All posts by FURA Webmaster

Honoring the Service of our Departed Colleagues.

We recognize that this list may be incomplete. Please contact the FURA website if you know of others who have passed away but are not listed.

We remember:
Virginia Abbott
Ismael Acosta
Victoria Hernandez Acosta
Jon Adams
Betty Alexander
Richard Alexander
Ralph Allred
Ed Amundsen
Paul Andersen
Lucille Anderson
Lee Robert Angelich
Patricia Anne Armer Arellano
Ruth Arugeti
Wally Barcus
Joyce Barile
Gordon Barker
Sam Barkman
Abe Bartsch
Lynne Beauregard
Carol Belknap
Gerald Berglund
Bill Bergstaller
Anna B. Beery
Ollie Bidwell
Helen Bixler
Mona Lee Bleigh
Marian Boccasile
Opal Mae Bordona
Olive Boyer-McGraw
Henrietta Brandon
Margaret Brase
Blanche Brenner
Gaines Carl Brogdon
Bernice Burgstaller
Robert Bruno
Molly Buchanan
Sue Burke
Evelyn M. Bush
Jean Calabrese
Elizabeth Grace Calderwood
Ron Capriola
Phil Carter
Bob Case
Avalynn Chapman
Mariano Chavez
Nell Clements
Russ Console
Lucille “Teo” Cooper
Thelma Lucy Crawford
Mike Crill
Willis Crosby
Kathryn Crosby
Ron Dangaran
Dorothy Daniel
Richard Darmanian
Jeanette Davis
Lenore Daw
Bill Day
Virginia Dealy
Larry DeCarlo
June Deeter
William Edwin DeGraw
Josephine DelaCerda
Manuel DeMorales
Doris Mae Dillon
Cornelia Downing
Pauline Duerksen
Ida Mae Dupont
Alan Ellis Amend
Phyllis Emparan
Robert Eten
Marsha Kathleen Feaver
Don Ferrer
Don Fickess
Pedro Figueroa
Mary Ann Gabelica
Bud Gaston
Gerre Gegarian
Don George
Jack Gilbert
Helen Gillen
Vernon Gittings
Marv Golden
Mrs. Gray
Mary Ann Green
Lila Marie Green
Carmen Gregory
Reid Gromis
William Gustafson
Dora Halstead
Boley Hamilton
Dorothy Hamilton
Betty Simpson Hansen
Ruth Hansen
Bob Hansen
Florence Hansen
William “Bill” Harbour
Bette Ann Hart
Robert Heeren
Dean Helmick
Roger Hernstedt
Bob Hill
Janice Hill
Don Holve
Marvin Howard
Larry Huck
Charles Hull
Troy Hutchison
Maria Ingram
Joan Jack
Cathy Jackson
Dwight Elliot Johannes
Richard V. Johnson
Silas Jones
Andrew Kachadoorian
Harry Kachadoorian
LaVerne Kain
Mildred Kellenberger
Elizabeth Kimrey
Janet Kincade
Robert Kincade
Jim Kirby
Richard Kisling
Edna Klaus
Betty Kloppenburg
Doreena Koopman
Sue Kopf
William Kuhn
Nelle Lacy
Dolores Lindeman
Clyde Lowe
John Loyear
Marjorie Lutz
Robert Lynch
Charles M. Lynes
Caroline Mackey
Allen Macy
Jenny Macy
Henrietta (Henri) Magnuson-Brandon
Phil Manoogian
Rose Manzell
Dorothy Marius
Cleo Martin
Winifred Mauer
Linda McAlexander
Don McColm
Betty McCully
Stan McDonald
Bruce Mecartea
Ernie Mellia
Donna Lee (Muro) Mercer
Don Mertens
Marilyn Mertens
Nancy Milla
Kirk Minassian
Bob Miner
Art Miller
Harvey Moody
Marlene Ann Moss
Richard Murillo
Margaret Murphy
Dick Neal
Edna Nelson
Louise Nelson
Carolyn Netzley
Gerald H. Nimmo
Helen Ogle
Rog Oliver
Hope Ostendorf
Joyce Ovoian
Etta Paladino
Philip Patino
Sue Peoples
Albert Pepper
Donald “Don” Perry
Faye Poole
Don Potts
Harriet Porter
Myrtle Powers
Al L Pratt
Marie Priscom
Don Pursell
Sue Quaid
Mel Quistad
Barry Reed
Ruth Riley
Clarence Robinson
Mildred Davis Rogers
Bill Ruby
Gene Ruby
Dave Runnels
Kenneth “Ken” Sakata
Muriel Sample
Helen June Schaeffer
Millicent “Millie” Schoof
Gordon Scott
Margaret E. Sherman
Dorothy Ann Shipley
Bill Shirey
Lucille Schramm
Betty Schweickert
Ramona Self
Haig Shekerjian
John Shropshire
Mildred Simms
Jim Simmons
Elisabeth Simpson
Boyd Skillin
Chester Slate
Bonnie Smith
Phyllis Smith
Shirley Spino
Arlene Srabian
Richard Steege
Phyllis Steven
Bill Stewart
Lorna Stewart
Mary Strong
Jan Stumpf
Vic Takeuchi
Virginia Tarvin
Donna Taylor
Elizabeth Terronez
Dolphas Trotter
Roy Tuck
Helen Tuttle
Virginia Valasis
Mary Francis Valenzuela
Dirk Van Gelder
Helen Van Stone
Ed Varney
John Watkins
Bill Weatherly
William (Bill) Williams
George Williams
Loretta Wilsey
Patricia Wilson
Marilyn Winstanley
Nancy Woodruff
Frances York

VPS Recommendation

I never thought that VSP was that good a deal even when I was still working & FUSD paid the premium. My husband & I both retired from FUSD at *55 yrs*. of age and took a huge cut in our income, so we have to watch our expenses. We opted not to pay for the coverage when we retired because of the cost. Last month, a friend of mine got a full eye exam with dilation at the River Park *Costco* and ordered glasses with new frames & lenses. They also detected some glaucoma and gave her a
referral to an eye medical group for the glaucoma (which will be paid for by her Medical Coverage).

