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Press Release 6.24.16

June 24, 2016

Contact: John Bouder, 570-490-1042, john@fairnesscenter.org
 

Allentown Ghost Teachers Lose Illegal Pension Credits
PSERS Revokes Retirement Credits from Current, Former Union Presidents

June 24, 2016, HARRISBURG, Pa.—The Public School Employees’ Retirement System (PSERS) has revoked pension credits illegally awarded since 2001 to the current and former presidents of the Allentown Education Association (AEA), who remained on school district payroll while working full-time for the local teachers’ union.

The decision comes in response to a lawsuit filed by the Fairness Center on behalf of Allentown taxpayers Scott Armstrong and Steven Ramos, challenging the use of taxpayer dollars to pay the salary and benefits of the union president.

“We are pleased that PSERS is poised to return the money that rightfully belongs to the district and to taxpayers,” commented Karin Sweigart, assistant general counsel of the Fairness Center. “Common sense says employees of a private organization should not be eligible for a taxpayer funded salary, benefits, and retirement credit.”

Click here to read the PSERS brief.

PSERS has also requested information on AEA presidents since 1992 to determine if additional credits were illegally awarded, according to the brief.

Documents from current AEA president Debra Tretter and former president Melvin Riddick indicate PSERS has revoked a total of $76,891.93 and may be in the process of returning that money to the district. Additionally, the documents note PSERS has concluded that more than $1,000,000 in compensation for Tretter and Riddick does not qualify for retirement credit under current law.

“Allentown residents shouldn’t be paying for ghost teachers who leave the classroom for years on end to work for the union,” Sweigart continued. “This is a first step toward restoring taxpayers’ money that’s been illegally diverted to fund a private organization’s employees.”

Since 2000, Allentown taxpayers have paid more than $1.3 million for the salary and benefits of the full-time union president. The Fairness Center’s lawsuit asks the court to require the AEA to reimburse the district for salary and benefit costs since 2000 and to declare the practice of ghost teaching unconstitutional.

The Plaintiffs

Scott Armstrong served as a member of the Allentown School Board from 2011-2015. He is self-employed and lives in Allentown. Steven Ramos is an Allentown taxpayer and graduate of Allentown School District’s William Allen High School. Both Armstrong’s and Ramos’ children previously attended district schools.

Ramos and Armstrong object to the AEA’s practice of siphoning taxpayer dollars from the financially struggling district for union use.

Case documents

Karin Sweigart is available for comment today. Please contact John Bouder at 570-490-1042 or john@fairnesscenter.org to schedule an interview.

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The Fairness Center is a nonprofit, public interest law firm offering free legal services to those facing unjust treatment from public employee union leaders. For more information visit www.FairnessCenter.org.