Just the Facts...Please!

Randy Leonard

I am going to take up the offer to make some brief comments today on the Oregonian article that details my history with the Fire and Police Disability and Retirement Fund.

First, however, let me clearly state that I will not comment on the Oregonian’s report of events that took place in my life over 20 years ago except to say this: After reading the story, my former wife (with whom my wife Julie and I currently share an amicable relationship) contacted me to say she had been misquoted in the article. She and I agree that the Oregonian made inaccurate statements that have no relevance to my work on the Pension fund. While I welcome issue-related discourse about the Pension Fund, my personal life is not up for discussion. I am deeply disappoiinted, however, that the Oregonian is attempting to attack my credibility relative to the Fire and Police Retirement fund with what feels like a very personal attack.

I will also point out that the Oregonian initiated their exhaustive investigation into my past immediately after I criticized the articles Maxine Bernstein and Brent Walth wrote about the alleged abuses occurring at the Pension fund. (Ms. Bernstein contacted me after the articles were published to ask me what I thought of them.) To cite one example, I criticized Ms. Bernstein for quoting the angry ex wife of a firefighter who suggested that her former husband had continued to collect disability benefits after his back injury resolved. This woman was quoted as if she had expertise in medical and disability matters and was a fair and impartial observer concerning her ex husband’s medical condition. I told Ms. Bernstein this struck me as unbalanced reporting lacking in objectivity. Ms. Bernstein’s reaction was to show up unannounced at my former wife’s house in Vancouver under the pretense of doing a “profile” of me. Note to self: Lesson Learned.

As far as some of the claims made by the Oregonian regarding my advocacy on behalf of injured firefighters and police officers over the past 20 years, it is true that I have often worked to make sure that these public servants are treated fairly when they are injured in the line of duty. The Oregonian’s characterization of me as dominating the Board of Trustees of the Pension Fund and forcing claims through the system is laughable. I was one vote on the board. One. Every other trustee on the board—men and women including the mayor (Both Bud Clark and Vera Katz during my tenure), city treasurer, city auditor, and police and fire chiefs (not pushovers, in other words)—also had one vote. Decisions made by the board require a majority vote. Unless I am being accused of holding a gun to the heads of my fellow trustees (and I don’t think anyone is saying THAT), it simply wasn’t possible to force the board to make decisions contrary to the wishes of the majority.

As I posted here on Blue Oregon earlier this year, the Oregonian was equally shrill about my position opposing Portland’s participation in the Joint Terrorism Task Force unless certain conditions were met. I always have and always will fight for the things I believe in. However, I have learned there is a price to pay when one sticks to their principles. Today’s Oregonian article is one example of that.

It is fair to say that the articles and editorials written so far regarding the Fire and Police Pension and Disability Fund are on some points accurate but at various times inaccurate, misleading and even absolutely untrue. I do believe there are important changes that could be made to dramatically reduce the costs to taxpayers. Unfortunately, any efforts to support fair, reasoned and educated changes to the current system get drowned out by the fevered pitch of the Oregonian’s apparent strategy to demonize anyone who says anything even remotely defensive of the current system.

  • (Show?)

    I was shocked by the report, Randy, and I'm glad you've responded to it. There are a number of reasons I believe it was unfair and unethical reporting. It's appropriate for a paper to take a position on a question--in this case "Given Councilman Leonard's history with the pension fund, in who's interest is he working?"--but to do that puts you at a higher standard for reporting. Given that there's an appearance of an answer implicit in the question, the journalist must demonstrate to the reader that s/he (or they, in this case) is giving the question due consideration on both sides. Inflammatory and one-sided reporting to a story like this emerges at what Walth and Bernstein have produced: a hack job, one reminiscent of the Oregonian's work on David Wu's history.

    Except to prejudice the reader, what possibly could the writers have intended by including wholly unrelated personal information about Leonard in the story? They might also have mentioned that he helped old ladies across the street, but one sees what the purpose would be.

    Language like "But he did succeed in passing a law to protect his own pension" is unnecessarily prejudicial. The writer knows that the reaon he passed the law was to protect his own pension? Or was that colorful language to make a point?

    Cherry-picking anecdotes that make Leonard appear crooked are also a no-no. Again, we have no way of judging their relevance except to see that they damn the subject. Are there 1,000 well-arbitrated cases for each of these that they didn't tell us about (or none)? We don't know.

    Like everyone else who read this, I have no special knowledge of any of the facts. But I know when a story doesn't pass the smell test. This one stinks.

  • watch those reporters (unverified)

    There have been times when Brent Walth has done excellent reporting, and then there were other times (and reporters across the country are equally guilty about this sort of thing from time to time).

    I recall more than a decade ago that a public figure's former employees were questioned by Walth (and maybe some other reporters). The way I heard the story, those questioned each called the person being profiled saying "This reporter called and this is what I said" so that if something other than what they said was reported, the subject was warned what had actually been said to the reporter.

    Seems to me the same thing has been done to Howard Dean a few times in the last couple years. Unfortunately, there are times when it seems the reporters have the outline of the story written first, and only choose facts to fit the outline.

  • Aaron (unverified)


    When will the facts about the the fairness of the Bureau of Enviromental Services and the sewer fees in Outer East Portland make it to the front page of "The O".

  • Steve (unverified)

    OK, the Oregonian really doesn't know how to report a story. This is not breaking news. Neither is the fact that Mr Leonard is using yet another smokescreen to not address the fund's issues.

    Everyone admits there are abuses, that the fund is up to 10% of the prop tax bill (more than police, fire or parks) and growing and that we still have to pay for PERS on top of this. I am getting tired of paying for Mssrs Leonard/Potter et alia retirement when they have not contributed one cent to mine.

    So when do we actually do something besides get new excuses that we the voters really don't understand this fund as well as Mr Leonard?

    That is what is scary. First suggestion, take all beneficiaries of the fund off the trustee list - way too may opps to be self-serving.

