Ohio STRS Critic Eyes Board Seat

March 10, 2004 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Dennis Leone has thrown his hat into the political arena, announcing plans to run for a seat on the Ohio State Teachers Retirement System's (STRS) board of directors.

The Chillicothe schools superintendent made a name for himself last year when he opened the Pandora’s box of lavish spending at the pension fund.   Leone’s questions in turn led to a massive probe into the $47 billion fund’s spending practices that turned up such questionable spending practices as a $94.2-million office building adorned with $869,000 in artwork, generous fringe benefits for STRS employees, and frequent out-of-state travel for pension board members (See  Ohio Pension Fund Hit for Lavish Spending Practices ) , according to a Gannett News Service report.

Later, Leone sent to the Ohio Retirement Study Council – and to every superintendent and principal in the state – a 13-page report outlining more than 30 proposed changes to the STRS board (See STRS Spending Critic Offers Recommendations ) .  The Ohio Retirement Study Council oversees the state’s public pension funds.

His revelations led to the dismissal of STRS executive director Herbert Dyer (See Dyer Steps Down From Ohio STRS Post ), prompted a series of internal policy changes, and pushed lawmakers to work on revising oversight of state pension boards.

Now the superintendent wants to affect change from the inside out, eyeing the retired teacher seat on the STRS board.   This would be possible for Leone who announced his plans to retire in December, following ongoing disputes with the local school board.   The planned retirement would make Leone eligible for the seat in the 2005 board election. Additionally, there is currently a legislative proposal that would add a second retiree seat to the six-member board.