*She paid:*
$60 for the eye exam with the dilation (without dilation iit’s about $2O cheaper)
$59 for the frames she chose ($39-$200 range on their frames & they have titanium if you like light frames) (If they still make your previous frames and you want to reuse them instead–they do charge a fee, but I forget how much.)
$151 total for*progressives*,_*transitions*_ (darkest color), and *anti-reflective coating*
*$270 grand total

VSP (member costs from the example given on the brochure)
*$20 copay for the eye exam
$20 copay for the eye glasses
$105 for progressives
$69 for anti-reflective
$114.72 member annual contribution
*$328.72 grand total (/and this does not include/*/*_transitions_**lenses in this price!!!*/*So you will pay even more than this price to get equivalent glasses!)

Hence, you can save more at Costco ($328.72 – $270 = $58.72) and you can save more or less depending on the frames you choose.

*My friend is as happy with her new glasses as she ever was with any obtained through a doctor’s office.*

*Costco takes appointments or walk-ins. The optometrist is not an employee of Costco. Her office is just located in Costco and she has been there about 8 yrs. This is not meant to be an add for Costco. It is only meant to show my fellow retiree’s on fixed incomes that you can get a better deal than VSP.

I also have many neighbors who have all gotten their hearing aids at Costco, (another non-covered medical need for many of us as we age). They are also very satisfied without exception. Check it out!!!

I hope this helps you make your decision.

Submitted by Cathy Bettencourt


Minutes of
Friday, June 8, 2012

The meeting of the FURA Nomination Committee was held on Friday, June 8, 2012 at the El Rodeo Mexican Restaurant in Clovis. Barbara Thomas, Chairman, called the meeting to order at 12:30 p.m. The following committee members were present: Barbara and Tim Thomas, Vivienne Oxley, Yolanda Moreno, Steven and Flo Deak and Cathy and Walt Franzell.

Barbara reviewed the nomination and election procedures outlined in the FURA bylaws. She stated that the following FURA members expressed an interest in remaining on the Board of Directors: Carole Sarkisian-Bonard as ex officio (2 years); Melinda Homola, ex officio (2 years); Flo Deak (1 year); Steven Deak (1 year); Barbara Thomas (3 years); Vivienne Oxley (2 years). The following FURA members expressed an interest serving on the Board or assisting the FURA organization in various capacities: Cathy Franzell, Tim Thomas, Mike Starry, Charlie Clark, Walter Franzell, Yolanda Moreno, and Ernestine Hopson. She added that Walt Franzell is currently the Newsletter Editor; Mike Starry is working with Don Kisner to take over as FURA Webmaster; and Charlie Clark as Negotiations Research Historian.

The following were recommended for three open positions on the Board: Cathy Franzell, Tim Thomas and Yolanda Moreno.

Nominations for Officers: President: Tim Thomas (3 years; Vice President: Cathy Franzell (3 years); Secretary: Flo Deak (1 year); Treasurer: Barbara Thomas (3 years); Assistant Treasurer: Vivienne Oxley (2 years). The names will be published in the FURA newsletter as an opportunity to provide for open nominations electronically. A reasonable period of time will be assigned for this purpose and if during that period no other nominations are received, the nominated slate of officers will duly serve. The Secretary was asked to provide a complete list of mailing addresses, phone numbers and email addresses to all the Board of Directors for reference purposes.

Considerable discussion ensued regarding the FURA III group and their desire to pursue measures to regain health benefits from Fresno Unified School District as promised at the time of their employment. This proposed action would need to be approved by the FURA Board of Directors. It was noted that FURA was not currently anticipating any further legal action; that those retirees retiring after September 1, 2006 organize and define goals and strategies independent of FURA. It was suggested that postcards go out to all members clarifying and outlining the purpose of FURA; that there exists some confusion among the members in this regard. Tim Thomas stated he would compose the information to be included in this mailing.

There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 2 p.m.

Respectfully submitted, Florence Deak, Recording Secretary


May 17, 2012–10 a.m.–Retired Teachers Memorial Building

The meeting was called to order by President Carole Sarkisian-Bonard at 10 a.m. at the Retired Teachers Memorial Building, 3930 E. Saginaw Way, Fresno. Approximately 225 FURA members were present.

Carole welcomed the group and announced that she and Melinda Homola are retiring as President and Vice President of FURA but will remain in an ex officio capacity on both the FURA Steering Committee and Executive Board. She continued with a brief history of FURA–Fresno Unified Retirees Association–for the benefit of those retirees who have recently became members of the Association.

Once again, for the record, Carole reiterated the differences between FURA I, II and III. She emphasized that FURA is ONE organization representing all District retirees but it was an in-house decision to name the groups for clarification purposes especially in the area of retirement dates as follows: FURA I is comprised of those retirees who were part of the class-action lawsuit and who retired prior to April 17, 2006. The lawsuit is over and has been judged in FURA’s favor. The date of April 17 was designated by the court as the cut-off date determined by the date of the letter initiated by the District and sent to retirees mandating payment of health premiums.

FURA II is comprised of those retirees (137 members) who retired during the period of April 18, 2006 to July 31, 2006 referred to as the “Gap Group”. FURA III consists of those retirees who retired after July 31, 2006 and who reached the District’s healthcare eligibility requirements of their original contract of employment–57 ½ years of age and completion of 16 years of service.

In reference to FURA II, Cathy Franzell announced that on March 15, 2012, an agreement which was an extension of FURA I’s class action lawsuit was reached and signed between FURA and Fresno Unified School District stating that no health care premiums, fees or assessments will be charged to FURA II eligible retirees effective immediately. She thanked the Executive Board and Bezemek Law Firm for their successful efforts in this matter.

Carole announced that an invitation was extended to representatives from the District’s Benefits and Risk Management Office to attend the meeting for the purpose of a question and answer period regarding health benefits. There was no response to the invitation. Carole stated she and FURA Board members fielded many calls relating to the health plan changes by the District and the placement of retirees on Medicare Part D. It was hoped that someone from the District or Joint Health Management Board would have been present to address retirees’ concerns.

Carole briefly reviewed the current changes to the medical health plan and reminded the retirees to review the information sent out by the District and either make their concerns known by mail or email to the Board of Education and/or Joint Health Management Board. Many members present expressed concerns regarding prescription coverage under the Envision RX plan and their experiences in accessing related information; that many encountered delays and denials in receiving prescription drugs. She reminded the members that the court’s ruling is posted on the website; that this reference should be cited and included in all communications of complaint to the two Boards mentioned above.