  • Randy Leonard (unverified)

    The most significant issue facing the fund is the lack of "light duty" positions for injured firefighters and police officers. In the budget adopted two years ago I added a provision requiring the police bureau to convert full duty office positions to light duty positions for injured police officers.

    That effort brought off the disability rolls a full shift of officers who now staff the afternoon telephone report writing unit.

    I have asked the water bureau's security chief to give me a list of all security positions that could be filled by injured but recovering firefighters and police officers that could provide security to the reservoirs and other water bureau facilities. I expect that shortly we will be filling those positions with firefighters and police officers who are now on disability but can perform light duty.

    I gave these and more examples to the Oregonian. I will continue to look for common sense ways to reduce costs of the fund. What I won't do is join in group hysterics that ends up throwing the baby out with the bath water. The examples given by the Oregonian so far as so called abuses are a bad joke...and the punch line is a punch in the stomach to the men and women who protect us.

    Do not allow your understanding of this issue to be spoon fed to you by those whose broader agenda is clearly anti worker. I have nothing to gain or lose if the entire Fire and Police system were entirely scrapped. I will support changes that make sense for Portland citizens and I will oppose changes that damage protecting firefighters and police officers who are hurt in the line of duty while protecting us.

  • Steve (unverified)

    Mr Leonard - In the interest of disclosure if we scrapped the fund you would lose $48K per year and Mr Potter would lose something >$100K. However, if you wish to paint those concerned about mis-management of tax revenues as "anti-worker", my only request is you stick to the facts and avoid name-calling.

  • John (unverified)

    "Stick to the facts and avoid name calling"? The Oregonion said Randy Leonard beat his ex wife. The backing they used on that was that his ex-wife did not deny that. So maybe I could say saomething about someone you know and if you do not respond I can clain it to be true because you did not deny it. Please that article was obviously personal and not "sticking to the facts" or "Avoiding name calling".

  • Steve (unverified)

    I am saying the Oregonian did a hatchet job and neglected a lot of the issues about the fund. What Mr Leonard or any public official does in his life is Mr Leonard's business only as long as it is not illegal.

    My issue is that this fund has problems and when someone brings them up, Mr Leonard calls them "anti-worker" instead of addressing solutions.

    Since he titled this piece just the facts, I would suggest we stay within that domain. My issue is that this fund is eating up more budget and we are doing nothing to stop it from eating into the other services propoerty taxes are supposed to pay for.

  • dispossessed (unverified)

    It is unfortunately typical that he Oregonian (a paper for which I have little regard) is being labelled "anti-worker" for an attempt to balance its reporting oversights of the last decade. The same happened with the report of teacher pensions two weeks back. The messenger was screeched at, derided and (attemptedly) dismissed.

    I hope it does not work. Because most everyone is a taxpayer, and these burdens on average middle-guy private-sector taxpayers in Oregon are undue.

    The paper needs not to be owned by the governmental sector, and the governmental sector needs not to be owned by public employee unions.

    I have no bone to pick with police, firefighters or Commissioner Leonard (whom I do hold in regard). I do call for a balance. It has been tipped way the other way. I hope the screams don't drown it out.

  • dispossessed (unverified)

    Steve, I was penning my response as you were posting one, or I would have noted and seconded yours.

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    Stop the presses! As a union official, Randy Leonard consistently took pro-worker positions. As a politician, he's continued to take basically the same positions. As a member of the union he represented, his positions benefitted him the same way it did his fellow workers. That, absent the ad hominem attacks and general muckracking, was the Oregonian's major expose today.

    I'm sorry, but this isn't man bites dog. It isn't even dog bites man. More like dog licks man. Is this what passes for investigative reporting today?

  • Tenskwatawa (unverified)

    The only recourse for false and misleading newspapers is to put them out of business. BOYCOTT The Oregonian.

    Do not give them your money to help them lie to you.

    It might be nice if it was a matter of law and we could take it to court and the truth could come out. Which is an entire other discussion about freedom of the press and so on -- but it's not that way anyway. It is this way.

    They print newspapers and take them to market. They figure they sell more papers by printing lies. Lies are kind of spectacular, maybe they do sell more. That's for the marketplace to decide. Everyone reading this who is in the market for a newspaper should be aware their money buys lies when given to The Oregonian.

    Truth is somewhere else. Perhaps here on BlueOregon. Cancel your newspaper subscription and redirect your money here, to BlueOregon. If you want to build your thoughts and opinions and ideas and political VOTE out of truths, don't buy lies. (If you want to build your opinions out of lies, then your opinions are not of any real value and your vote is a fraud.)

    BOYCOTT The Oregonian. Send it into bankruptcy. Subscribers have no legal or moral leverage to reform or restore The Oregonian. It is for the newspaper's workers to decide to do right, and print truth; there are no half-steps or agreements we can force on them except blanket rejection in the marketplace. They bet their business on lying -- they lose. A replacement newspaper will spontaneously appear to fill the void and it may or may not print truth, and it may or may not be rejected in the market. On the other hand, maybe you don't want to BOYCOTT The Oregonian, and you want to give your money to them, and you want to live in a make-believe world of lies. Your choice, and if lies is what you choose to think with, please do not vote.

  • Will Aitchison (unverified)

    What The Oregonian's article demonstrates yet again is that where public sector unions are concerned, The Oregonian's agenda far outstrips any pretense of objectivity. The ad hominem attack on Randy Leonard is but one example -- albeit a particularly loathsome one -- of many occasions over the years when, lacking a semblance of real journalism, The Oregonian resorts to the vilest tricks in the trade.

    Ask a teacher, a police officer, or a parks worker when The Oregonian has ever remotely approached neutrality on a labor issue. Whether it's a negotiations issue, binding arbitration, health insurance, or pensions, The Oregonian's relentless theme, that public employees should be darned lucky they even have a job, hasn't changed in the 25 years I've been in town.

