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Try the New VCCCDRA Blog: blog.vcccdra.org

 

The new VCCCDRA Blog is ready for use.  Just type blog.vcccdra.org in the address bar at the top of your browser to access it.  Some browsers may require you to write www.blog.vcccdra.org, or even the full address of http://www.blog.vcccdra.org.  Most browsers, particularly if they have been recently updated should work with the simplest address form.  (For your convenience, you can access the blog by clicking on any of the underlined highlighted links.  To return here, click on the back arrow at the top left side of the browser)

 

Retirees most recently and for some time now have focused their attention on healthcare and healthcare related topics, and understandably so.  The speakers and panels at our Annual General Meetings have focused on healthcare related topics.  So it is small wonder that the first article in the VCCCDRA Blog takes on a healthcare related issue that has been of great interest to many retirees.

 

This blog has been created for the benefit of retirees.  Retirees and their families, friends, associates and colleagues who care about retirees should consider it their blog for the benefit and enlightenment of retirees.  It is in its infant form.   Feel free to suggest ways to make it better.  You can do this by writing a comment at the bottom of the page.  You can also comment on the article, or on anything you consider relevant that might prove helpful to retirees reading this blog.  Hope to see you and hear from you at blog.vcccdra.org!

The VCCCDRA to Sponsor a Blog for Use by Retirees

A blog for use by VCCCDRA retirees is now being tested and is in the process of being completed.  The word "blog" derives from the word "weblog" the use of which can vary depending on its intended purpose.  The basic structure of a blog consists of the publishing of articles giving readers an opportunity to participate by allowing them to comment on the articles.  This opens up the opportunity for readers to enter into a dialogue with the authors of the articles.  In this case, retirees can respond to articles written by fellow retirees (or local experts) on subjects of interest to retirees.  It is a further attempt tomake sure that lines of communication among retirees are opened up and maximized. 

Medicare, Anyone?

Anthem/Blue Cross is currently sponsoring presentations on "Medicare 101" which may be of some interest to Tier 1 and Tier 2 retirees and of more than passing interest to Tier 3 and Tier 4 retirees.  (See a brief explanation of Tiers on the Members Page of this website).  The April 26, 2017 presentation featured Jacqueline Ramirez, a fulltime Anthem/Blue Cross employee who specializes on all things Medicare and explains in her presentation who qualifies for it, how and when you can enroll in it, and what it costs to enroll in Parts A, B, C and D.  However, her main thrust is to help people better understand two products that Anthem/Blue Cross offers to Medicare enrollees, the Medicare Supplement and Medicare Advantage. If you have any questions for Jacqui, she can be reached at 818-468-4557 888-468-4557, or by emailing her at jacqueline.ramirez@anthem.com or going to her microsite at www.anthemcaptiveca.com/ramirezj. (updated 6/21/17)

Lester Tong Honored at Ventura College

From left, Ventura College Foundation (VCF) Executive Director Norbert Tan, Honoree Lester Tong, VCF Board Chair Rob van Nieuwburg, and friend and former boss IT Associate Vice Chancellor Dave Fuhrmann

The tribute to Lester Tong at Ventura College on March 23, 2017 (described below) was very well attended including wife Mae and other family members, many friends including college and district staff, and retirees.  Retirees attending were Harry Culotta, Tom Bertolino, Karen de la Pena and yours truly Rene Rodriguez. 

Our Website, VCCCDRA.ORG, Updated, Finally!

After almost a two year hiatus (it's hard to believe it's been two years), I finally was able to bring our website, the vcccdra.org, up to date.  What happened?  First, my health began waning about three years ago.  I had to start looking into that until I got the issue resolved with heart surgery about a year later.  THEN, about a year ago, I upgraded to Windows 10, and the software I used to design and maintain the website, NetObjects Fusion 15, stopped working.  It wouldn't run on Windows 10. 

 

Meanwhile, I hoped that with the website in poor upkeep, that someone would complain and step up to take over as web master; that didn't happen.  HOWEVER,  a few months ago Lester Tong retired, and Marie Soo Hoo suggested that perhaps Lester might be willing to take over as web master.  TA DAH!  After meeting with Lester, as busy as his calendar is now, even as a retiree, Lester did, indeed, agree to take over the maintenance and updating of the VCCCDRA website.  Now, understand, that Lester is a retiree, and will be doing what many retirees like to do when they first retire... TRAVEL!  He and his wife Mae will soon be on their way to Asia, and points east, so it may be a while before he can direct some time to his new duties. 

 

With our next Annual General Meeting fast approaching, I felt it necessary to do what I could to bring our website up to date and give Lester a fair start at maintaining the website.  I found an old piece of software by Adobe, that I originally found too difficult to learn just to design and maintain a website.  Well, this old piece of software, Studio 8, which doesn't claim to be able to run on Windows 10, does run on Windows 10, and  I learned just enough to bring our website pretty much up to date.

 

I've enjoyed designing and working on the vcccdra.org website from its inception, and writing the articles for it.  I feel that it provides a good, reliable source of information for our retirees.  It also serves as our memory and a bit of history, and a repository of important documents, such as our Settlement Agreement, and copies of The Monitor, our newsletter, and pictures of our retirees.  It helps keep us in touch. 

 

So thank you, Lester, for taking over.  I'm sure you'll find it as rewarding an experience as I have.

 

Rene G. Rodriguez

Tribute to Lester Tong

 

Before anyone starts accusing Lester of tooting his own horn, every article below this point was written by the outgoing web master yours truly.  Since Lester has just retired (July 2016), and has joined our team (explained above), and has done something extraordinary (explained below), I think our retirees need to know what's been happening with Lester recently. 

