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Fresno Unified Retirees’ Association

FURA Newsletter

July 2010

STATUS UPDATE

As you may know, on March 5, 2010, at the conclusion of the hearing on the retirees' Motion for Writ of Mandate, Judge Donald R. Franson, Jr., of the Fresno County Superior Court ruled that the Fresno Unified School District is no longer allowed to charge premiums, fees or other periodic contributions to retirees who receive district-paid health benefits (who retired on or before April 17, 2006).

On April 22, 2010, the Court entered a written judgment confirming that the District cannot make premium charges to retirees. The Judgment ordered the District to reinstate the benefit for class-member retirees, and make these retirees whole for premiums and fees that they have paid, plus interest. Along with the Judgment, the Court issued a Statement of Decision. This Statement set forth the Court's explanation of its Judgment and outlined the retirees' evidence on which the Court relied in reaching its decision.

The Statement of Decision holds that: "Retirees' evidence proved that in 1976 and 1977, the Fresno Unified School District and labor unions representing nearly all of its employees, agreed on these district-paid health benefits, which Retirees have referred to throughout this litigation as the 'Promise.' The District then extended this promise to the FUSD's non-unionized employees, such as managers, supervisors and confidential secretaries."

The Statement then goes on to find nearly every argument and factual assertion put forth by Retirees: the District used this Promise to recruit and retain employees for the duration of their careers; the District used the Promise to explain its inability to offer larger pay increases during labor negotiations; that active employees always paid premiums, but retirees did not; and that the District reaffirmed its Promise to retiring employees at is "exit interviews."

The Statement holds that "overwhelming evidence" supported the Retirees' claim. It states that the Court's finding was based, in part, on the District's collective bargaining agreements, health pamphlets, the declarations provided to FURA by the District's past superintendents, and other administrators, statements made by District recruiters and the recorded statement made by the District's benefits director at an early retirement meeting in 1996.

The Statement held that the Promise was deferred compensation, "earned by employees for services rendered," and that such compensation is protected by the California and U.S. Constitutions. The Statement also held that the evidence established the necessary elements for FURA's other claims, equitable and promissory estoppel.

A copy of this Statement is available at FURA's website, .

The Court's Judgment is now final. On June 2, 2010, the Fresno Unified School District Board voted unanimously at their open meeting to not appeal the Court's ruling. The District's statutory deadline for appealing the ruling has passed, and ruling is final. (The District's strict and unmovable deadline for appealing the Judgment was June 21, 2010.)

Soon, FUSD and FURA will send a letter to everyone in our class (those who retired prior to April 17, 2006) notifying them that premiums are no longer required. The letter also will provide updates on the next steps in this litigation. These next steps include the District, FURA and the Court determining both the issue of attorney’s fees for FURA’s attorneys, and how much money and interest is owed to each Retiree. This process is ongoing, and we do not know when it will be complete.

We do know that this issue will not be completed before the Court hearing on attorney’s fees on September 10, 2010. The District and FURA are working to resolve the matter of reimbursement as soon as possible, but cannot complete this task prior to the hearing, as it may impact the District’s and FURA’s calculations.

The hearing on Retirees' Motion for Attorney's Fees and Costs will be held on September 10, 2010, at 9:00 a.m. in Department 97D of the Fresno County Superior Court courthouse at 2317 Tuolumne Street, between M and N streets. As always, we strongly encourage all FURA members and retirees to attend.

By Robert J. Bezemek, FURA Legal Counsel


FURA GENERAL MEMBERSHIP MEETING SEPTEMBER 9, 2010

12:30 PM - 3:30 PM

THE RETIRED TEACHERS MEMORIAL BUILDING (3930 E Saginaw Way, Fresno)


WANT VISION INSURANCE?

FURA Steering Committee member Lynn Freeman has researched the issue of District Vision Insurance with VSP. Please review the following:

! FUSD currently allows retirees who retired AFTER January 1, 2009, to purchase VSP Vision Insurance for $7 per retiree or $14 per couple per month

! This is the same plan current FUSD employees receive with their benefit package

! FUSD refuses to allow retirees who retired BEFORE January 1, 2009, to purchase VSP Vision Insurance

! FUSD personnel acknowledge that the District does not spend or lose any money if all retirees were able to purchase the insurance

! FURA is determining interest from those interested in purchasing VSP Insurance

! If you and/or your spouse are interested in purchasing VSP Insurance at the District's current rate of $7 per month per person enrolled, please email FURA President Carole Sarkisian-Bonard at czsarki45@aol.com or by leaving a message at 559.970.0615.

! Please indicate your interest in purchasing VSP Insurance by August 30, 2010.**

! FURA leaders and its legal team will contact the FUSD Board of Education to discuss the feasibility of ALL retirees to purchase VSP Insurance.

! It is FURA's understanding that the FUSD Board of Education did not vote on the issue of who may or may not purchase the VSP insurance

! It is FURA's understanding that the Administrative Services Division (Business Division of FUSD) determined who may or may not purchase the VSP Insurance

** Please note that an indication of interest of purchasing VSP Insurance does not obligate anyone to enroll or purchase the insurance. FURA must have an indication of the total number of FURA members/spouses who are interested before we begin dialogue with the FUSD Board of Education.