    The Oregonian's self-congratulatory approach to the pension system in its articles might have embarrassed some papers. The paper's adjectives about its own articles -- check out the editorials, Duin's commentary, and the followup articles -- demonstrate not only a thorough lack of objectivity but the sort of drum-beating that makes one worry whether there's no "there" there.

    There's plenty missing from the stories on the pension issue. Would you know from those articles, for example, that the police and fire unions years ago proposed that the voters address the funding methodology problem with the pension system, only to have the issue nixed by City Hall? Or that Portland has a chronic inability to recruit police officers, especially protected classes, because the pension systems in similarly-sized cities are so much more generous? Or that the whole issue of the structure of the pension system was on everyone's radar screen long before The Oregonian started launching its missles.

    Sure, there should be a public debate about the pension system. But let's not pretend for a moment that The Oregonian is a neutral party in the debate, nor should we pretend that The Oregonian will not hesitate to wallow in mud should an occasion to do so exist. Except, of course, if the story is about one of Portland's economic elite.

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    The comments about Commissioner Leonard's personal life seemed unnecessary and off the subject to me. Although that is the sort of thing I suspect entirely too many people here would complain was being covered up if they didn't report it about some random Republican, I still don't like it much.

    Except for that jarring note, I thought the article was fair and that Commissioner Leonard didn't really suffer by the portrayal. If they had wanted to slant things, they could have made him look a lot worse without ever straying from the facts.

    Although there seems to be a lot of outrage here, I haven't heard any refutation of any facts relevant to the pension issue by either Commissioner Leonard or any of the other outraged cohort. I like Commissioner Leonard too. I think he has matured as a public servant since his legislative days and he should get credit for that, but there are definitely issues with how he handles some things.

    Jeff, The Oregonian article made clear that the bill they characterised as "protecting his own pension" benefitted exactly two individuals, one of whom was then-Representative Leonard. I know someone who was employed in the LC's office back then and I assure you there was a lot of muttering about it down there at the time. The travesty on that one is that the Oregonian didn't make it clearer what was going on when it was happening.

    The pension issue is a real issue and I'm glad they are reporting on it now. The "breaking news" complaint is a red herring. Where our tax money goes is always relevant, especially in these times when budgets are tight and services are suffering.

  • keyfur (unverified)

    steve said: I am getting tired of paying for Mssrs Leonard/Potter et alia retirement when they have not contributed one cent to mine.

    what about the invaluable contribution to your personal safety that firefighters and police officers make daily, sometimes with their lives? public sector employees sacrifice a lot for not a lot of pay. the least we can do is take care of them. that is not to say there are not abuses of the system, but my money is on the vast majority of pensioneers earning their pensions.

  • Randy Leonard (unverified)

    Doretta- Your comment that implies I did something wrong or improper in "protecting my pension" is not correct. Every Portland firefighter and police officer -and there was a number of them- who had served in the legislature before I did accrued time towards their retirement in the fire and police bureaus while they were on a leave of absence serving in the legislature.

    Every legislator has been protected under a long time statute to accrue their pension in their regular job while serving in the legislature while also accruing PERS retirement. Different people within the city of Portland debated whether or not that statute applied to Portland firefighters and police officers who served in the legislature.

    The city attorney at the time gave an opinion that while I was on a leave of absence from the fire bureau while I served in the legislature I would continue to accrue my pension time with the city in addition to accruing time in PERS while I served in the legislature.

    Because it was only a city attorney's "opinion" I proposed an amendment that said that if upon my retirement from the fire bureau a different city attorney gave an opinion saying I could not count the time I was on a leave of absence to serve in the legislature towards my fire bureau retirement I could exchange the time I accrued in the PERS system to "buy back" the time I had lost in the fire bureau.

    I did nothing to create a benefit for myself other than assuring myself that I could retire when I was told by the city attorney in 1997 I could. The amendment that passed eliminated the PERS pension I was accruing for the period of time I served in a legislative session if I were ever denied the Fire Bureau pension time I was advised at the time that I had.

    In fact, the amendment I passed would have made John Minnis and I the only members in the legislature to give up their PERS pension to keep our pension in our "regular" jobs. I hardly call that a conflict of interest.

    Analyzing my service from your perspective is fair. However, please do not make comments based on rumors questioning my veracity without knowing the facts. That should not be part of what I am expected to accept.

    Thank you.

  • cicolini (unverified)

    I like Brent and Maxine's work typically but this story smelled like the Willamette Week, where a theory + conclusion is defined by the editor and then run out by the writer, often regardless of whether something worthwhile or interesting is discovered during investigation. Not up to snuff.

    And disappointing because there is a story here - C W Jensen is the poster boy, not Leonard. I'm not in the cop-watching business, but I heard recently somewhere that 1/3 of the cop-roster is on leave for physical or psychiatric injury? Is this equal to other cities? Has there been a recent audit?

  • (Show?)

    To follow up on the "his own pension" piece, let me take it out of the context of this article. Politicians work for constituencies, and usually they are constituencies arise from the politician's background and experience. That's exactly what we elect them for--they're representing us. Most GOP politicians have very close ties to business. In policy debates, they argue for legislation that will benefit business. For journalists to assert that this is pure self-interest, rather than a reflection of a pervasive personal philosophy toward politics, is both reckless and naive.

    Randy Leonard has long been a union activist--it's how he gained political credibility, it's what he's run for office on, and it's something he's supported while in office. I think it was reckless and naive to imply that all of this activity was a desire to protect his own pension. It was, furthermore, one of those "tells" that tipped the hands of the writers' bias. At least, failing to see any alternative explanation, that's how I read it.

  • (Show?)

    I really should read those things before I hit "post." Imagine it is English.

  • Steve (unverified)

    Keyfur - I have no issue with reasonable help on a pension, but these are defined benefits with no plan on how to pay for them.