 

You might say I've known Lester from the start, having sat on his hiring committee at the district office.  And over the years, many of us got to know Lester as a top notch IT guy, but one who wouldn't just get the job done without trying to unsettle you a little with a bit of his Tong humor before leaving.

 

Lester grew to be one of my favorite people.  Now a lot of generations of students are going to be grateful that Lester is the kind of person he is. 

 

Rene G. Rodriguez 

Visualization Center of the ASC Building Named After Retiree Lester Tong

 

Lester Tong, a recent retiree from Ventura College will be honored by naming the Visualization Center of the Applied Science Center (ASC) after his namesake. 

 

The community is cordially invited to attend the dedication on March 23 at 2:30 p.m. in Room 140 of the ASC Buliding.  The ASC Building is between the Learning Resource Building (Library) and Telegraph Road.

 

This 75-seat classroom utilizes a state-of-the-art 3-D dual rear projector system onto an 8' tall glass "touch screen" where the viewing audience wear powered 3-D glasses.  Come to the dedication and stay for the 3-D demonstration.

 

The Visualization Center Plaque will read:

      Lester Tong worked at the Ventura County Community College District Office and in the Information Technology department at Ventura College for over 30 years. He was dedicated to serving the campus and the community.  Retiring in 2016, Mr. Tong continues his devotion to service in Ventura County by volunteering at various non-profit organizations.

    The son of Cantonese immigrants, Lester became a first-generation college student, receiving his B.S. in Business Administration from Pacific Union College in 1971. Lester attributes his success in life to the education he received. He is grateful for an education which created many opportunities for him, including his career at Ventura College.  

    His passion for education inspired him to leave a lasting impact at Ventura College by creating an endowment for the Ventura College Promise, a program that covers the enrollment costs for the first year at Ventura College. 

    The District Board of Trustees unanimously authorized the naming of the Ventura College Visualization Center: The Lester Tong Visualization Center, dedicated on March 23, 2017.

 

(excerpted from an email from Harry Culotta)

Lester and Mae Tong Pledge $300,000 to the Ventura College Promise Program

 

Ventura College Foundation Executive Director Norbert Tan recently reported that Lester and his wife, Mae, pledged $300,000 to the Ventura College Promise, the largest individual gift pledged to the program since its inception. An initial gift of $10,000 was received and the remainder will be donated over a period of 10 years.

 

A formal gift agreement will follow. Chancellor Bernard Luskin, the Board of Trustees and the entire VCCCD family thank Lester and Mae Tong for their act of generosity and care for our students. “This will help us provide support for more students and moves us closer to expanding the program,” stated Ventura College President Greg Gillespie. “We can’t express our appreciation enough,” he added

 

(from Chancellor Bernie Luskin's Fall 2016 Newsletter)

LA FIESTA COMING IN SEPTEMBER

The VCCCD Retirees Association is pleased to announce that its annual social event, La Fiesta, is coming in September, and all VCCCD retirees, spouses, and guests are cordially invited.  Submit your reservation by September 17 to Pat Gage (see below).

The Fiesta will take place from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, September 27, 2012, at the Ventura TowneHouse, 4900 Telegraph Road, Ventura, across the street from Ventura College.  Appetizers served from 1:00 to 2:00 will include chips, salsa, and guacamole, plus beverages, including beer and wine.  The Mexican buffet from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. will feature enchiladas, fajitas, tostadas, beans, rice, salad and dessert. There will ample parking available on the premises.

This event is being coordinated by the Social Committee in cooperation with the Ventura Townehouse management team.  Members of the Social Committee include Patricia Gage,  Marie Soo Hoo, Tanya Burke, Norma Frisby, Marta Garza, Teri Lara, Doris MacTague, Sharon Newman, Bob Reeves, and Betty Sahota, with special assistance for La Fiesta provided by Kay Faulconer-Boger.

Reservations are required at $15 per person, and you may include up to four (4) guests.  Please fill out the bottom portion of the reservation form (see link), clip off and send in with your check payable to VCCCD Retirees Association.  Mail your reservation with check in time to arrive by Monday, September 17, to Patricia Gage, 427 Fernwood Drive, Oxnard, CA 93030.

La Fiesta is this year’s key fundraising and social event for your Association.  When you sign up for La Fiesta, you are not only helping your Association to stay strong, but you are also keeping the annual and lifetime dues affordable longer for your fellow retired colleagues.  Please join us on September 27 for an afternoon of fun and enjoyment!

Anthem Blue Cross Drops Hospitals as In-Network Providers

Active employees and retirees whose medical insurance carrier is Anthem Blue Cross need to know that, as of March 3, 2012, hospitals owned and operated by Hospital Corporation of America will not longer be in-network providers.  Those who use these hospitals as out-of-network providers are subject to a 30% copay for both inpatient and outpatient services.  In contrast, those who use in-network hospitals have no copay.

In California, five hospitals have dropped out of the network, and they consist of Regional Medical Center of San Jose, Good Samaritan Hospital (Santa Clara), Los Robles Regional Medical Center (Thousand Oaks), West Hills Hospital and Medical Center, and Riverside Community Hospital. 

There are still other in-network hospitals available to active employees and retirees.   In Ventura County, for example, Community Memorial Hospital (Ventura), Simi Valley Hospital, St. John’s Pleasant Valley Hospital (Camarillo), St. John’s Regional Medical Center (Oxnard), and Thousand Oaks Surgical Hospital are still Anthem Blue Cross in-network facilities.

