following statements:


(COLUMBUS, Ohio) Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost has launched an investigation into concerns about the State Teachers Retirement System’s susceptibility to hostile takeover by private interests.

“Pension board members are required by law to act in the best interest of the teachers whose money they invest,” Yost said. “I will take any action necessary to protect teachers against private interests trying to hijack their retirement accounts.”

Yost is actively exploring the applicable loyalty removal statute (ORC 109.98) to address any potential violations by STRS board members. The investigation is in line with Yost’s commitment to root out all public corruption and instances of greed and fraud within public institutions.

“This isn’t monopoly money; it’s hard-earned income that belongs to teachers,” Yost said. “There is a responsibility to act in their best interest.”

The Attorney General’s Office has received documents containing troubling allegations about the STRS board. In response, Yost will conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into these matters and will take any action necessary to uphold public trust and confidence in our state institutions.


(COLUMBUS, Ohio) Ohio Governor Mike DeWine released the following statement today regarding the Ohio State Teachers Retirement System (STRS):

“I have been closely monitoring the ongoing news regarding the Ohio Teachers Retirement System (STRS). Our state pension systems have an obligation to retirees to ensure that their investment portfolios and accounts are stable and financially sound , so that they have the financial resources to serve retirees, both now and in the future.

“I supported the efforts of Ohio State Auditor Keith Faber and the Ohio Pension Study Council to conduct multiple audits to help STRS ensure better management and oversight of their pension funds. These audits have resulted in in several dozen recommendations for “improving fiduciary performance,” including “improvements in the use of STRS committees, a “revitalization” of the investment and audit committees, and the creation of a board governance committee.” These recommendations resulted in STRS retain a nationally renowned consulting firm, Aon, to provide guidance on corporate governance.

We recently learned that Aon is terminating the contract with STRS. This is a huge red flag, calling into question how STRS is operating and providing oversight. The unstated implication is that the governance issues at STRS are so troubling that Aon could not continue its contract in good faith. STRS may now be out of compliance with some of the audit recommendations due to the termination of the contract.

The entire 14-page letter is below.

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