Inquiries have been made by many of the members regarding Dental and Vision Insurance. Carole reminded the membership that anyone who retired prior to 2009 cannot purchase dental or vision insurance from the District. This decision has been made by the Joint Health Management Board. FURA is currently offering vision insurance through VSP and information is available by contacting Lynn Freeman or Walt Franzell at Information is also available on the FURA website:

Continuing, the following guests were introduced to the membership: Bryan Feemster of James G. Parker Insurance Associates and Tiffiny Bailey-Khoury, Regional Sales Manager, Wells Fargo Insurance, who described the steps in obtaining vision and/or dental insurance with their group for those retirees currently not offered opportunities to do so or who wish to change their existing plans. They stated that in order to examine the feasibility of a group plan and to acquire competitive rates from various carriers, it was necessary that those members interested complete the Employee Benefits Survey made available at the meeting and return the information no later than June 1, 2012 to James G. Parker Insurance Associates, 1753 East Fir, Fresno, CA 93720. The results and subsequent steps would be posted either on the FURA website or included in a newsletter.

At this time, Carole introduced David Bradley, who has assumed the leadership responsibility for FURA III. David, retired in 2010 from Malloch School, and served as Vice President of FTA and also was a site rep and negotiator for 12 years. He also served as the Elementary Educator on the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, Committee of Credentials in Sacramento. He presented a brief overview of organizational requirements and the vast coordination efforts that will be necessary in this endeavor. He urged the current retirees of FURA III to join with him to regain District-paid lifetime health benefits by calling him at 559-227-6578.

There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 12 noon.

Respectfully submitted,

Florence Deak, Recording Secretary

MINUTES OF FURA General Membership Meeting

March 3, 2011–11 a.m.
Retired Teachers Memorial Building

The meeting was called to order by Vice President Melinda Homola at 11:05 a.m. at the Retired Teachers Memorial Building, 3930 E. Saginaw Way, Fresno. Approximately 300 FURA members were present.

Melinda introduced the following guest speakers: Gwen Sittner, FUSD Health Benefits Office and Joseph Van Orsdel, Consultant to the Joint Health Management Board; Delta Health, administrators of the health plan for Fresno Unified, represented by Franceen Hanley, Delta Health Field Representative, Christy Scharton, and Lynette McCulloch, Delta Health Customer Services and Claims Managers.

Mr. Van Orsdel shared a brief overview of his responsibility as consultant to the Joint Health Management Board. He noted that his primary task was to monitor the solvency of the District’s Health Plan along with budgetary responsibilities within the administration of the medical and prescription programs. He explained the charge of the Joint Health Management Board and a brief history of its inception. In addition, he noted that the District is currently solvent with a substantial reserve. In conclusion, he stated that the JHMB is trying to keep health costs under control and is working very closely with area hospitals in that regard.

The aforementioned guests spoke in great detail as well as entertained questions regarding the new District Health Plans–Options A and B Benefits Open Enrollment process currently in progress which will take effect April 1, 2011. The representatives also clarified some questions posed by FURA members regarding coverage procedures, deductibles, processing of claims, portability of the District Health plan both domestically and, should the need arise, while traveling in foreign countries.

Carole asked Gwen Sittner to brief the members regarding the timeline for issuing the health premium reimbursement checks. Gwen stated her department is waiting for directives from the attorneys representing the District and FURA to release the checks. A target date of early April is planned.

The Vision Plan update was presented by FURA President Carole Sarkisian-Bonard. It was her understanding that the vision and dental plan availability for those retirees who retired before 2009 will be reviewed by the Joint Health Management Board. Our attorney has sent a letter to the District regarding the eligibility of those pre-2009 retirees. Carole added that she has fielded at least 377 calls from FURA members who are interested in vision insurance. It was also her understanding that there would be no added cost to the District for including aforementioned retirees. She added that , to her knowledge, this issue has not been brought to the Board of Education’s attention as of this meeting.

Carole along with Cathy Franzell, who represented FURA II, clarified the differences of FURA I, FURA II, FURA III. FURA I is comprised of those retirees who are part of the class-action lawsuit and who retired prior to April 17, 2006. The lawsuit is over and has been judged in FURA’s favor. The date of April 17 was designated by the court as the cut-off date because it was the date the letter from the District was initiated and sent to retirees mandating payment of health premiums.

FURA II is comprised of those retirees (approximately 85) who retired during the period of April 18, 2006 to July 31, 2006 and referred to as the “Gap Group” . The District’s legal representative during the court session of November 5, 2010 questioned the April 17 cut-off date stating that teachers work through June; that those wanting to retire July 31 should be grandfathered in by the District. This action was not part of the lawsuit but does appear in the court transcripts as discussed. Both attorneys agreed to the suggestion and Judge Franson was to review the issue and return a tentative ruling. Letters prepared to this effect have been submitted to the Board of Education by FURA attorneys. However, as of this date, there has not been a reply from the District.

FURA III consists of those retirees who retired after July 31, 2006 to the present. Most were hired and worked under the contracts prior to 2006; however, subsequently the bargaining units negotiated to make changes to the contracts which have been deemed as ” reasonable modifications” regarding health care premiums. These contractual changes have been ratified and approved by the Board of Education. Carole asked for a show of hands of retirees who fall into this category and approximately a dozen or so were in attendance.

Barbara Thomas, FURA’s treasurer was asked to speak to the issue of annual dues. She reviewed the suggestion of the Steering Committee to assess FURA members a nominal annual fee to upkeep the organization. The poll went out in the last newsletter and returns indicated that a majority opted for a $20 annual charge. It was moved and seconded by Steven Deak and Sally Alvid, respectively, that the annual dues be set for the amount of $20. Checks should be forwarded to Barbara Thomas c/o FURA , P.O. Box 1717, Clovis, CA 93613-1717.

Barbara also reminded the group that changes of mailing addresses be made available to FURA and that email address changes be forwarded to Don Kisner, FURA’s webmaster; that we need to keep our lists current in the interest of expedient communication to all our members.