California residents who need to find an in-network hospital in their community should use the Anthem Blue Cross online search tool.  Go to www.anthem.com/ca and in the far right column, click “Find a Doctor.”  In the drop-down menu, select “Hospitals and Facilities.”  In the box below the label “Location” type in your city, then select CA from the state drop-down menu.  Finally, in the drop-down menu below that, select the number of miles (“set search radius”) from your city, then click “Search.”  A list of in-network hospitals and other medical facilities will be displayed on another screen.

Retirees Hold First Annual Barbeque in Camarillo on October 11, 2011

More than 60 retirees and their spouses or significant others attended the first annual VCCCDRA barbeque on October 11, 2011 at Oak Grove Park in Camarillo.  Retirees were treated to the culinary expertise of Bob Reeves, ably assisted by Wally Soo Hoo.  They dined on barbequed tri-tip chicken, salads, desserts, and a variety of beverages.  Retirees also enjoyed renewing old acquaintances with former co-workers during the three-hour-long event.

The newly-formed Social Committee was responsible for planning and conducting the event.  Its members include Tanya Burke, Pat Gage, Marta Garza, Teri Lara, Doris MacTague, Bob Reeves, Betty Sahota, and Marie and Wally Soo Hoo.  The Committee has already begun work planning for the October 2012 barbeque. 

Photos from the barbeque can be found on this website by clicking on the “What’s New” tab, then sliding rightward to the tab “2011 BBQ.”

VCCCD Retirees’ Association Held Its Annual General Meeting on March 25, 2011

On March 25, 2011, the VCCCD Retirees Association held its annual meeting at the Ventura County Office of Education Conference Center in Camarillo from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m.  President Harry Culotta introduced the current officers of the VCCCDRA, both elected and appointed, and gave special recognition to the “magnificent seven” who have previously served as president:  Don Medley, George Lanning, Alicia Long, Orlene Bowers, John Woolley, Gary Johnson, and René Rodriguez. 

Keynote speakers from the Ventura Area Agency on Aging gave an informative and detailed Powerpoint presentation on the topic, “Long Term Care:  If You Need It, Can You Afford It?”  Their presentation included the costs of long term care, types of insurance policies available, and payment options.  Attendees also received a package of printed materials on long term care and related insurance information.

Attendees approved the minutes, received the treasurer’s report, and heard presentations from the chairs of the Benefits Committee, Membership Committee, and Political Committee.  Attendees also approved three minor revisions to Article V (Elections), Article X (Dissolution), and Article XI (Amendments) to the Association bylaws.  Finally, attendees were informed of an action by the Executive Board to approve “that age, defined by date of birth, be established as the primary criteria for priority reimbursement of excess costs if the Settlement Fund resources are insufficient to pay all claims (i.e. the oldes retirees’ claims will be paid first).”

Harry also announced the VCCCD Retirees Association is planning its first annual barbeque, which will be held in October at Oak Grove Park in Camarillo, and invited volunteers to serve on the new Social Committee to plan, schedule, and conduct the event.

The VCCCDRA Held is Annual General Meeting on March 3, 2010

The Annual General Meeting of the Ventura County Community College District Retirees’ Association was held on March 3 at the Ventura County Office of Education Conference Center in Camarillo.  Interim President Harry Culotta presided over the meeting.  Immediate Past President Rene Rodriguez and Benefits Committee Chair Gary Johnson thanked those responsible for crafting and supporting the court approved settlement agreement, which took almost five years to bring to a successful conclusion.  They went over the key elements of the settlement agreement, reviewed detailed accounting of the legal fund, and briefly discussed the reimbursement claims process for the year 2009-2010.  All attending members received a copy of the Membership Directory newly revised and brought up-to-date by Membership Chair Don Medley.  During the business section of the meeting, amendments to Article IV (Officers) and Article V (Elections) were approved, and the entire slate of nominations for officers presented by Nominations Committee Chair John Woolley were approved and all candidates were elected unanimously.  The new officers to begin their two year terms in July 1, 2010 are Harry Culotta, President; Gary Morgan, Vice-President; Marie Soo Hoo, Secretary, and Pat Gage, Treasurer.  Congratulations to our new officers! 

The Next Annual General Meeting of the VCCCDRA Scheduled for March 3, 2010

The next annual general meeting of the Ventura County Community College District Retirees’ Association will take place on Wednesday, March 3, 2010, from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. at the Ventura County Office of Education Conference Center, 5100 Adolfo Road, in Camarillo.  The membership will be given an opportunity to discuss the implementation of the recently court approved settlement agreement with the Ventura County Community College District.  Attending members can look forward to receiving a newly revised and updated Membership Directory.

Judge Gives Final Approval to Settlement Agreement on January 8, 2010

"The matter is concluded."  These were the last words spoken by Judge Thomas J. Hutchins who presided this morning in court after signing the final approval of the settlement agreement between the Retirees' Association and Plaintiffs and the Ventura County Community College  District.

Present for the 8:30 a.m. court hearing this morning were Harry Culotta,  Bill and Vivian Lockard, Gary Johnson, Bob Long, Gary Morgan, Larry Manson, Paul  Sheele, Edith Stone, Rene Rodriguez and association attorney Tom Sharpe.  Appearing  on behalf of the District were Patricia Parham and attorneys Joshua  Morrison and Jon Setoguchi.

A newsletter will be coming out soon describing what's next now that the Retirees’ Association and the District have a final settlement to implement.

