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Former state senator appointed to board overseeing Omaha Public Schools pension fund

Former state senator appointed to board overseeing Omaha Public Schools pension fund

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A former state senator has been appointed to the board overseeing the Omaha Public Schools pension fund.

On Monday night, the OPS board voted to appoint Patrick Bourne to serve as a trustee for the Omaha School Employees’ Retirement System, or OSERS. Bourne’s term is for four years.

Bourne will replace Donald Erikson, who has been a trustee since 2007. Erikson, who serves as president of the OSERS trustees, chose not to seek re-appointment.

Bourne represented Omaha in the Nebraska Legislature for eight years starting in 1999. In his application to the school board, Bourne noted that he served on the Retirement Committee for all eight years working with state retirement plans.

“For OPS to excel, it needs good teachers and staff,” Bourne wrote. “I am concerned that smart young teachers and staff might not go to work for OPS due to concerns with the pension. A sound retirement plan will help lead to a secure, content workforce that will ensure that OPS students succeed.”

The OSERS board has seven members: two outside business representatives, four staff representatives and the district superintendent. The staff representatives are elected by their class of employees, including one current retiree. The two business representatives on the board, including Bourne, are chosen by the school board.

A staff representative, Lance Purdy, is retiring this summer and someone has been appointed to complete his term, which ends in 2022. Purdy had been a trustee since 2003. Purdy will be replaced by Faith Johnson, who teaches math and social studies at Nathan Hale Middle School.

Another trustee, Roger Rea, won an election in May and will keep his seat on the board. Rea has been on the board since 2001.

Other trustees include Delayne Havlovic, on the board since 2015; Matthew Placzek, elected in 2019; and Scott Herchenbach, appointed by the school board in 2019.

Last year, a World-Herald investigation revealed that mismanagement and bad investment decisions by OSERS cost the school district hundreds of millions of dollars.

The paper’s investigation revealed that trustees bailed heavily on the stock market amid the 2008 market crash, locking in big losses. They proceeded to move much of those funds into atypical and exotic investments such as real estate in India and oil in Kazakhstan, many of which proved big losers.

The paper also revealed cozy relationships between OSERS leaders and the firms they did business with, as well as potential conflicts of interest related to the fund’s longtime financial adviser, Connecticut-based Atlantic Asset Management. Atlantic persuaded the OSERS leaders to invest more than half the fund’s $1.2 billion in assets directly with Atlantic or with other firms tied to Atlantic. Those firms collected millions in fees on often poor investments.

The World-Herald calculated that bad decisions and mismanagement by OSERS officials cost the pension fund some $500 million, a figure that could grow as the fund remains locked into millions of dollars in poor investments.Omaha zoo’s first weekend open since closing amid coronavirus

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Emily covers K-12 education, including Omaha Public Schools. Previously, Emily covered local government and the Nebraska Legislature for The World-Herald. Follow her on Twitter @emily_nitcher. Phone: 402-444-1192.

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