There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 1 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Florence Deak, Recording Secretary


With the successful litigation to preserve and protect our vested retiree health benefits, FURA’s steering committee met to review and discuss the organization’s next steps:


Webster defines “chaos” as “any confused collection or state of things, complete disorder.” In contrast, “organized” means “to become systematized or constituted into a whole of independent parts.” To be organized is to be systematized. To be without system or organization is to be in a state of chaos and therefore be vulnerable. So it is with any social institution, business enterprise, or activity such as the FUSD retirees who depend upon the combined efforts of individuals to achieve its stated purpose. The purpose of OUR organization is to preserve and protect our vested retiree health benefits. This benefit was upheld in Court and FURA is grateful for the Court’s decision. At the FURA Steering Committee fall meeting, officers believed fervently that FURA MUST continue as an organization. We must preserve our organization in the unlikely event there is another assault on our earned retiree health benefits.


There is much discussion on talk radio and news programs re: the current cost to the State of California re: STRS and CalPERS pensions and obligations to those retired, and to prospective retirees. FURA must stay organized to keep a watchful eye on our earned retirement benefits and keep contact with other statewide retiree organizations.


! FURA was successful in its lawsuit to preserve and protect earned, retiree health benefits as PROMISED by FUSD since the inception of the program in the 1970’s.

! FURA was successful in the implementation of Ed Code 7000 dental benefits.

! FURA was successful in organizing thousands of FUSD retirees from each of the five bargaining units (CSEA 125, CSEA food sevices; SEIU, Building Trades, FTA as well as confidential, supervisory and management.)

! FURA was recognized by the State of California as a Non profit organization

! FURA publishes newsletters to inform its membership

! FURA maintains a web site to inform its membership and the public

! FURA holds at least one General Membership meeting per year


! More than 300 retirees emailed and telephoned FURA to indicate an interest in purchasing vision insurance. Our legal team headed by Bob Bezemek is working on the matter and will contact the FUSD Board of Education and Superintendent. It is important to remember that FUSD, pursuant to VSP Insurance Office, will NOT lose a penny if all retirees were allowed to purchase the insurance.

! FURA members are encouraged to contact FUSD Board members (559.457.3727) and the FUSD Superintendent (559.457.3882). Who decided that retirees who retired prior to 2009 would not be “eligible” to purchase vision insurance? This decision WAS NOT made by the FUSD board members. If not the FUSD governing board, then who? Call and make your voice heard.

! Continue to monitor the earned premium free lifetime health benefit to ensure that there isn’t a repeat of the action taken by the FUSD Board of Education in August, 2005, to assess premiums and fees.

! Share information with all retirees

! Assist retirees with retirement problems, questions, road blocks


The Steering Committee discussed the feasibility of assessing a nominal annual fee for FURA members. FURA cannot continue printing and mailing newsletters, maintaining a web site, pay state fees for a non profit organization, etc., without a stream of revenue. Remember that FURA officers are NOT reimbursed for out of pocket expenses or travel/meeting expenses. We are asking our membership to take a quick survey and let us know your thoughts re: a dues structure (please detach the following and mail it to FURA, PO Box 1717, Clovis, CA 93613-1717 or email Carole Sarkisian-Bonard at with your thoughts on this matter.

Carole Sarkisian-Bonard

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

G Yes, I recommend annual dues

G No, I do not recommend annual dues to sustain our organization

Suggested amount of annual dues:

G Option 1: $12 per year

G Option 2: $15 per year

G Option 3: $20 per year

G Other? _____ (Please keep in mind that the greater number of retirees joining the organization will garner more income for the organization.)

Other thoughts/suggestions:

As we go to press with this FURA newsletter, there hasn’t been any information from FUSD to our attorney, Bob Bezemek, as to the timeline FUSD retirees would be receiving their reimbursement checks for the illegally charged health premiums. In the meantime, each retiree who paid premiums is accruing interest from the District on the amount owed. It is hoped that some information will be forthcoming from FUSD by the time of our annual meeting on March 3, 2011.


FURA is pleased to report that the Court granted FURA’s motion for attorney fees. A hearing was held in Fresno County Superior Court on November 5, 2010, with the Honorable Donald R. Franson, Jr., presiding. Judge Franson issued his tentative ruling on December 17, 2010, granting FURA’s motion and directing the District to pay nearly $2.6 million in attorney fees. The FUSD Board of Education on January 12, 2011, announced in public session, following a closed session meeting, that FUSD WILL NOT appeal the Judge’s ruling re: attorney fees. The FUSD Board of Education vote was 6 in favor NOT to appeal; 0 negative votes and one abstention (Larry Moore). FURA is appreciative of Trustee Carol Mills’ actions on FURA’s behalf regarding this matter.


RETIRED TEACHER HALL (3930 E Saginaw Way, Fresno)

MARCH 3, 2011

11:00 a.m. (Doors will open at 10:30 a.m.)


! FUSD Health Plan A Representative from FUSD Benefits Department

! Vision plan update Lynn Freeman & Carole Sarkisian-Bonard

! Legal Update Carole Sarkisian-Bonard

! FURA 2 gap group Cathy Franzell

! Reimbursement checks Carole Sarkisian-Bonard

! Treasurer’s report Barbara Thomas

Protect your Health Benefits!



As you may know, on March 5, 2010, at the conclusion of the hearing on the retirees’ Motion for Writ of Mandate, Judge Donald R. Franson, Jr., of the Fresno County Superior Court ruled that the Fresno Unified School District is no longer allowed to charge premiums, fees or other periodic contributions to retirees who receive district-paid health benefits (who retired on or before April 17, 2006).

On April 22, 2010, the Court entered a written judgment confirming that the District cannot make premium charges to retirees. The Judgment ordered the District to reinstate the benefit for class-member retirees, and make these retirees whole for premiums and fees that they have paid, plus interest. Along with the Judgment, the Court issued a Statement of Decision. This Statement set forth the Court’s explanation of its Judgment and outlined the retirees’ evidence on which the Court relied in reaching its decision.

The Statement of Decision holds that: “Retirees’ evidence proved that in 1976 and 1977, the Fresno Unified School District and labor unions representing nearly all of its employees, agreed on these district-paid health benefits, which Retirees have referred to throughout this litigation as the ‘Promise.’ The District then extended this promise to the FUSD’s non-unionized employees, such as managers, supervisors and confidential secretaries.”

The Statement then goes on to find nearly every argument and factual assertion put forth by Retirees: the District used this Promise to recruit and retain employees for the duration of their careers; the District used the Promise to explain its inability to offer larger pay increases during labor negotiations; that active employees always paid premiums, but retirees did not; and that the District reaffirmed its Promise to retiring employees at is “exit interviews.”