Final Court Date Set for January 8, 2010

At the court hearing on October 30, the judge gave preliminary approval to the class action settlement and approved January 8, 2010 as the date for final approval of the settlement.  He also approved extending from 15 to 20 days by when the notice needs to be sent to all retirees who are members of the settlement class.  The Retirees’ Association and the District also agreed to share responsibility for sending the notice out.  The final court hearing will take place at the Ventura County Superior Court at 8:30 a.m. in Department 43, at 800 So. Victoria Avenue, Ventura, California.

Court Date Set for Settlement Hearing on October 30, 2009

The court hearing will take place at the Ventura County Superior Court, 800 South Victoria Avenue, Ventura, California, at 8:30 a.m. in Department 43.  Attorneys for both parties will be present.  The judge is expected to give a preliminary approval to the settlement agreement and the class action, and approval of the notice to be sent out to members of the class action.  The judge will also establish a date for the next court hearing where responses to the notice will be heard, if any, and when it is expected that the judge will give his final approval to the settlement.

Retirees’ Association Held Its Annual General Meeting on March 25, 2009

The VCCCD Retirees’ Association held its annual general meeting on March 25 at the Ventura County Schools Conference and Educational Services Center in Camarillo.  The main business of the meeting focused on reports on the draft of the Settlement Agreement between the District and the Retirees’ Association.  Attorney for the Retirees’ Association, Tom Sharpe, presented on overview of the settlement agreement along with an explanation of why the process took eight months to finally settle all issues between the two parties.  Benefits Committee Chair, Gary Johnson, presented the core features of the settlement agreement, which reflected most of the elements in the Tentative Agreement that both sides agreed to on July 23, 2008.  President Rene Rodriguez presented the part of the settlement agreement, which dealt with “other cost-shifts,” changes in other parts of the medical, vision or dental plans, other than those covered by the core features that Gary Johnson presented, and their effect on reimbursements to retirees.  The general membership voted unanimously to ratify approval of the settlement agreement as reflected in the current draft with the understanding that certain references in the text required correction and exhibits and forms attached to the settlement agreement, now in preparation, would require agreement on the part of the attorneys and clients of both parties.

Last year, current president, Rene Rodriguez, agreed to run for an additional one year to maintain continuity for the organization in its attempt to reach a settlement agreement with the district.  His third year term is due to end on June 30.  Harry Culotta, current vice-president of the organization, agreed to accept the nomination to complete the second year of a normal two-year presidential term  Subsequently, Harry was elected unanimously as the new president of the Retirees’ Association, to begin his one-year term on July 1, 2009.  Congratulations, Harry!

Negotiators and Their Attorneys Meet to Finalize the Tentative Agreement

On July 23, 2008 negotiators for the Retirees’ Association, Rene Rodriguez, Gary Johnson, Bob Long and Tom Sharpe, association attorney, met with negotiators for the District, Bill Studt, Sue Johnson, Patricia Parham and Josh Morrison, attorney for the District, to take up any remaining issues that needed to be reviewed and discussed in an effort to bring closure to the negotiations and to give the Tentative Agreement its final form.  After meeting for three hours and coming to terms on all issues raised, negotiators turned over to the attorneys the task of providing the necessary language for the final agreement.  After the final agreement is completed, it will go to the Board of Trustees for ratification and to court for certification.

Tentative Agreement Ratified at Special Meeting of Retirees’ Association on July 17

On July 17, at a Special Meeting held by the Retirees’ Association at the Ventura County Schools Conference and Education Center from 3-5 p. m., attending members of the association ratified the Tentative Agreement reached on May 15 by District and association negotiators.  After presentations were made by Gary Johnson, Bob Long and Rene Rodriguez, including a question and answer period which involved attorney, Tom Sharpe, the voice vote was nearly unanimous by the 99 attendees in approving the ratification of the tentative agreement.   A meeting between negotiators and attorneys will take place on July 23 to draft the final agreement which will include any further necessary language to clearly reflect the intent of both parties.  Remaining steps towards a final settlement between the association and the District include a Board of Trustee ratification of the agreement and court certification of the agreement.

Retirees’ Association Exec Board Approves Taking Tentative Agreement to the General Membership for Ratification

On May 28, 2008 the Executive Board of the Retirees’ Association, on the recommendation of the Benefits Committee, approved taking the Tentative Agreement reached by negotiators on May 15 to a special meeting of the general membership for ratification of the agreement in mid July, date, time and place to be announced shortly. 

A summer edition of the association newsletter, The Monitor, will be forthcoming prior to the special meeting in July which will include a copy of the Tentative Agreement with an explanation of its provisions.

A Tentative Agreement is Reached by Retirees’ Association Reps and District Reps

A tentative agreement was finally reached by Retirees’ Association representatives Rene Rodriguez, Gary Johnson and Bob Long and District Representatives Bill Studt, Sue Johnson and Patricia Parham after meeting for approximately six hours on May 15.  Chancellor James Meznek met afterwards with both teams to review the agreement with them.  This was the sixth of mostly weekly meetings of these representatives that began on February 28 in an earnest effort to bring closure to these negotiations.  The Retirees’ Association Benefits Committee will be meeting on May 28 to discuss and review the tentative agreement.  

Association Reps Scheduled to Meet with District Reps on May 15, 2008

Association representatives, Rene Rodriguez, Gary Johnson and Bob Long, are scheduled to meet with Bill Studt, Sue Johnson and Patricia Parham on May 15 to explore possible solutions to resolve the issues that remain between the Retirees’ Association and the District.