    What this means (assuming 4% safe rate of return) that if Mr Leonard worked for 20 years (started at 22, retired at 42) and contributed $1000/month each month (which is a lot) and assuming he lives about 35 years, the contributions would fund about $1600/month in retirement, NOT $4000/month.

    Taxpayers make up the diff (about $2600/month) with their property taxes, which is what I meant by my contribution to Mr Leonard's retirement without reciprocation.

    As far as "public sector employees sacrifice a lot for not a lot of pay." All I can say is show me the last public employee who left for a private sector job with better benefits.

  • ron ledbury (unverified)

    Don't worry Randy, the DA is lost in space and won't be back for a generation or so.

    My beef has to do with the representation of workers.

    Think tier-three. My good man. They are getting fucked. For every "extra" dollar that goes to tier-one and tier-two pensions, is one less dollar that goes to salary and benefits for tier-three (and future tier-four) workers. The extra dollars go to cover for the money that our happy OIC has given away to Wall Street speculators and does NOT REACH the workers that are blamed for the costs, to deflect blame from the State Treasurer. A genuine worker advocate would correct this blame deflection campaign by investment bankers and their lawyers etc.

    PERS bonds and payments on them have assured that the hit on pay, for this new generation public servants, will last 20 damn years.

    Thank your lucky stars the Portland fire and police pensions are NOT in PERS cause it will get fixed once my simple and obvious reasoning takes root among voters. The pension bonds will be found to be the height of absurdity, if not down right criminal.

    Yeah, do you think that the General Counsel for the Portland Public School District will let me show up on school property during the new teacher orientation to deliver a one page sheet to them regarding the labor rights and the opportunity for them to split from the Portland Association of Teachers . . . . based on the lack of a community of interest on PERS status? I got rejected last year, for my advance request. I may not even ask the General Counsel this year. I might just walk in with my stack of one-page fliers and dare them to call in security, because I want to hand them one page of paper. It might look exactly like the one from last year that the General Counsel rejected, but with a couple dates changed.

    Here is a curious thought. Suppose that the Portland fire and police pensions get fully taken over by PERS. Won't my arguments that I want to make on behalf of tier-three teachers have equal applicability to that of the labor bargaining units for fire and police. Just something to ponder.

    I think you are history . . . like yesterday's news. So long as PERS remains multi-tiered you have no where to go but down.

    (I need to go for a walk . . )

  • Patt Leonard Wilson (unverified)

    This article makes me wish I subscribed to the Oregonian so I could cancel my subscription....

  • richard (unverified)

    Has Randy Leonard, during his tenure in various elected offices contributed to multiple fiscal disasters or not? If he has been a major player in bringing about the PERS, PPFDF and Urban Renewal abuses then it should be reported and he should face consequences at somehow at some point. Shouldn't he? And let's not drift off the deep end pretending the O hasn't been in league with Randy, Vera, John, Barbara, public employees and their cabal for year.

  • howard (unverified)

    "If he(Leonard) has been a major player in bringing about the PERS, PPFDF and Urban Renewal abuses then it should be reported and he should face consequences at somehow at some point."

    I say yes to all three. PERS and PPFDF are givens. Leonard was a major participant in the rewrite of property tax capping Ballot Measure 47 into Ballot Measure 50 which affedted Urban Renewal and PPFDF.

    I would also point out that Leonard authorized the reporters' access to his personnel records.

  • (Show?)


    Lots of public employees leave for the private sector. Not usually for better benefits but for much better pay. 50% of teachers leave the profession within the first five years of their service. Few in the legal or medical field stay in public service jobs for their entire careers.  Usually those are seen as stepping stones to better compensated jobs in the private sector. Yes, most of these poistions are for people who have earned advanced degrees, The average level of completed education for public employees is higher than the private sector. But public jobs that require no more than a high school diploma do usually pay better and have better bene's than the private sector so I am sure they do tend to stay.
  • keyfur (unverified)

    damnit! dena beat me to it. and she did it much more eloquently than i could have. the benefits may be better for public employees, but the vast difference in earnings in the private sector more than makes up for that.

  • dispossessed (unverified)

    That is not what dena said. She said half of all teachers leave within five years, but did not indicate where to or why. She indicated that legal and medical professionals earn more in the private sector, and that high-school graduates make more in the public sector.

    In between was left pretty wiiiiiiiiiiiide open. More and more average private-sector employed Joses & Josephines with generic college educations would love to get into the more lucrative (pay and benefit-wise) public sector, or would love not to pay quite so much for pay & benefits for the public sector that quite upend their own.

  • Ruth Adkins (unverified)

    As the wife of a hard-working, dedicated man who has chosen to work as a public servant for well below private-sector pay and, yes, will in return for his lifetime of service, eventually receive a decent retirement--I suggest those who think public employees have it so easy should go right out and sign up to be a teacher, fire fighter, police officer or other public employee.

  • (Show?)

    Attorneys, physicians, RNs, and various types of engineers, can often move into the private sector and find work that matches their specialized qualifications, but pays much more money.

    What is the equivalent private sector career track for police, firefighters, and teachers?

    Apples, and oranges, and pears. Oh My!

  • PanchoPdx (unverified)

    I suggest those who think public employees have it so easy should go right out and sign up to be a teacher, fire fighter, police officer or other public employee.

    Good pay, insulation from market forces and otherworldly benefit levels - Doesn't sound so bad to me.

    If everyone takes up your dare, who will pay the taxes to keep these people employed?

    Comparisons between compensation levels in public vs private sector are a non-starter to most rational folks in the private sector. We pay your salaries and have very little choice in the matter.

    Private sector workers don't have one-tenth the job security of the average public employee.

    I'm waiting for someone to start complaining about the huge commissions made in real estate right now and try to set that as par for public school teachers. (E.g., "what's more really important to society, the people who teach your children or the people who show houses?")