The Statement holds that “overwhelming evidence” supported the Retirees’ claim. It states that the Court’s finding was based, in part, on the District’s collective bargaining agreements, health pamphlets, the declarations provided to FURA by the District’s past superintendents, and other administrators, statements made by District recruiters and the recorded statement made by the District’s benefits director at an early retirement meeting in 1996.

The Statement held that the Promise was deferred compensation, “earned by employees for services rendered,” and that such compensation is protected by the California and U.S. Constitutions. The Statement also held that the evidence established the necessary elements for FURA’s other claims, equitable and promissory estoppel.

A copy of this Statement is available at FURA’s website, .

The Court’s Judgment is now final. On June 2, 2010, the Fresno Unified School District Board voted unanimously at their open meeting to not appeal the Court’s ruling. The District’s statutory deadline for appealing the ruling has passed, and ruling is final. (The District’s strict and unmovable deadline for appealing the Judgment was June 21, 2010.)

Soon, FUSD and FURA will send a letter to everyone in our class (those who retired prior to April 17, 2006) notifying them that premiums are no longer required. The letter also will provide updates on the next steps in this litigation. These next steps include the District, FURA and the Court determining both the issue of attorney’s fees for FURA’s attorneys, and how much money and interest is owed to each Retiree. This process is ongoing, and we do not know when it will be complete.

We do know that this issue will not be completed before the Court hearing on attorney’s fees on September 10, 2010. The District and FURA are working to resolve the matter of reimbursement as soon as possible, but cannot complete this task prior to the hearing, as it may impact the District’s and FURA’s calculations.

The hearing on Retirees’ Motion for Attorney’s Fees and Costs will be held on September 10, 2010, at 9:00 a.m. in Department 97D of the Fresno County Superior Court courthouse at 2317 Tuolumne Street, between M and N streets. As always, we strongly encourage all FURA members and retirees to attend.

By Robert J. Bezemek, FURA Legal Counsel


12:30 PM – 3:30 PM



FURA Steering Committee member Lynn Freeman has researched the issue of District Vision Insurance with VSP. Please review the following:

! FUSD currently allows retirees who retired AFTER January 1, 2009, to purchase VSP Vision Insurance for $7 per retiree or $14 per couple per month

! This is the same plan current FUSD employees receive with their benefit package

! FUSD refuses to allow retirees who retired BEFORE January 1, 2009, to purchase VSP Vision Insurance

! FUSD personnel acknowledge that the District does not spend or lose any money if all retirees were able to purchase the insurance

! FURA is determining interest from those interested in purchasing VSP Insurance

! If you and/or your spouse are interested in purchasing VSP Insurance at the District’s current rate of $7 per month per person enrolled, please email FURA President Carole Sarkisian-Bonard at or by leaving a message at 559.970.0615.

! Please indicate your interest in purchasing VSP Insurance by August 30, 2010.**

! FURA leaders and its legal team will contact the FUSD Board of Education to discuss the feasibility of ALL retirees to purchase VSP Insurance.

! It is FURA’s understanding that the FUSD Board of Education did not vote on the issue of who may or may not purchase the VSP insurance

! It is FURA’s understanding that the Administrative Services Division (Business Division of FUSD) determined who may or may not purchase the VSP Insurance

** Please note that an indication of interest of purchasing VSP Insurance does not obligate anyone to enroll or purchase the insurance. FURA must have an indication of the total number of FURA members/spouses who are interested before we begin dialogue with the FUSD Board of Education.


A hearty “THANK YOU” to the 1200+ FUSD retirees that, since January 2005, have donated the funds to FURA that has made possible our victory in preserving our vested health benefits. This victory would not have been possible without the support of each of you!!


! We don’t as yet have an absolute end date when all will be completed.

! We don’t know if FURA will have to pay additional attorney and /or other fees.

! We don’t know if FURA will continue to ask you for more money.

! We don’t know if FURA will be reimbursed for attorney fees by FUSD.

! We don’t know if FURA is still honor bound to continue paying attorney and/or other fees.

! We don’t know if FURA will be reimbursed for FURA newsletter and meeting costs.

! We don’t know if FURA will be made ‘whole’ as will FUSD retirees that have made premium payments.

And now for the rest of the story — Are you one of the over 2200 FUSD retirees that have NOT YET contributed? Well, now is the time to at least pay for receiving the newsletters!


P O BOX 1717
CLOVIS, CA 93613

Barbara Thomas, Treasurer


On Friday, September 10, 2010, a hearing related to FURA’s request for attorney fees and court costs. The hearing is scheduled for 9:00 A.M. at Civil Court House, Tuolumne & M Streets. Remember that these hearings are sometimes rescheduled. In the unlikely event that rescheduling happens, be sure to check the FURA Website: OR telephone Carole Sarkisian-Bonard at 559-970-0615 for updates.

T – H – A – N – K – S

How does one express gratitude and thanks to so many people who so diligently contributed to FURA’s cause over these last five years. Words will not be adequate to show appropriate thanks for the hours of concentrated effort that so many of you so graciously contributed to the success of our cause, but one must try!

T Stands for the time you spent in searching personal files, gathering and forwarding information, making personal contacts, volunteering time to various tasks, attending FURA meetings, stuffing envelopes, giving depositions, keeping faith in this cause, and contributing hard earned retirement dollars to keep the process moving.

H Stands for a hard fought victory. We had the benefit of the best legal counsel in this state, if not in this country. If not for the efforts of Robert Bezemek and his legal team this case would have ended much sooner and to our detriment. Bob and his team were brilliant in our defense as was demonstrated the many times our team presented in front of Judge Franson.

A Stands for the positive attitude that permeated this process and the encouragement all of you supplied throughout this prolonged case. It was a “can do” because it is the “right thing to do” attitude that kept the process moving and on track even when situations seemed bleak and undoable. I hope you all understand how your words of encouragement spoke volumes to our committee and legal team.

N Stands for national precedence in case law. This case will be cited in future decisions affecting retiree’s lifetime health benefits. The number of employees across this land who will benefit from this victory would be hard to calculate. Many will rest in the knowledge that if it were not for Fresno’s case they would be forced to pay out of pocket for legally earned health benefits. Your persistence and support helped to make this case winnable.