Association Reps Meet with District Reps on April 9, 2008

Retirees’ Association representatives Rene Rodriguez, Gary Johnson and Bob Long met for approximately three hours with Bill Studt, Sue Johnson and Patricia Parham on April 9 and learned that there are still some issues that need to be resolved.  The Benefits Committee will meet on April 16 to assess these issues and make recommendations to the Exec Board.  (Note: the April 16 meeting was canceled and was rescheduled for April 23)

Association Reps Meet with Chancellor Studt on April 2, 2008

Even though Chancellor James Meznek is back from his vacation, Acting Chancellor Bill Studt,  Sue Johnson and Patricia Parham continued meeting with Retirees’ Association representatives Rene Rodriguez, Gary Johnson and Bob Long on April 2.  Both teams appear to be intent on getting the healthcare benefits issue resolved now.  The Benefits Committee will meet on Monday to review and assess the proposal that is on the table.  Retirees’ Association reps are scheduled to meet again with Studt and staff on April 9, 2008.

Association Reps Meet with Chancellor Studt on March 26, 2008

Retirees’ Association representatives Rene Rodriguez, Gary Johnson and Bob Long met again with Acting Chancellor Bill Studt and his staff, Sue Johnson and Patricia Parham, on March 26 to hear the association’s response to the District proposal made on March 19.  Both teams, working in earnest caucusing back and forth, ended their meeting after approximately 5 hours with the District’s latest proposal.  The Benefits Committee will meet on April 1 to review and consider this last proposal from the District before association reps meet again with the chancellor and his staff on April 2.

Retirees’ Association Reps Continue Meetings with Acting Chancellor Bill Studt and his Staff

Retirees’ Association representatives Rene Rodriguez, Gary Johnson and Bob Long met with Acting Chancellor Bill Studt and staff members Sue Johnson and Patricia Parham in his office on March 19 for another 4 hour meeting to try to bring closure to their differences concerning retiree health benefits.  The Benefits Committee and the Executive Board will meet on Tuesday to consider the District’s newest offer for a settlement.  The next meeting with Bill Studt and his staff is scheduled for March 26 when retirees’ association reps are expected to respond to the District’s latest proposal.

The VCCCDRA Held Its Annual General Meeting on March 12, 2008

The Annual General Meeting of the Ventura County Community College Retirees’ Association was held on Wednesday, March 12, 2008 at 4 p.m. at the Courtyard by Marriott in Oxnard.  Reports were heard from all officers and committee chairs bringing members up to date on issues relating to the lawsuit against the District and recent ongoing negotiations with the District. 

Board of Trustee Steve Blum made a brief appearance thanking retirees for their service to the District and mentioned a conference that he will be attending shortly in Sacramento that will have a panel discussion on whether Districts like ours can change health care benefits and to what extent.  Robert Bezemek, a Retirees’ Association attorney, will be one of the panelists.

All amendments proposing changes to the bylaws were passed involving the election of officers, more flexibility on when the annual general meeting can be held, and the establishment of the Benefits Committee, the Political Committee and the Membership Committee as standing committees.  Effective March 12, 2008, chairs of these standing committees (Gary Johnson, Gary Morgan and Don Medley) become members of the Executive Board.  All recommendations involving District negotiations also passed.

Election of officers were held.  Harry Culotta, vice-president/newsletter editor, and Vivian Lockard, secretary/treasurer, were reelected for another two year term.  Rene Rodriguez, for reasons of continuity at a critical time, was nominated to serve for one additional year, and by suspending the rules, the members present reelected him for one more year.

Rene Rodriguez and Gary Johnson Meet with Acting Chancellor Bill Studt

At the request of Bill Studt, Acting Chancellor for the District through March 30, Rene Rodriguez and Gary Johnson met with Studt and Vice-Chancellors Sue Johnson and Patricia Parham in Studt’s office on February 28, 2008.  The purpose of the meeting was to determine how far apart the Retirees’ Association and the District were from resolving their differences involving health care benefits.  After meeting for approximately 4 hours, both parties agreed to meet on March 19 to continue this discussion, and Studt also agreed to extend the due date for the discovery requests an additional 30 days to allow the association to focus on these negotiation efforts.

Attorney for the District Inquires About Mediation and Serves the Retirees’ Association and Its Plaintiffs with Discovery Requests

Responding to an inquiry made by Josh Morrison, attorney for the District, to Retirees’ Association attorney Tom Sharpe, Rene Rodriguez informed Sharpe that that the association would entertain an effort at mediation to resolve our differences with the District regarding health care benefits.  At the same time, Morrison served the 11 named plaintiffs in the lawsuit with discovery requests in the form of a set of interrogatories totaling more than 600 questions for response by each plaintiff.  Sharpe will review with Morrison a number of these questions that Sharpe feels need to be deleted or revised, and a 30 day extension was agreed to regarding when a response was due, originally set for March 3 and March 4.  A separate set of interrogatories, totaling more than 1000 questions was also served on the Retirees’ Association itself. 

Don Medley Accepts Chairmanship of the Membership Committee

In January 2008, the Executive Board approved the creation of the Membership Committee as a means of institutionalizing the work that Don Medley continues to perform for the Retirees’ Association since its inception in 1994.  Thank you, Don, for graciously accepting this position which will give formal status to the important work that you perform for the association.

$500 Out-of-Pocket-Maximum for Mail-Order Prescriptions Begins January 1, 2008

Taking its cue from a proposal that the Retirees’ Association had made in its last negotiations counteroffer in June, the District has agreed to incorporate “an enhancement in the mail order prescription plan” to which the SEIU and the AFT have also agreed.

