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Change to public employee annuities spurs exodus in Porter County

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A northwestern Indiana judge will lose a combined 67 years of experience this month when all three of his employees retire.

Porter Superior Court Judge Roger Bradford's executive assistant, bailiff and court reporter all are retiring Aug. 29, partly to avoid reductions in the amount of money they'll receive from their public employee retirement plan annuities, The (Munster) Times reported Sunday.

Executive assistant Julie Powell said she and her co-workers on Bradford's staff must leave now to avoid watching the returns on the annuity portions of their retirement plans fall from a guaranteed 7.5 percent to lower market-based rates under changes the Indiana Public Retirement System made nearly a year ago to reduce the possibility of unfunded liabilities.

The upcoming losses proved incentive enough to persuade the three court staffers to follow through on retirement plans even after Bradford surprised them by opting to seek a sixth term, which he'll begin in January.

"We said, 'Hey, we're in the mindset to go now,'" Powell said.

The Indiana Lawyer wrote about the pending change to the guaranteed interest rate in May.  Effective Oct. 1, the Indiana Public Retirement System will reduce the guaranteed interest rate for workers who choose to annuitize investments in their annuity savings accounts. Employees covered by the Public Employees’ Retirement Fund have 3 percent of their salary invested in those accounts and may elect to invest a greater portion of their earnings.

But the interest rate the state previously guaranteed on those annuities has proved to be unsustainable. NPRS says the change was needed because Americans are living longer and guaranteed rates of return on investment have fallen. The change has prompted units of government to alert workers about how their retirement benefits may be affected.

The loss of retirement money affects not just state and local government employees, but teachers as well. While there's no mass exodus among educators, some are calling it quits to avoid losing any money on their self-funded annuities. Teachers Dave Kenning and Judy Commers are retiring this year from the Porter County Career Center, taking with them more than 60 years of combined experience and institutional knowledge, said Jon Groth, the school's director.

Officials at the Indiana Public Retirement System project about 9,700 retirements in 2014 from the PERF and the Teachers Retirement Fund.

Porter County government is losing a total of 12 employees, including Porter County Treasurer Mike Bucko and County Highway Department Supervisor Al Hoagland.

Porter County Auditor Bob Wichlinski said he was unsure how many, if any, of the posts, will be left vacant in light of the County Council's call on departments in the financially strapped county to reduce their proposed budgets by 10 percent for next year.

The Porter County Public Library System is losing three employees to the PERF change, Director Jim Cline said. That's just 5 percent of the 60 full-time employees, but two of the three have worked for the library system for more than 22 years, he said.

The Valparaiso Police Department suffered a similar loss when an administrative assistant retired due to the PERF change and took 28 years of experience with her, Clerk-Treasurer Sharon Swihart said.

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  1. Falk said “At this point, at this minute, we’ll savor this particular victory.” “It certainly is a historic week on this front,” Cockrum said. “What a delight ... “Happy Independence Day to the women of the state of Indiana,” WOW. So we broke with England for the right to "off" our preborn progeny at will, and allow the processing plant doing the dirty deeds (dirt cheap) to profit on the marketing of those "products of conception." I was completely maleducated on our nation's founding, it would seem. (But I know the ACLU is hard at work to remedy that, too.)

  2. congratulations on such balanced journalism; I also love how fetus disposal affects women's health protection, as covered by Roe...

  3. It truly sickens me every time a case is compared to mine. The Indiana Supreme Court upheld my convictions based on a finding of “hidden threats.” The term “hidden threat” never appeared until the opinion in Brewington so I had no way of knowing I was on trial for making hidden threats because Dearborn County Prosecutor F Aaron Negangard argued the First Amendment didn't protect lies. Negangard convened a grand jury to investigate me for making “over the top” and “unsubstantiated” statements about court officials, not hidden threats of violence. My indictments and convictions were so vague, the Indiana Court of Appeals made no mention of hidden threats when they upheld my convictions. Despite my public defender’s closing arguments stating he was unsure of exactly what conduct the prosecution deemed to be unlawful, Rush found that my lawyer’s trial strategy waived my right to the fundamental error of being tried for criminal defamation because my lawyer employed a strategy that attempted to take advantage of Negangard's unconstitutional criminal defamation prosecution against me. Rush’s opinion stated the prosecution argued two grounds for conviction one constitutional and one not, however the constitutional true threat “argument” consistently of only a blanket reading of subsection 1 of the intimidation statute during closing arguments, making it impossible to build any kind of defense. Of course intent was impossible for my attorney to argue because my attorney, Rush County Chief Public Defender Bryan Barrett refused to meet with me prior to trial. The record is littered with examples of where I made my concerns known to the trial judge that I didn’t know the charges against me, I did not have access to evidence, all while my public defender refused to meet with me. Special Judge Brian Hill, from Rush Superior Court, refused to address the issue with my public defender and marched me to trial without access to evidence or an understanding of the indictments against me. Just recently the Indiana Public Access Counselor found that four over four years Judge Hill has erroneously denied access to the grand jury audio from my case, the most likely reason being the transcription of the grand jury proceedings omitted portions of the official audio record. The bottom line is any intimidation case involves an action or statement that is debatably a threat of physical violence. There were no such statements in my case. The Indiana Supreme Court took partial statements I made over a period of 41 months and literally connected them with dots… to give the appearance that the statements were made within the same timeframe and then claimed a person similarly situated would find the statements intimidating while intentionally leaving out surrounding contextual factors. Even holding the similarly situated test was to be used in my case, the prosecution argued that the only intent of my public writings was to subject the “victims” to ridicule and hatred so a similarly situated jury instruction wouldn't even have applied in my case. Chief Justice Rush wrote the opinion while Rush continued to sit on a committee with one of the alleged victims in my trial and one of the judges in my divorce, just as she'd done for the previous 7+ years. All of this information, including the recent PAC opinion against the Dearborn Superior Court II can be found on my blog www.danbrewington.blogspot.com.

  4. On a related note, I offered the ICLU my cases against the BLE repeatedly, and sought their amici aid repeatedly as well. Crickets. Usually not even a response. I am guessing they do not do allegations of anti-Christian bias? No matter how glaring? I have posted on other links the amicus brief that did get filed (search this ezine, e.g., Kansas attorney), read the Thomas More Society brief to note what the ACLU ran from like vampires from garlic. An Examiner pledged to advance diversity and inclusion came right out on the record and demanded that I choose Man's law or God's law. I wonder, had I been asked to swear off Allah ... what result then, ICLU? Had I been found of bad character and fitness for advocating sexual deviance, what result then ICLU? Had I been lifetime banned for posting left of center statements denigrating the US Constitution, what result ICLU? Hey, we all know don't we? Rather Biased.

  5. It was mentioned in the article that there have been numerous CLE events to train attorneys on e-filing. I would like someone to provide a list of those events, because I have not seen any such events in east central Indiana, and since Hamilton County is one of the counties where e-filing is mandatory, one would expect some instruction in this area. Come on, people, give some instruction, not just applause!

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