K Stands for keeping faith in this elongated endeavor. It is hard to imagine how anyone could endure for five years, yet your support never wavered. When meetings were called, court appearances scheduled, requests for help in completing tasks, you were there to give of your time, experience and expertise to whatever was required.

S Stands for sincerity of our appreciation. As was stated in the beginning, words would not be adequate to express our gratitude, but on behalf of FURA and the Steering Committee we say THANKS to all who helped secure this victory. Let us continue to be vigilant and grateful as we celebrate together. YOU WON!

Sincerely, FURA Steering Committee


If you, or someone you know, retired AFTER April 17, 2006, and want to join other retirees in our FURA 2 group, please contact Cathy Franzell. Phone: 559-298-4606 (OR) Email:

Cathy has a data base of over 105 FUSD retirees who retired after April 17, 2006, and therefore not a part of FURA’s successful class action lawsuit. It is important to organize now and make our voices heard to the FUSD Board of Education. Each one of us has the same promise from FUSD when we were hired and we served loyally for decades often going without raises to assist the District. The premium free lifetime health benefit is deferred compensation and earned by vested retirees meeting the l6 years of service and retiring at age 571/2.

Telephone or email Cathy now!


Since Judge Franson ruled that the FURA class action lawsuit applied to all FUSD retirees who retired prior to April 17, 2006, FURA II was formed. FURA 2 retirees were given the same promise by FUSD concerning lifetime health care premium free benefit. The retiree health benefits are a long standing vested right of the District’s retirees and earned by the retirees through many loyal decades of devoted service. The District promised to pay the cost of premiums for retirees’ health care and this should apply to all vested retires.

I have been contacted by more than 100 retirees who have voiced a commitment to seek an equitable solution as was determined by the successful FURA class action lawsuit. A FURA II organizational meeting will be held in early September. Specific information regarding date, time and place will be provided. Please email me at or telephone at 559.298.4606. A tentative date for our organizational meeting will be September 9, 2010, at 1:30 pm at the Retired Teachers Memorial Building on Saginaw Way across from Centennial Elementary.

Cathy Franzell


Who All FURA members and spouses

What Annual General Membership Meeting

Where Retired Teachers’ Memorial Hall – 3930 East Saginaw Way, Fresno, CA 93726-5296

When Thursday, March 4, 2010 – 10:30 a.m.


Robert J. Bezemek, Attorney at Law – Informational Update on the next morning’s court hearing

Treasurer’s Message

The last newsletter and letters to you from members of the steering committee resulted in significant donations. Enough so that we are paying the immediate out of pocket expenses, though we still have an outstanding bill with the attorneys. Thank you ALL for your donations. EACH DONATION COUNTS! The $10 check from a 97 year old dependent of a deceased retired teacher, the $25.00 donation that we receive from a retired couple each month and every donation that you have sent in. We have received letters and donations from our supporters – other retirees and their organizations – from both north and south California.

There are FUSD retirees who have not donated and consider themselves “safe” from increased premiums because they are “over 75” or they are oblivious to the ramifications of FUSD administrators decisions to impose significantly greater premiums upon retirees if FURA loses this legal action. Every

retiree and their dependent’s health benefits would be at the mercy of FUSD administration. FUSD is an entity governed by people who make the decisions to abandon promises by previous Boards and administrations and to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on their lawyers in order to take away our vested rights for lifetime health care.

Donations support our attorneys and our resolve in this very important fight to continue to receive promised life time health benefits with no premium. We ask you to continue your support and donations. Thank you again!

Barbara Thomas

FURA vs FUSD Trial date

Friday, March 5, 2010 – 9:00 a.m.

Fresno County Civil CourtHouse

Tuolumne and M Streets

(Note: There always remains the possibility of a continuance at the last minute of the hearing. Check the FURA web site for updates at If you don’t have a computer, call a friend or call FURA President Carole Sarkisian-Bonard at 559.970.0615. Leave a message and Carole will return the call.)

Protect your Health Benefits!


Fresno Unified Retirees’ Association

PO Box 1717, Clovis, California 93613


MARCH 4, 2010 – 10:30 AM


Boyd Cline, FURA Vice President and Steering Committee Member, called the meeting to order at 10:30 am. He welcomed the approximately 160 members in attendance. He recapped the onset of FURA, telling of the 10 founders first meeting on October 4, 2004 in which FURA was formed. It has been 5 years and 5 months for this journey to finally go to trial. Boyd said “we are here today because it is the right thing to do.” He said he felt confident in the end there will be a complete success. Boyd gave heartfelt thank you to the FURA members for their endless help and support. He also gave a sincere and great thank you to Bob Bezemek and his staff.

FURA Attorney Bob Bezemek thanked everyone for their attendance and introduced FURA Attorneys David Conway, John Varga and Esta Grill. Bob gave a full overview of the case from the onset to present.


Barbara Thomas, FURA Treasurer and Steering Committee Member, 11:25am., addressed the meeting. She thanked the FURA members, retirees not part of the class certification, unions and organizations for their generous contributions. She recognized the Peralta Union and LAUSD retirees especially for their continued financial support. She said she and Vivien Oxley, FURA Assistant Treasurer and Steering Committee Member, have processed 22,962 checks and applauded Vivien for maintaining such an accurate mailing list. Barbara pointed out the FURA addressed envelops on the tables for members to take with them and return with donations.

Joan Jack, FURA Steering Committee Member, asked the attendees to please fill the large “Bear” container with the change from their wallets or pockets–all coins count. She also encouraged checks and paper money.

Carole Sarkisian-Bonard, FURA President, 11:32 am., addressed the meeting. Carole told the

attendees about the origin of FURA on October 4, 2004, a small group of about 10 retirees met to discuss the imposing of premiums on retirees. Next was a meeting at Starbucks with about 30 people. Then in November 2004, the first general meeting was held at the CRTA Hall with a full house. Carole remembered Santiago Wood telling about the Contra Costa case where the courts ruled in favor of the retirees’ vested rights. Any changes to retiree benefits must be negotiated with the individual retirees. The Contra Costa retirees were represented by attorney Robert J. Bezemek. Carole googled his name and found that he was “still alive and practicing” in Oakland. She emailed him and the connection began.

Carole thanked each Steering Committee member by name and asked them to stand for the group. Carole gave a special, and well deserved, thank you to Don Kisner, FURA Web-Master and Steering Committee Member for his dedication and superb contribution of creating and maintaining the FURA website. She gave recognition to the 100+ retirees who have passed away since the beginning of FURA and the “In Memoriam” page created by Don.