Obviously this is a very important development, especially for those retirees who have been exceeding $500 a year in annual prescription costs ever since the District unilaterally changed the retiree health plan in July 2005.  However, this “enhancement” will last only as long as the District and the bargaining units agree to keep it as part of their future contractual agreements.  This is part of the reason why the Retirees’ Association has entered into litigation with the District.  Retirees should not have to depend on the future actions of the District nor the bargaining units, and by law, bargaining units cannot bargain on behalf of retirees, and the District cannot unilaterally abrogate contracts/promises that it had made to its retirees when they were active employees.

Meanwhile, in spite of our current contention with the District, since all retirees who receive health benefits from the District will be entitled to this “enhancement,” this will offer a limit to those retirees who have been paying thousands of dollars in prescriptions costs since July 2005 in prescription costs to no more than $500 annually per individual (plus $50 prescription deductible) and up to $1000 per family (plus $50 deductibles per individual), as long as prescriptions are purchased through the District’s mail-order plan.

Consequently, the Retirees’ Association encourages all retirees entitled to District health benefits to take advantage of this opportunity to limit their prescription costs as described above.  To do so, you must enroll in the mail order prescription plan.  Call Shelley Signor at 805-652-5514, or download the enrollment form and instructions at: http://www.vcccd.edu/hr/hr_benefits.htm (just click on the link to the left)

RETIREE GEORGE MCNEELY WRITES A CHECK FOR $25,000 TO THE RETIREES’ ASSOCIATION

As a challenge to the membership of the Retirees’ Association, George McNeely decided to go ahead and write a check to the Retirees’ Association in December for the $25,000 that he pledged in the Fall 2007 edition of The Monitor.  The money will be kept in a separate bank account and act as a source of matching funds to encourage other members to pledge additional contributions to the Retirees’ Association’s legal fund.   A MOST SINCERE THANK YOU, GEORGE!

GARY JOHNSON TO SERVE ON THE ASCC DISTRICT HEALTH BENEFITS COMMITTEE

In a letter from Shelley Signor, written on behalf of Patricia Parham, the District has invited the Retirees’ Association to name an association member to serve on the ASCC (Administrators, Supervisors, Confidential and Classified) District Health Benefits Committee.  Gary Johnson has accepted appointment to this committee and Rene Rodriguez will serve as his alternate.  The committee will meet on the second Thursday of each month with the next meeting to take place on January 10, 2008.

JUDGE OVERRULES DEMURRER AND DENIES MOTION TO STRIKE

At the Ventura County Superior Court on November 15, a judge overruled the District’s demurrer and denied the motion to strike after giving District lawyer Josh Morrison an opportunity to make whatever additional statements he wished to make.  Attorney for the Retirees’ Association, Tom Sharpe, appeared telephonically and responded to Morrison’s statements when the judge asked him to comment.  Attending this court hearing on behalf of the Retirees’ Association were Gary Johnson, Barbara Hoffman, Vivian Lockard, Bob Long, Dave Thomas and Rene and Angela Rodriguez.  The hearing began after 9 a. m. and lasted approximately fifteen minutes. 

ASSOCIATION ATTORNEY TOM SHARPE FILES OPPOSITION TO DEMURRER

On November 1, Tom Sharpe, attorney for the Retirees’ Association, filed an opposition to the demurrer with the Ventura County Superior Court.  The District has five court days before the November 15 court date to respond to this opposition.

DISTRICT LAWYERS FILE DEMURRER IN COURT ON OCTOBER 15, 2007

Tom Sharpe, attorney for the VCCCDRA, informed Rene Rodriguez on October 23 that he had received a copy of the demurrer that District lawyers have filed with the Ventura County Superior Court on October 15, 2007.  Tom will file a response on behalf of the association by the November 1 deadline.  A court date is scheduled for November 15 when the judge will make his ruling on the demurrer. 

VCCCDRA REPS MEET WITH CHANCELLOR MEZNEK ON OCT. 11, 2007

Representatives from the Retirees’ Association, Gary Johnson, Barbara Hoffman, Vivian Lockard, Bob Long, Bob Lopez and Rene Rodriguez met with Chancellor Jim Meznek, Patricia Parham and Board of Trustee member Steve Blum at the District Administration Center in Ventura on October 11, 2008.  The meeting turned out to be a courtesy meeting provided by the Chancellor on the understanding that there would be a follow-up meeting called by the Chancellor after the meeting on August 29.  This came to light when Chancellor Meznek informed attendants that he had not been authorized to negotiate with the Retirees’ Association.  Aside from the District supplying the association reps with information that had been requested previously, association reps focused their discussions on the need for the District to provide retirees protection from unfettered changes to their health benefits in the future. 

Meznek did announce that retirees would benefit from the fact that the District and the union had come to terms on a contract for the next contractual period, which includes a health plan feature that the Retirees’ Association had proposed as part of its last proposal to the District, an OOPM (Out-of-Pocket-Maximum) for prescription drugs (more information will be be provided about this to the membership when the printed contracts come out in the near future).  Future meetings between the Retirees’ Association and the District will depend on whether the District and the Board of Trustees are seriously interested in finding a global solution for the health benefits of its retirees.

CHANCELLOR MEZNEK ASKS TO MEET WITH ASSOCIATION REPS ON OCT. 11

At the request of Chancellor Meznek, the Retirees’ Association’s negotiations team will be meeting with him and his staff on October 11, 2007.