    Of course if the real estate market tanked in a few years, those same teachers would still demand their COLA raises.

  • JR (unverified)

    My concern about Leonard is how he saved his and Minnis' pensions plus the extra PERS money they will get. What about the other public folks who also serve. Where is their deal? And what about the folks who who for non-public businesses and serve us?

  • keyfur (unverified)

    Pancho PDX said: Good pay, insulation from market forces and otherworldly benefit levels - Doesn't sound so bad to me.

    tell the 250-ish teachers who got laid off by pps this year, or the 20 or so oregon state troopers who are expected to lose jobs under the new budget, that they are insulated from market forces. tell tier 3 pers employees that they have otherworldly benefits.

    Pancho PDX also said: If everyone takes up your dare, who will pay the taxes to keep these people employed?

    these folks still pay taxes. sure, the tax base may be less because of the lower pay that these workers earn, but taxes will still be paid.

  • PanchoPdx (unverified)


    If I was laid off because of the otherworldly PERS and health bene's granted to tier one teachers I'd be pissed too. I can't believe the teachers' union has been able to keep everyone under one roof this long.

    It's like the younger teachers work to subsidize the older ones (undoubtedly one of the reasons why half of them quit within the first 5 years).

    As far as taxes paid by public employees, they are mostly recycling the tax dollars already derived from the private sector. Contrary to your suggestion, the public sector does not create wealth.

  • Suzii (unverified)

    John said: "The Oregonion said Randy Leonard beat his ex wife. The backing they used on that was that his ex-wife did not deny that. So maybe I could say saomething about someone you know and if you do not respond I can clain it to be true because you did not deny it."

    Ok, because I know I don't always read the long links before I read the comments, I think it's important to point out that:

    1. The O did not say Randy beat his ex-wife. It said that the Clark County Superior Court granted her two protective orders against him.

    2. The evidence Walth and Bernstein used was court records, including Regina Leonard's description of Randy's behavior: "Inflicting physical harm -- choking, pushing, kicking, verbal threats to hit, knock my teeth out, knock me out. Alcohol abuse during last 3 years."

    3. The O could reasonably printed just that much; it's probably because somebody there really likes Randy that they made the extra phone call to ask Regina Leonard if she really meant it (remember, a court was twice convinced at the time that she did). She did not just "not deny" the accusation, she said she still stood by its accuracy.

    Now, I agree that I don't see the relevance of the episode to the question of firefighter pensions. If the story had been framed more clearly and specifically as contrasting the "taxpayer's friend" with the "firefighters' lobbyist," then I think the contrast between the candid, open Randy who regularly tells young colleagues how he almost got in trouble for drinking and driving in 1985 and the Randy whose then-boss says Randy would probably have been suspended had he not done such a good job of hiding that court order in 1985 would have been a telling detail. Especially in light of the snow job his fellow board members apparently feel he pulled to grant a million-dollar-plus claim for a firefighter who'd gotten in trouble for drinking and driving.

  • (Show?)

    Dispossessed -

          The teachers I know who have left the profession overwhelmingly leave for the private sector- engineers, sales, itech, law school...even a singer ! The benefits thing is starting to seriously piss me off. In the district that I teach in  (Reynolds) we have a cap of $640 per month to cover health and dental. Obviously that does not cover today's premiums. If I taught full time and used my benefits we would pay around $289 out of pocket per month in addition to co pays and ever decreasing rx coverage. Since I am half time we would be paying nearly $600 a month out of pocket. This is sweet, cushy coverage ???? We use my husband's, who is a small business employer/owner. In addition to health/dental, 401K, they also get beer on tap and time off for surfing...now THOSE are great benefits. Seriously, the elephant in the living room is the outrageous costs of health benefits. Don't hate me because my employer (" the public" - of which I pay taxes towards too ) gives me humane health coverage as opposed to the masses that have been sucker punched by big corporations over the last decade or two.
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    I often agree with you but when you say the public sector does not create wealth., that's not strictly accurate. The public sector creates conditions that are conducive to creating wealth, like safe streets, an educated workforce, urban fire suppression etcetera.


    I attended an American Electronics Association event in West Linn on Saturday and the talk at my table was about the shortage of qualified engineers produced by Oregon universities.

    This is higher on the lists of businesses than corporate tax burden when they calculate where to site new plants and research facilities, and it's danged hard to attract and retain quality tech professors (who can very easily work in the private sector) if you don't have a good salary and retirement structure subsidized by the taxpayers.

  • LT (unverified)

    Yeah, yeah, there are some who question the concept of "the common good" and others who say all those public employees are lazy and overpaid. But is the tide coming in or going out on that attitude? While candidate Kim Thatcher said that "only businesses pay taxes", I am sure Rep. Thatcher and her staff filled out W-2s and will have to put the income they earned while working this session on their tax returns next year.

    And let's not talk about all those tax breaks for the Oregon Restaurant Assoc. and other industry groups which the House voted on. Of course Senate action today on SB 408 (where power companies are only supposed to collect tax money from ratepayers to the extent taxes will actually be paid) is not worth mentioning, because there are no public employees to bash.

    If people worried about "public employees" would talk about administrative pay packages, I would be more inclined to believe them. But the absence of such discussion leads me to believe there are those who think anyone in public management (central office school administrators, agency heads, local office managers of state agencies, etc) deserves whatever they earn, but those lazy unionized workers should be glad to even have a job.

    I believe that many "talking heads" on TV would not survive a week in a low paid job, unglamorous job (food service, retail, call center, for instance) where it is vital to pay attention to details and always be polite to the customers. I also I believe that those who complain about "public employee pay and benefits" might have a hard time spending a week working with police, fire or emergency workers, or working in a classroom of 30 first graders. Those jobs can be physically, mentally, emotionally demanding, and where would we be if all young people decided there was more reward working in the private sector?