Carole said of the 3,500 retirees, there were only 9 retirees who chose to opt out of the Class Certification. She introduced members of the LAUSD retiree organization and thanked them for their contributions and attendance in Fresno. She gave an overview of FUSD benefits and the exclusion of dental and vision to retirees. She discussed Assembly Bill 528 and the 7000 series of the Education Code, the injustice, of allowing only certificated retirees to purchase dental coverage.

Lynn Freeman, FURA Steering Committee Member, joined Carole in the discussion of retirees having diminished benefits. The District will allow retirees who retired after 2009 to purchase vision but this offer is not extended to those who retired before 2009.

Discussion turned to the formation of FURA II, for retirees after April 17, 2006. Cathy Franzell, 298- 4606, and others are organizing and preparing for action.

Glen Rathwick, FURA Steering Committee Member, gave a tremendous and heartfelt thank you to FURA President Carole Sarkisian-Bonard on behalf of the FURA Steering Committee, all the FURA members, and supporters for her expert, tireless and outstanding commitment to FURA. Her dedication, organizational skills, vast knowledge and endless personal consultations and help to retirees in need is unmatched! She, too, received a well deserved rousing applause and ovation.

Carole thanked the members and gave directions the Courthouse. She introduced Barbara Mendes, President CRTA, thanked her for the use of the CRTA Hall. Ms. Mendes invited retirees who are not members of CRTA to join and advised of an STRS seminar forthcoming. She said the STRS pension account is far more stable than reported in the newspaper. She wished FURA good luck for the trial, March 5, 2010.

Meeting adjourned at 11:59 a.m. FURA legal team and FURA Steering Committee members met with many retirees after the formal meeting to receive input and information.

Respectfully submitted,

Melinda Homola

FURA, Secretary and Steering Committee Member

Victory in Fresno for Vested Retiree Health Benefits

On March 5, 2010, in the Fresno County Superior Court, the Honorable Donald R. Franson, Jr., Judge, issued a decision granting the Petition for Writ of Mandate filed by the Fresno Unified Retirees Association (FURA), on behalf of a District-wide class of 3,500 retirees, against the Fresno Unified School District, thereby confirming and enforcing the District’s Promise of district-paid, lifetime retiree health benefits.

The hearing, coming five years and five months after Fresno retirees first contacted our office for assistance, was attended by more than 200 retirees, and interested retiree groups from other districts, who packed the courtroom and another next door. For the first time the District had a single management representative in court for the hearing. FURA members have attended the many court hearings in large numbers, reflecting their intense interest in the case.

It was not anticipated by FURA that a decision would be issued on March 5. But in an unexpected and dramatic conclusion to the parties’ lengthy oral argument, the judge read a decision which holds that the Fresno retirees were the beneficiaries of an express contract which promised that the District would provide them with retiree health benefits without charge (no premiums, fees, assessments) following retirement, for those who served the requisite years and met other conditions.

The District imposed premiums and fees on retirees in 2006, retroactive to 2005, in violation of this Promise, and has thus far collected roughly $850,000 each year from its retiree class members.

The litigation battle involved numerous legal disputes. Eventually, the District’s procedural defenses to the case proceeding were rejected, and the class of retirees was “certified” during 2009. FURA filed its Motion for a Peremptory Writ of Mandate on August 31, 2009.

FURA’s Motion filled three completely full boxes, and included declarations and testimony from about 55 witnesses, including 3 former superintendents, 2 former District chief negotiators, District recruiters, District risk managers, District human resources personnel, several union leaders and negotiators, and other employees. Altogether, FURA estimates that at least 20,000 pages of evidence was submitted, including about a 1,000 pages of nearly verbatim negotiation notes from the 1976-1977 negotiations.

We also filed copies of more than 50 collective bargaining agreements, and hundreds of other exhibits. These exhibits included recruitment literature, retirement forms, letters, negotiation newsletters and handbills, auditor reports, health pamphlets and even the recording of an early retiree recruitment meeting. Four former superintendents, the District’s two chief negotiators over a 30 year span, the teachers’ union chief negotiators for 25 years, other district and union negotiators, a district director of “risk management,” a district CFO, district recruiters, those conducting new employee orientations and those conducting retiree exit interviews were among our witnesses for whom we submitted evidence.

We argued that the District made a promise of lifetime, fully-paid retirement health benefits (no premiums or fees). More than 45 of the documents referred to the lifetime benefits, and many of these had been sent by the District to hundreds or thousands of its employees. We proved that employees accepted lower wages in exchange for these lifetime benefits. We offered proof that “district-paid” was understood by management and union negotiators to mean “fully paid,” and “no charges” for premiums or fees. One particularly notable piece of evidence was a tape-recording, made by a hearing-impaired prospective retiree, of a district manager informing prospective retirees that the benefit was fully-paid by the district, for life, and that was “all” they needed to know. The District deposed 15 of our witnesses during the summer, who consistently re-affirmed the District’s promise, and FURA introduced much of that testimony as well.

The District responded with their Opposition on November 23, 2010. The District’s Opposition raised approximately 10 defenses. The retirees filed their Reply on January 19, 2010, countering each of the District’s defenses.

The hearing on March 5 was the culmination of this process. In his decision, Judge Franson stated his conclusions, including that the District made an express promise in its contracts and policies to provide these benefits without monthly premium contributions or administrative fees. The Judge referenced the contracts and other evidence he relied on, particularly the evidence of the former superintendents, District managers, District negotiators, and recruiters. His decision essentially holds that the District had made a vested promise, which it impaired when it imposed premiums. He cited the Terry case, saying it was still good law. The Judge also held that independent of the agreements, the District was estopped from now charging premiums or fees.

During its closing argument, the District advanced several entirely new defenses, but these did not affect the outcome, and FURA successfully refuted each.

The District argued that nothing prevented it from enacting a “fee,” for retirees to “pre-fund” the future cost of their benefits. Retirees countered that the Promise of the district was fully understood to mean that the retirees did not pay for their benefit after retirement (as opposed to co-pays and deductibles); and that they had expressed this by using numerous words such as district-paid, fully paid, at no charge, at district expense and so on. Retirees argued that the term “administrative fee” was newly created by the District and not part of the parties’ vocabulary in 1976-1977 when the Plan was initiated, and that in the District’s view it apparently could charge any type or amount of fee it wanted, such as a “convenience fee” under its new theory, although the plain intent of the Plan was that the benefit was to be fully paid. Retirees accused the District of playing wordgames by advancing this new theory at the last minute.

