The OPRI Litigation Fund
The problem that motivated OPRI founders was a decision by the Legislature to tax the pensions of retirees from the Oregon Public Employees Retirement System. The founders believed that decision violated a contract with PERS members. On July 19, 1991, the OPRI board and a group of other retirees met at the Sollis home to discuss the taxation of PERS pensions that began as a result of a legal decision stemming from a case that began in Michigan and ended in the U.S. Supreme Court.
As a result of that July meeting, the Oregon PERS Retirees Litigation Fund (OPRLF) was formed. Ed Hunter, a retired assistant state highway engineer,was its first chairman. Other OPRLF board members were Bill Hughes, retired from state forestry, and Ted deLooze, retired state assistant attorney general. (Current OPRLF boardmembers are noted on the “Legal Fund” link.)
The Oregon Supreme Court ultimately agreed with OPRLF’s argument on taxation of pension benefits, but it took nearly six years before the Legislature responded to the court’s decision. Sollis and and Ed Hunter kept the pressure on until the Legislature finally acted to help offset the tax bite in retiree pensions. . OPRLF had raised over $531,000 through OPRI member contributions to pursue this issue.
Through its Litigation Fund, several other court battles have been won on behalf of public agency retirees. The most recent significant example came when the Supreme Court concluded that OPRI and other petitioners were entitled to recover attorney fees involved in the Strunk/Sartain cases. Those cases stemmed from 2003 legislation that would have withheld COLAs from recent retirees. The court ultimately restored the COLAs and then awarded more than $535,000 to OPRLF in attorney fees. In January 2008, OPRLF, as promised in court, began to refund money left after paying all legal fees incurred in those cases. The refund process ended in June 2008. Refunds went to contributors who requested that their contributions be refunded. Many of the estimated 2500 contributors chose not to seek a refund so money remained in the litigation fund, available to help fund current and future lawsuits as needed. The cases that are still ongoing are described on the What’s Happening – News page. (Updated June 12, 2013.)