    Many do not understand terms like "tier 3". Is that a better or worse contract than a Teamster who is fully vested in a retirement system? And is there really any more comparison between various types of public employment (public safety, education, agency office work, staff of an elected official) and a garbage truck driver whose pay is determined by Teamster-negotiated contract, someone working in fast food, someone working in a hospital, someone working for NIKE or Intel? Who makes more money--a plumber or a firefighter? A skilled technician or a teacher in a small district?

    Or maybe attack is intellectually easier than proposing a solution and selling it to the public? Anyone who has ever worked in sales knows that wanting to sell something is not the same as customers interested in buying the product.

  • ron ledbury (unverified)


    Would you rather receive a check for the amount the district claims for health care coverage? Who is restricting your liberty to make that choice.

    Suppose the Land of Oz School District paid their teachers $100,000 but allocate all $100,000 toward health care. How much pay did the teacher get? It all depends upon the perspective. The teacher looks only at the value they themselves place on the health care. The taxpayer sees only the $100,000. We have an apples and oranges problem based on perspective.

    I see a health care system that looks at you as a pawn and has restricted your right to take the cash and to shop. The rising health care costs are a direct result of extracting more money from a captive market. The private oligopolies have found a way to get government to act as an idiot (or corrupt) oligopsonist. The aggregation of buyers into a pool is just what the oligopolist wants, ironically, because then they need only negotiate with a few politicians and make back door deals.

    Try to take cash instead, just try.

  • PanchoPdx (unverified)


    We probably don't disagree on that point. The public sector, if operating effectively, will establish and preserve conditions that enhance private sector wealth creation. We might disagree as to which public sector functions are necessary or advisable, but I'm not an anarchist.

    It's just that I often sense (esp. in the upside-down world of Blue-activism) that a lot of folks really believe that the tail (public sector) wags the dog (private sector).

  • keyfur (unverified)

    Pancho PDX said: As far as taxes paid by public employees, they are mostly recycling the tax dollars already derived from the private sector. Contrary to your suggestion, the public sector does not create wealth.

    yeah, i realized that about two minutes after posting what i thought was a good reply. so much for hoping that people wouldn't pick up on it . . ..

    i wonder what you think of a retirement system where current workers, including ones that just entered the workforce, pay the retirement benefits of retired workers. isn't that the way that social security, at least in part, works?

    LT- good call on the administrative glut in pps. while all those teachers were being laid off $500k was being spent on three new "curriculum adminstrators". i wonder how much they will contribute to the learning of some kid at west sylvan or lane.

    as for tier 3, public employees hired after august 2003 do not get the guaranteed benefit that so many people see as the problem with pers. tier 3 employees' benefits are much more closely tied to market performance of the pers fund. i do not know if you were wondering about the details or not, but since you brought it up there it is. and i do not know how that compares to benefits gained in other union jobs.

  • LT (unverified)

    I learned in years of sales that people don't buy if the explanations don't make sense. Someone should find out some comparisons (that new Vancouver hospital reportedly has an average salary of $28 per hour, how does a Teamster or other private industry union pay package for necessary folks like garbage truck drivers compare to PERS, etc.)to use in debating PERS.

    Just like "our model is better than their model because..." (uses less energy, breaks down less often, etc.)is a great selling point, most people I've heard who are angry about PERS and public employee pay really have no clue about private sector comparisons.

    One year there was a ballot measure to force public employers to pay private prevailing wages. It was supposed to be an anti-government, anti-public employee union measure. But then research was done in coverage of the measure, and folks like computer programmers, certain kinds of managers, and other skilled talent turned out to make more out in the private sector, so the campaign wilted.

  • roger (unverified)

    What firefighters, police, public employees, teamsters, pipefitters, autoworkers, mineworkers, farmworkers negotiate for themselves, so let us negotiate for ourselves. Take the money from the employers on the front end, and no one will have to pay for it on the back end: poor people's health care: the emergency room. Poor people's mental health care: the jails.

  • Cindy M (unverified)

    In the current legislative session a plan to create an insurance pool (that would remove the plan most school districts in Oregon participate in)was defeated. The Blue Cross insurance is provided through OSBA. (Oregon School Boards Association)OSBA pays for 60% of its operating budget with the profits made by providing primarily Blue Cross coverage to teachers. OSBA joined forces with Karen Minnis to make sure the pool plan was blocked. Inflated premiums to support an oreganization that works with school boards when they are bargaining new teacher contracts. Hmmmmmmm.

  • Donald Sparks (unverified)

    Sometimes the Oregonian gets it wrong. I know this from personal experience when they talked only to one of my inmates over 30 years ago (I worked at the County jail as a corrections officer then.) But this story on Mr. Leonard's history with the Police and Fire Disability fund seems to ring true as I read it. Yes, some small details about Mr. Leonard's personal life may be misleading or too old to be relevant. But the basic problem here is that Randy is key to why we have an outrageouly expensive Police and Fire Disablility Fund. And yes, where does Mayor Potter figure in all this? Does he collect a full pension and get full pay as mayor too?

  • (Show?)

    Pancho sez:

    "It's just that I often sense (esp. in the upside-down world of Blue-activism) that a lot of folks really believe that the tail (public sector) wags the dog (private sector)."

    I would suggest that the public sector is more like the skeleton, labor the muscle, telecom and finance the central nervous system and circulatory system, and the blogosphere the spleen.

    As for the tail, I think we have to be more specific. In terms of proximity to the posterior, I go with the bankruptcy and collections industries. But wagging can be a sign of happiness, so perhaps dogs are the tail of the dog.

    The bark? The media. The bite? The military. The brain? Linus Torvalds, the writers at the Daily Show, and whatever genius thunk up California energy deregulation.

  • Betsy (unverified)

    Deflecting from the substance of the issue here -- the nature of the pension and disability fund -- doesn't make the flaws go away. Sometimes we just gotta face it: If we're willing to look at something we've been way too close to for way too long from a slightly different vantage point, we can suddenly see that, lo and behold, there are indeed more than a few warts and sores festering there.