The District argued that it never promised “fully paid benefits,” then cited a consultant’s study from 20 years ago as proof. However, as the Judge commented, that study indicated the benefits were to be fully paid.

The District argued that nothing prevented it from vindictively jacking up deductibles to $10,000 a year, or cutting health care services to the bone, if it could no longer charge retirees premiums. Retirees countered that this case was not about deductibles, that any increase in deductibles had to be bargained, that an evisceration of a Promise by increasing deductibles would also be illegal. The Judge agreed this case was not about deductibles. Retirees also countered that restricting benefit coverage would be like refusing to treat someone with a modern medical development and “bleeding them” to treat an infection. Thus, this District’s argument that it could “cut services” also fell flat.

The District argued that a writ of mandate could not be granted because the District had “discretion” to charge fees, since the only promise it made was that of “no premiums.” Again, retirees proved in innumerable exhibits that the Promise was to provide a plan at “no charge” after retirement, a fully-paid plan, which prevents the district from charging “fees” to retirees.

Finally, the District argued it should have “flexibility” to impose charges on retirees after they retired. This argument essentially rejected nearly 100 years of precedent protecting deferred compensation and the legitimate expectations of retirees. While public employers can, in extremely limited situations, impose changes in vested rights on a temporary basis, out of a proven fiscal necessity, such changes merely defer a promise during an unexpected emergency. Here, the money taken from retirees is less than one tenth of one percent of the District’s annual budget, and the District neither sought to nor proved the extreme, dire necessity allowing the temporary deferral of a vested benefit.

It should be noted that retirees do not get their benefits “for free.” Retirees pay the same co-pays and deductibles as are paidby active employees. In addition, retirees who are Medicare- eligible are required to join Medicare, and once they do, they pay Medicare premiums, with the District providing only a Medicare- supplement plan. In addition, in 2006 the District restricted the benefit significantly for future retirees, and eliminated it almost totally for new hires.

In his decision the Judge ordered the District to reinstate that benefit, and make retirees whole for premiums and fees that they have paid, plus interest. A hearing on costs and legal fees will take place in the future.

FURA’s success in this case is resulted from not only the strength of its case, but also to the collective action of the Fresno Unified retirees in coming together to form an effective, committed organization, which located thousands of documents that provided invaluable evidence of the Promise, to the testimony of scores of witnesses, to the selfless commitment and assistance of FURA’s founders and leaders, to the hundreds of retirees and others who gave countless hours of their time and information, to retiree groups and others throughout California who came to FURA’s aid with financial and other support, and to the commitment of numerous people in our office or who worked withus on some or all parts of the case, and others. This brief note barely scratches the surface in describing the efforts undertaken by everyone over the last five years and five months.

The retirees case was very strong, with an especially powerful factual record confirming the promised benefits. FURA’s evidence included scores of documents which had been issued by the District over a period of 30 years, and which inducted retirees’ reliance on the promise. Most retirees worked about 30 years for the District, and altogether the 3, 500 retirees in the class served upwards of 100,000 years of public service for the Fresno School District and the students of Fresno.

This case was about the sanctity of contracts, and the retirees’ enforcement of a fundamental principle of law, one the Founding Fathers fought for when they created this country: that contracts should be enforced, and not impaired by governmental action. FURA is very pleased the retirees’ rights have been enforced.

The Judge directed that a formal written Statement of Decision be prepared, and that process will take several weeks. It is not known if the District plans to appeal the decision.

Dated: March 10, 2010

By Robert J. Bezemek, FURA Legal Counsel

FURA 2 Group

This class action law suit only included those FUSD retirees who retired on or before April 17, 2006. FURA has received numerous inquiries from FUSD retirees who retired after that date. If you know of someone who retired after April 17, 2006, and wants to be included in a new FURA group seeking to have their district-paid, lifetime retiree health benefits restored, please contact FURA member:

Cathy Franzell


Telephone: 559.298.4606


Victory in Retiree Case

Message from FURA President Carole Sarkisian-Bonard

Dear Fellow Retiree and FURA member:

Thank you for your courage, your generosity, your tenacity over the past 5 1/2 years of litigation. As you know, on March 5, 2010, Fresno County Superior Judge issued a decision granting a win for FURA over FUSD and confirming and enforcing the District’s promise of district-paid, lifetime retiree health benefits.

Gratitude also must be expressed to members of the FURA Steering Committee who served as named plaintiffs in this case. They volunteered years of their lives and endured legal wrangling as well.

Where does FURA begin to congratulate and thank our lead attorney Robert J. Bezemek and his fine staff including attorneys, David Conway, John Varga, Patty Lim, para legal Esta Grill and so many others of the firm? Bob was brilliant in court from the inception of this case when FURA contacted him in November of 2004 to last Friday’s oral arguments and victory.

Litigation is not for the weak of heart and is long and expensive. FURA is grateful for the generosity of so many of our members. However, there remain many who have not contributed at all. This is your chance to stand up and continue our fight. This process is costly and the expenses are many, especially if the District decides to appeal this case. Remember that your donation

is deductible for the California Franchise Tax Board but not deductible on your federal returns. Our FURA treasurer, Barbara Thomas, often refers to a Church picnic: some bring a hot dish, some only a fork and some only an appetite. It is my hope that all who have benefitted from the generosity of so many will now make an effort to contribute whatever is possible – be it an extra fork or a pot roast, every bit is appreciated. Send your check to:

Fresno Unified Retirees’ Association
P.O. Box 1717
Clovis, CA 93613

If you have not contributed to the legal defense fund (remember: all FURA donations only go towards our newsletters and our legal defense fund) please do so today. Don’t let others carry the burden while you reap the benefit of our dedication, our labor, our contributions and lifetime premium free retiree health benefits.

Thank you again to the FURA members who made a difference. It was David vs. Goliath and ultimately, like David, with right on our side, FURA emerged victorious. Thank you for your emails and your telephone calls of good wishes. FURA’s mission is to preserve and protect our vested retiree health benefits. The mission remains.