RETIREES’ ASSOCIATION FILES LAWSUIT AGAINST DISTRICT ON AUGUST 31

The Retirees’ Association, after its negotiations team met with the Chancellor on August 29, decided to move forward with a lawsuit against the District.  Tom Sharpe, of Bennett & Sharpe, Inc., filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Retirees’ Association in the Ventura County Superior Court.  In a letter to Josh Morrison dated August 31, 2007 Tom apprised Morrison that his firm was now taking over official representation of the Retirees’ Association, and he also notified Morrison that “today (August 31) we will be filing and serving the Petition/Complaint in this matter.”  Further, Tom conveyed “acknowledgment from the Retirees’ Association of the efforts to resolve the issues raised by the Retirees short of litigation... [and] the Retirees recognize the movement demonstrated in the most recent proposal... Unfortunately, that proposal did not address the long-term concerns raised by the retirees, and was not accepted.”  Tom’s letter ends by stating, “Although we have now reached the stage in discussions where it appears to make sense to begin moving toward a judicial resolution of the dispute, hopefully this should not end communication between the parties.”

RETIREES’ ASSOCIATION REPS TO MEET WITH CHANCELLOR ON AUGUST 29

The District has taken an important step by offering the Retirees’ Association one of the important components of the offer proposed by the Retirees’ Association.  However, the District offer is for one year only, and does not offer retirees protection into the future.  Representatives of the Retirees’ Association will meet with Chancellor Meznek and his staff on August 29 to determine if there is any possibility of a reasonable settlement with the District outside of the court process.

DISTRICT RESPONDS TO RETIREES’ ASSOCIATION’S 3RD OFFER ON JULY 20

Retirees’ Association attorney, Patty Lim, received in writing on Friday, July 20, the District’s response to the 3rd offer made by the association.  The Benefits Committee is now in the process of reviewing and considering appropriate action regarding this counter proposal from the District.

DATE TO FILE LAWSUIT EXTENDED TO AUGUST 31, 2007

Upon learning that the District would be responding to the association’s 3rd proposal in mid July, by mutual agreement, the Retirees’ Association and the District agreed to extend the deadline for filing a lawsuit to August 31, 2007.

ASSOCIATION MEMBERS ATTEND THE JULY 10 BOARD MEETING

Approximately 30 members of the Retirees’ Association nearly filled the small Board of Trustees meeting room on July 10 at 5:30 p.m. when Board Chair Larry Miller called the Board of Trustees to order to listen to any public statements before they went into closed session.   Rene Rodriguez, speaking on behalf of the Retirees’ Association as president, requested time relinquished by Barbara Hoffman and Dave Thomas to enable him to complete his statement, and Board Chair Larry Miller replied, “Take all the time you need,” a much appreciated courtesy, and one I am sure was extended as an acknowledgment to all the retirees present.  Rene Rodriguez’s statement focused on the third proposal offered by retirees to the District on June 21, as it offered a new approach to finding an acceptable settlement between the retirees and the District, and the importance of the Board of Trustees costing out what the retirees were offering in this third proposal.  The statement also reminded Board members of the contributions made by retirees such as those present when they were active employees, and the possible dire consequences awaiting them unless protections are put into place against unlimited future increases.   

RETIREES’ ASSOCIATION RESPONDS WITH 3RD COUNTERPROPOSAL ON JUNE 21

With Josh Morrison, and consequently the Board of Trustees, knowing that our counsel Patty Lim would be on vacation the last two weeks in June and that the District would not receive a counterproposal from us until early July, Patty Lim received a letter from Josh dated June 14 on behalf of the District saying “It is now almost 1 month later, and the District has not yet received a counterproposal from your clients, and, we are informed, will not receive a counterproposal from your clients until early July, 2007.  The District is not amenable to further delay in this matter, and requires a counterproposal by no later than July 6, 2007.  The District does not intend to extend the July 31, 2007, negotiation deadline previously agreed to.  Thus, time is of the essence.”  Josh further expressed “the extreme frustration of the District in receiving yet another threat of litigation from your clients (i.e. at the June 12, 2007 meeting of the District’s Board of Trustees).”  For access to Rene Rodriguez’s statement to the Board of Trustees on June 12, 2007, click here.

The Retirees’ Association, on the advice of counsel Bob Bezemek, responded with its 3rd counterproposal which was transmitted by e-mail (and postal mail) to Josh Morrison on June 21.

It is noteworthy to remind our membership that the District took 4 months to respond to our first proposal, from our initial presentation to the Board of Trustees on December 12, 2006, to the District’s response on April 3, 2007.  And during that time, we agreed to extend the deadline from February 17 to April 30 to allow the District time to respond.  We responded with our second proposal on April 10, one week after we received their first proposal.  Again, we agreed to extend the deadline from April 30 to July 31, 2007 to allow the District time to respond to our second proposal, which it did on May 19, five weeks later.  In late April, the District was notified that our counsel Marty Fassler would be leaving the firm and that Patty Lim would be assigned as our new counsel.  With Patty needing to play catch up and also take a two week vacation that was due her, we did not think it unreasonable for us to take 6 weeks to respond to the Board’s second proposal, which is what we had planned to do by responding by the first week in July.  Meanwhile, we received the above mentioned June 14 letter where the District takes issue with our “delay” of “almost 1 month” and gives us a deadline of July 6 as an ultimatum which the Board already knew was when we had intended to respond, immediately after Patty’s return from vacation.

RETIREES’ ASSOCIATION ADDRESSES BOARD OF TRUSTEES ON JUNE 12

Gary Johnson and Rene Rodriguez made presentations to the Board of Trustees at the June 12 Board meeting immediately before their closed session at 5:30 p. m. Both Gary and Rene expressed their deep disappointment with the District’s second counter proposal to the Retirees’ Association.  Among other points made to Board members, the Board was reminded that contract language makes it clear that retirees are entitled to lifetime benefits, and that benefit levels should remain equivalent as compared to prior plans.  The Retirees’ Association faces a July 31 deadline by when it needs to file a lawsuit if no satisfactory settlement can be reached, and currently, the Retirees’ Association and the District remain far apart on issues to settle this matter.

