David K. Harker resigned under pressure as chairman of the $8.2 billion Ohio Police & Fire Pension Fund, Columbus, a position he held only since June. Robert Beck, a Cleveland police officer and vice chairman of the board, automatically succeeded Mr. Harker as chairman. He will serve out the rest of the one-year term.
Mr. Harker, who had been a trustee since 1996, resigned after a Dayton newspaper reported that the fund spent more than $612,000 in trustee travel and expenses since 1998, including $144,617 by Mr. Harker and $108,492 by Mr. Beck, both elected trustees. Mr. Harker, a Dayton firefighter, said in his letter of resignation that he made his decision "after hours of personal struggle and reflection." Mr. Harker previously served as chairman in 1999-2000.
The Franklin County prosecutor office, Columbus, and the state ethics commission are conducting several reviews, looking at Messrs. Harker and Beck as well as Thomas Bennett, another elected trustee who is a Dayton police officer, and reviewing the board as a whole, said William J. Estabrook, executive director of the police & fire fund. "They asked us to produce documents and we're cooperating," Mr. Estabrook said. He doesn't know the extent of the reviews.
H. Ritchey Hollenbaugh, Mr. Harker's attorney with Carlile Patchen & Murphy LLP, Columbus, wasn't available to comment.
The elected members of the nine-member board, under law, will appoint a successor trustee for the remainder of Mr. Hacker's term, which expires in June. The elected members will consider the issue Sept. 30. Six members are elected; the other members are the state attorney general, state auditor and a fiscal officer of a state municipality appointed as trustee by the governor.
State Sen. Lynn R. Wachtmann, chairman of the Ohio Retirement Study Council, will introduce legislation that could overhaul the structure of the five state pension funds. Consolidation of the five funds, composition of the boards of trustees and expenses will be part of the legislation. Bethany Rhodes, legislative aide, expects the bill to be introduced in about a week. The council oversees the state pension systems, assisting the Legislature, governor and other public officials in the formation of public pension policy.