TREASURER’S MESSAGE

A hearty "THANK YOU" to the 1200+ FUSD retirees that, since January 2005, have donated the funds to FURA that has made possible our victory in preserving our vested health benefits. This victory would not have been possible without the support of each of you!!

BUT – ARE WE DONE YET?

! We don’t as yet have an absolute end date when all will be completed.

! We don’t know if FURA will have to pay additional attorney and /or other fees.

! We don’t know if FURA will continue to ask you for more money.

! We don’t know if FURA will be reimbursed for attorney fees by FUSD.

! We don’t know if FURA is still honor bound to continue paying attorney and/or other fees.

! We don’t know if FURA will be reimbursed for FURA newsletter and meeting costs.

! We don’t know if FURA will be made ‘whole’ as will FUSD retirees that have made premium payments.

 

And now for the rest of the story — Are you one of the over 2200 FUSD retirees that have NOT YET contributed? Well, now is the time to at least pay for receiving the newsletters! 

SEND DONATIONS TO:

FURA
P O BOX 1717
CLOVIS, CA 93613

Barbara Thomas, Treasurer


MARK CALENDARS FOR THE NEXT COURT HEARING

On Friday, September 10, 2010, a hearing related to FURA's request for attorney fees and court costs. The hearing is scheduled for 9:00 A.M. at Civil Court House, Tuolumne & M Streets. Remember that these hearings are sometimes rescheduled. In the unlikely event that rescheduling happens, be sure to check the FURA Website: OR telephone Carole Sarkisian-Bonard at 559-970-0615 for updates.


T – H – A – N – K – S

How does one express gratitude and thanks to so many people who so diligently contributed to FURA’s cause over these last five years. Words will not be adequate to show appropriate thanks for the hours of concentrated effort that so many of you so graciously contributed to the success of our cause, but one must try!

T Stands for the time you spent in searching personal files, gathering and forwarding information, making personal contacts, volunteering time to various tasks, attending FURA meetings, stuffing envelopes, giving depositions, keeping faith in this cause, and contributing hard earned retirement dollars to keep the process moving.

H Stands for a hard fought victory. We had the benefit of the best legal counsel in this state, if not in this country. If not for the efforts of Robert Bezemek and his legal team this case would have ended much sooner and to our detriment. Bob and his team were brilliant in our defense as was demonstrated the many times our team presented in front of Judge Franson.

A Stands for the positive attitude that permeated this process and the encouragement all of you supplied throughout this prolonged case. It was a "can do" because it is the "right thing to do" attitude that kept the process moving and on track even when situations seemed bleak and undoable. I hope you all understand how your words of encouragement spoke volumes to our committee and legal team.

N Stands for national precedence in case law. This case will be cited in future decisions affecting retiree’s lifetime health benefits. The number of employees across this land who will benefit from this victory would be hard to calculate. Many will rest in the knowledge that if it were not for Fresno’s case they would be forced to pay out of pocket for legally earned health benefits. Your persistence and support helped to make this case winnable.

K Stands for keeping faith in this elongated endeavor. It is hard to imagine how anyone could endure for five years, yet your support never wavered. When meetings were called, court appearances scheduled, requests for help in completing tasks, you were there to give of your time, experience and expertise to whatever was required.

S Stands for sincerity of our appreciation. As was stated in the beginning, words would not be adequate to express our gratitude, but on behalf of FURA and the Steering Committee we say THANKS to all who helped secure this victory. Let us continue to be vigilant and grateful as we celebrate together. YOU WON!

Sincerely, FURA Steering Committee


NOTICE TO THOSE WHO RETIRED AFTER APRIL 17, 2006

If you, or someone you know, retired AFTER April 17, 2006, and want to join other retirees in our FURA 2 group, please contact Cathy Franzell. Phone: 559-298-4606 (OR) Email: cathyfranzell@yahoo.com.

Cathy has a data base of over 105 FUSD retirees who retired after April 17, 2006, and therefore not a part of FURA's successful class action lawsuit. It is important to organize now and make our voices heard to the FUSD Board of Education. Each one of us has the same promise from FUSD when we were hired and we served loyally for decades often going without raises to assist the District. The premium free lifetime health benefit is deferred compensation and earned by vested retirees meeting the l6 years of service and retiring at age 571/2.

Telephone or email Cathy now!


WHAT IS FURA 2?

Since Judge Franson ruled that the FURA class action lawsuit applied to all FUSD retirees who retired prior to April 17, 2006, FURA II was formed. FURA 2 retirees were given the same promise by FUSD concerning lifetime health care premium free benefit. The retiree health benefits are a long standing vested right of the District's retirees and earned by the retirees through many loyal decades of devoted service. The District promised to pay the cost of premiums for retirees' health care and this should apply to all vested retires.

I have been contacted by more than 100 retirees who have voiced a commitment to seek an equitable solution as was determined by the successful FURA class action lawsuit. A FURA II organizational meeting will be held in early September. Specific information regarding date, time and place will be provided. Please email me at cathyfranzell@yahoo.com or telephone at 559.298.4606. A tentative date for our organizational meeting will be September 9, 2010, at 1:30 pm at the Retired Teachers Memorial Building on Saginaw Way across from Centennial Elementary.

 

Sincerely,
Cathy Franzell
559-298-4606

 

 

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