DISTRICT RESPONDS WITH SECOND COUNTER PROPOSAL

A copy of the District’s second written counter proposal was received by the Retirees’ Association on May 19, 2007.  The Benefits Committee will meet soon to review this counter proposal on behalf of the association.

BOB HUBER, BOARD OF TRUSTEES CO-CHAIR, CALLS RENE RODRIGUEZ

Bob Huber, VCCCD Board of Trustees Co-Chairman, called Rene Rodriguez on Wednesday, May 16 after the Board meeting, as a courtesy and at the request of the Board of Trustees to report that the Board does not wish for negotiations to drag out, that they have given direction to their attorney, and that our attorney should contact their attorney to set a meeting up for our representatives to meet with theirs.

MARTY FASSLER TO LEAVE FIRM

On April 19, Bob Bezemek informed Rene Rodriguez that Marty Fassler would be leaving the firm in the next week and a half.  Bob Bezemek and Patricia Lim will be taking over our case.  Patricia is an experienced attorney in labor and employment law who just recently successfully settled the Mendocino case involving retiree benefits.  The lawyer for the District has been informed of this change in attorneys.

DATE TO FILE A LAWSUIT EXTENDED TO JULY 31, 2007

By mutual agreement, and on the recommendation of our attorney Bob Bezemek, the deadline to file a lawsuit was extended to July 31, 2007.  A meeting between our representatives and the District’s is anticipated sometime in May to engage in what are expected to be serious settlement negotiations.

SECOND PROPOSAL PRESENTED TO BOARD ON APRIL 10

Gary Johnson, Larry Manson, and Rene Rodriguez made presentations to the Board of Trustees at their meeting of April 10 to accompany the presentation of the second settlement proposal to the District from the Retirees’ Association.  This second proposal is a counter proposal to the response received from the District on April 3.  Presenters stressed the associations’ preference for entering into serious settlement negotiations rather than leaving it no alternative but to file a lawsuit by the April 30 deadline. 

MEZNEK MEETS WITH VCCCDRA NEGOTIATION TEAM MEMBERS ON APRIL 2

At the invitation of James Meznek, VCCCD Chancellor, Retirees’ Association negotiation team members Gary Johnson, Barbara Hoffman, Bob Long, Dave Thomas and Rene Rodriguez met with the Chancellor for lunch in Ventura on April 2.  The purpose of the meeting was to bring the Chancellor up-to-date from the associations’ perspective as to where matters stood on talks involving retiree health benefits.  The Chancellor expressed an interest in trying to find a solution to this matter, but could not make any promises.

DATE TO FILE A LAWSUIT EXTENDED TO APRIL 30

On January 31, our attorney Marty Fassler and representative for the District, Patricia Parham, signed an agreement extending the deadline for the VCCCDRA to file a lawsuit against the District to April 30, 2007. 

RESPONSE FROM DISTRICT EXPECTED AFTER FEB. 13 BOARD MEETING

Attorney Marty Fassler informed Gary Johnson and Rene Rodriguez that attorney Josh Morrison representing the District called him on January 11 to say that the District is considering a response after the next Board meeting on February 13 to Gary Johnson’s Board presentation made on December 12.  Also, by mutual agreement, Marty will be writing a letter to Morrison requesting an extension to the February 17 deadline for filing a lawsuit.

VIVIAN LOCKARD ASSUMES DUTIES AS SECRETARY/TREASURER JAN. 1, 2007

Vivian Lockard assumed her responsibilities as the new Secretary/Treasurer in January on behalf of the Retirees’ Association, replacing Barbara Buttner who will be spending more time on fulfilling personal goals.  Thank you, Barbara, for a job very well done, and thank you, Vivian, for picking up the baton in midstream on behalf of the association.

GARY JOHNSON MAKES PRESENTATION TO BOARD ON DECEMBER 12

At the December 12 Board of Trustee meeting, Gary Johnson made a presentation to the Board before their closed session meeting where he distributed a statement which describes the Retirees’ Association views on principal issues, provisions that the Retirees’ Association wish to include in any settlement, several concessions that the Retirees’ Association would be willing to make as part of a comprehensive settlement, and references to several issues regarding insurance that have not yet been discussed by the parties.

STEVE BLUM TAKES BOARD SEAT AND LARRY MILLER ELECTED CHAIR

On September 27, 2006, the VCCCD Retirees’ Association endorsed Steve Blum for Board of Trustee to represent Area 1.  On Nov. 7, Steve Blum was elected by a large margin of votes.  Congratulations, Steve!  At the Dec. 12 meeting of the Board of Trustees, Steve Blum was welcomed as a new trustee, and Larry Miller, a fellow retiree, was elected as chair of the Board of Trustees.  Congratulations, Larry! 

DISTRICT REPS MET WITH RETIREE REPS ON NOV. 15

 On November 15, representatives from each organization met and concluded the meeting with an agreement that the Retirees’ Association would make a settlement proposal to the District within the next few weeks for discussion at their next meeting.

NEW CCC STATE FUNDING FORMULA BODES WELL FOR DISTRICT

With the passage and signing of SB 361, the District issued a press release announcing that the VCCCD will now receive increased funding per full-time-equivalent student amounting to $2.6M for 2006-2007.

(Note: for prior activity, refer to the Benefits Committee web page)