    Such is the case with Randy Leonard and the pension and disability fund. Try to consider the viewpoint of most taxpayers, who have zero pension and zero disability funds. Lots of folks are working two part-time jobs just to keep making their mortgage in Lents or St. Johns. And some joker who got injured X number of years ago and now owns his own restaurant is STILL collecting a fat pension. On my dime? Come on!

    This doesn't mean we want to race to the bottom, but there has to be some sanity here. And probably most Portland cops and firefighters aren't scammers, but clearly, some are getting an unconscionably sweet deal here at other people's expense.

    We can and should support those who take public employment in having decent pay, good working conditions, and fair benefits. But not in skimming for years or decades off of taxpayers. No one is guaranteed a career in this life. Where did a nutty ideal like that even come from?

  • (Show?)

    I am as unhappy as anyone with the spiraling costs of PERS and the fire and police disability funds. But I think people are being a bit too harsh on Randy Leonard.

    We have to look at bit more critically at the whole system of governance in Portland. Why do we have a PERS board run by PERS members? Why was the Fire/Police board run for years by Fire/Police members? Why is the "City the Works" a city that runs by sweetheart deals and corrupt bargains?

    Perhaps this is all coming out now because the the bloom is off of the 1990s boom, after the Katz administration is ended.

    But let's not lose the forest for the trees. Remember, folks, Democrats and Progressives have been in solid control of this town for at least twenty years. Why weren't we minding our own henhouses?

    Give Potter (and Leonard) this: at least they are considering major changes to the way we do business in this City. As far as I can tell, it's long overdue.

  • LT (unverified)

    Some who blog here may not be old enough to remember the phrase "like Nixon going to China". That meant that only a famous anti-communist could open relations with Communist (aka RED--back when it meant commie and not a state voting Republican) China.

    Perhaps, by the same token, only a former police chief as Mayor and a former firefighter as City Councilman can really clean up the system from the inside out.

  • (Show?)


    I did not imply you "did something wrong" and I certainly did not question your veracity. I said the Oregonian was accurate in reporting that the bill in question was aimed at protecting your pension and that there was considerable muttering about it in Salem at the time.

    I also said that The Oregonian would have served everyone better, and in my opinion that includes you, had they reported on it more effectively back then rather than bringing it up now. The larger issue of the cost of public sector pensions to the taxpayers of Portland is where that attention should be going.

  • JD (unverified)

    Randy, you were personally attacked by the O and that was wrong. They're right about the disability and pension funds though. You guys have no idea how to run these programs but are unwilling to stand up and admit that fact. Your statement about the lack of "light duty" work available within the bureaus is a good example. If someone is disabled long term, they should have to go out and find a light- or sedentary-duty job elsewhere. That's how the private sector works, and we pay good money for our disability coverage.

    All that aside, nobody with a vested interest should have no role in "fixing" the system, even if they bring specialized expertise to the table.

  • Randy Leonard (unverified)

    JD- I appreciate your kind words.

    As far as your comment that I have a "vested interest" in the disability system, that is not accurate. I do receive a retirement check for the time I served in the Fire Bureau however I am completely separated from the disability system. Therefore, I have no vested interest in the system whether it exists or not.

    Commissioner Sten and I have identified a huge cost factor in the disability system that if corrected would move at least 50% of those injured firefighters and police officers off the disability roles existing jobs within the city that does not aggravate their injuries. Contrary to what some may think of the harshness of such a plan, it is common in the private sector and most public sector jobs.

  • Steve (unverified)

    Mr Leonard - I think by vested, he meant someone who gets money out of the fund which is both disability and pension, neither of which are constructed to be funded by contributions. As long as you are a trustee, you would control both sides of the fund.

    The pension side of the fund is also way-underfunded unless you can make a case that your previous contributions would throw off the pension you receive. Hence the property tax contribution to make up the diff in your pension.

    In addition, due to your history and relationship with numerous beneficiaries of the fund your ability to be able to remain objective, on the surface, seems difficult. Since the fund seems in trouble, perhaps some fresh faces withour history may be able to turn it around easier?

  • ron ledbury (unverified)

    Randy, liberty interests are quite varied, and includes asking for handouts on an off ramp or asking for signatures in Pioneer Courthouse Square, or seeking employment with whomever one chooses.

    The authority of the city of Portland to restrict the future choice of employer by those who have been injured while serving the city as a firefighter simply cannot be conditioned upon waiver of their claims that they were injured. You could remove the word "disability" from the Portland Fire and Police Disability and Retirement Fund so as to remove any misunderstanding, so as to declare that there is no disability coverage whatsoever.

    A non-compete agreement is an example of a contractual restriction placed on future work. But those types of contractual restrictions, restrictions on liberty, have been found invalid unless limited by something like geography or time. It would also be odd to allow someone to work elsewhere but to cough up the fruits of their labor to another . . . or otherwise be a slave (hum, as is now the case for linking compensation for injuries to future work).

    I really do want to see the legal advice that says something different. It is no fun arguing with you on the point. I need a lawyer's name and their official opinion so that I can mock them and their opinion instead, in public. You can plead ignorance too easily and it is considered acceptable behavior by a mere commissioner.

    Imagine if we had an Elected City Attorney position that took my position and refused to deny disability payments that are so conditioned as per your charter reform plan? (Hum, is that a link to a petition in need of 26,000 plus signatures?) Imagine that you could not fire them on a whim? Imagine it were me and that I wanted the same power to remedy public corruption as that now delegated to the District Attorney but which he fails to use.

  • Randy Leonard (unverified)

    Ron- I have received no legal opinion on the position I have taken to put injured firefighters and police officers back to work. As far as I know, neither has anyone else.

    I am not sure I understand your focus on whether putting injured back to work is legal or not. It is a very, very common practice to require an injured worker to work in a limited duty capacity while they recover from their injuries.

