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Friends in high places

Now that Rich Semler has dropped out the state school superintendent’s race, it might be time to pay a little more attention to a candidate still in the running — former Eatonville High School principal Randy Dorn.

Here’s what Dorn probably doesn’t want you to focus on — his attempts to get his old pals in the Legislature to pass a law that would increase his state pension benefits by more than $90,000 a year.

An article by reporter Joe Turner of the Tacoma News Tribune spelled out the gory details. The Herald recently published a shorter version of Turner’s report.

State officials estimated that Dorn, executive director of the Public School Employees union, and Tom Lopp, the union’s lobbyist, would have collected nearly $600,000 in additional retirement benefits if the bill had become law.

But surely, even though they were in line for a windfall, the measure was set to benefit a lot of deserving union members or something like that, right?

Well, no. Actually, Dorn and Lopp would be the only two people affected by the bill, which would have allowed them to become members in two state retirement systems.

In 2007, the House approved the bill on a vote of 95 to zero. Fortunately, the Senate had better sense and the measure died.

In the representatives’ defense, they apparently didn’t realize the bill would cost a lot of money until it was dropped back in the hopper this year. It never came up for a vote in the 2008 session.

Dorn told the News Tribune that costs to the state would have been negligible, and that benefits for himself and Lopp have been exaggerated.

Even if Dorn is right, should the legislators create laws tailored to benefit just two individuals? It depends on who you know.

Dorn served in the Legislature from late 1987 to 1994. That’s a long time ago, but apparently recent enough to still have 95 friends in Olympia.

There is another way to increase his state pension without changing the law — winning the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. The salary for that office is $122,000.

We’re contemplating an editorial on this fiasco. Any thoughts?

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