    Requiring this of injured police and fire personnel is not breaking new legal ground.

  • ron ledbury (unverified)

    Here is a link to a seemingly routine case. Ligatich v. Liberty Northwest Insurance Corporation and City of Lake Oswego, A113167.

    Bear in mind the focus on compensable "injury;" the injury itself, and whether it is compensable. The case touches on medical testimony and new injury versus aggravation of an old injury and the affect of an old settlement that was replaced with a new settlement. It is a nice big mess of interrelated issues, and has a private insurer to boot, one that has contracted with a city.

    If Portland can, consistent with its' law making authority, refuse to pay an otherwise compensable injury solely based on the injured party's refusal to accept a city offered light duty position then the City of Lake Oswego could include a nearly identical restriction within a future contract with Liberty Northwest Insurance. That is, the City of Lake Oswego could contract with Liberty to offer light duty positions to injured firefighters. It is the same public purpose thing involved there in the private contract as when a city such as Portland self-insures. Yet, imagine a case of a contract dispute between Liberty and Lake Oswego that centers exclusively upon whether the city has refused to make a light duty position available and Liberty claims that they are thus excused from making any payment to a disabled party because the city has not met the terms of the contract with Liberty.

    I hope that you would not believe that such a private insurance contract could possibly result in an entity such as Liberty obtaining a court order upon a city to make available, against its will, light duty jobs. What a fine mess that would make to normal hiring procedures.

    As far as Liberty would be concerned, the entire set of issues in the Ligatich case, and countless other similar situations, could be almost fully replaced by a single question. "Were you offered a light duty job that did not risk aggravation of prior injury, and did you refuse that offer?" If yes, then the matter is closed and all that other stuff which consumes so much space in court opinions can be swept away as irrelevant and immaterial.

    Like I said (in the other thread) how much money could the City of Portland pay to an outside firm to obtain disability coverage? If it is zero, then could the City of Lake Oswego simply eliminate their own contract with Liberty Northwest, by offering light duty jobs too? Or, as I tend to believe, the outside contracts would continue but entities such as Liberty will simply become more profitable, at the direct expense of the individual liberty interests of injured firefighters.

    At a minimum it offers a new potential route for corruption. So, do you want to voluntarily leap in to act as the test case for the proposition, a new proposition, that the government can get away with nothing more than just offering a light duty position rather than compensating someone for their on the job injury?

    Perhaps you might ask certain well-known lobbyists how your position might affect the perennial battle between Liberty and SAIF. And to think you have the audacity to claim not to need legal advice on the matter. Humor me, will ya, while I wait for a heavy-weight to stick their neck out.

  • KC (unverified)

    The article in the Oregonian was a hatchet job. The personal information was a cheap shot and had nothing to do with the focus of the piece. The information was biased and incomplete. This is why I dropped my subscription to the Oregonian a long time ago. I agree, let's boycott the Oregonian. The Oregonian has an agenda and has had an agenda for many years.

    What the article demonstrated for me about Randy Leonard is that he is human. Twenty years ago things happened in his personal life and private relationships. I don't think any of us is qualified to judge him. We will never know what went on in their relationship, and frankly I don't want to know. I too have made mistakes, and I have learned from them. I think we should judge the man on what he is now. He held positions and he always worked as hard as he could for the positions he held. If I employ or elect someone to represent me, and they do, why would I censure them for that? Twenty years is a long time and I can tell you Portland in the 70's and 80's was a lot different than it is now.

    After reading all these posts, and I have just spent quite awhile doing so, I am disheartened by the ignorance and prejudice that I see. As far as PERS and private sector pensions go, I believe that the legislature has already corrected some of the worst issues with PERS and because of inflammatory articles by the Oregonian, ignorant people get all fired up again because they haven't a clue about what is true and what is rabble rousing by the Oregonian. I fail to understand why private sector businesses can screw their employees, steal their pensions, and those abused employees fight back by attacking anyone else who has a decent pension. Shouldn't we be fighting the private sector companies who refuse to work employees full time to avoid paying benefits? Don't you suppose that costs the taxpayers too? When a person is working 35 hours a week, has no benefits and is not making a living wage they go to the emergency room for treatment and who do you think subsidizes that expensive form of medical treatment? WE DO! Try to open your minds and see the rest of the story.

    I am a 30 year public employee. Nothing so exotic as fire fighting...I'm just a construction hack. I make a decent wage, I will probably be able to retire in a few years at about 70% of my current wages. Out of that it will cost me about $700.00 a month for medical insurance, something I am not willing to go without as I enter my 60's, and I'm tired of being attacked. Take a look at the city of Portland which has been budget cutting for years. Some bureaus have lost a third of their employees, not by layoff, but by attrition as vacancies weren't filled when folks retired or moved into the private sector. Our customers rightly demand a higher and higher level of service, but consistently refuse to pay for it. We continue to provide the service with fewer and fewer people. We take the abuse, we treat you much better than most private companies do, but no matter what we are the enemy. It gets very hard to be innovative and efficient when your budget is cut every year for five years, you have not replaced lost workers and your training budget is cut so low that you have difficulty even meeting the state or federally mandated certification renewal needs of your employees, while you receive no respect from your customers even when you go well beyond what most private sector companies would do.

    Randy, unlike many people who posted here, I have continued to read your proposals regarding the pension and disability fund. It is obvious that you are using your knowledge of the system to find the right solution for it's problems. It doesn't affect me directly, but I respect the effort you are making. I have also been watching your moves since taking over the Water Bureau and will continue to watch with interest. Now that there has been a complete change in leadership, I hope to see big changes in that organization. The people, the workers, are good. They are committed, and intelligent. They have had piss poor management for years, and I am sure they are anxious to move forward again after all these years of poor managment. Good luck to you.

  • Randy Leonard (unverified)

    Thank you very much. I deeply appreciate your kind words.

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