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ere the TRUTH starts. Public Pension Reform. Law Enforcement News. Officer Down News. Collective Bargaining. Corruption. - See more at:
Where the TRUTH starts. Public Pension Reform. Law Enforcement News. Officer Down News. Collective Bargaining. Corruption. - See more at:

Officer Down

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

PENSION: Illinois House approves cuts in police and fire pensions

--"Springfield Mayor Tim Davlin said downstate and suburban Chicago mayors were neutral on the bill" No, they are not neutral. They hate this bill, especially because it kept the penalty option in it. Also, some of the mayors were crying about their current pensions and how they were going to have to tell their current pensioners that their fund is broke. They are neutral, give me a break. If it was up to the mayors we would all be in 401(k)'s or in an IMRF type fund with the state being responsible so they could just walk away from the messes they all created.--

State Journal-Register

Posted Nov 30, 2010 @ 08:09 PM

Police officers and firefighters hired after Jan. 1 would get less generous pension benefits than current personnel under a bill that passed the Illinois House on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 3538 passed 95-18 over the objections of a coalition of unions representing police officers and firefighters, including the Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, D-Orland Park, said the measure probably will be tweaked further.

“This is not the final solution all of us would hope for. This is a significant step forward,” McCarthy said. “This is making it obvious that we understand the problem.”

Public safety workers opposed the bill because of the formula it would use to determine pension benefits. Today, firefighter and police pensions are based on the employee's pay on his or her last day of work. Under the bill, it would be based on the average of the employee's highest eight years of pay out of his or her last 10 years of work.

The provision was an attempt to be consistent with changes made earlier this year to laws regulating other public pension systems and to eliminate pension “spiking,” in which an employee gets a raise or promotion just before he or she is set to retire, McCarthy said.

AFFI president Pat Devaney objected to the formula because the average would not include overtime worked by employees and any other compensation they receive.

Devaney said that is too big of a hit for public safety workers to take considering the more generous way of determining their benefits today. He also argued that not including an employee’s full compensation in the average is inconsistent with other pension reforms the General Assembly has recently passed.

Springfield Mayor Tim Davlin said downstate and suburban Chicago mayors were neutral on the bill, but he said “it is the most crucial legislation we have seen in a long, long time.”

Reps. Raymond Poe, R-Springfield; Rich Brauer, R-Petersburg; Jim Watson, R-Jacksonville and Betsy Hannig, D-Litchfield all voted in favor of the legislation.

Chris Wetterich can be reached at 788-1523.

Senate Bill 3538

Among the changes made to police and fire pension benefits

-- Changes the standard retirement age for police and firefighters from age 50 to age 55. Police and firefighters could retire early starting at age 50, but would lose 6 percent for each year before 55.

-- Reduces benefits to a surviving spouse from 100 percent to 67 percent of the deceased police officer’s or firefighter's pension.

-- Cost of living increases -- the lesser of 3 percent or one-half of the urban consumer price index -- would not kick in until a public safety employee or surviving spouse reach age 60.

-- Starting in 2015, pension funds could petition the state comptroller to subtract funds from tax money owed to the cities by the state if a city does not make complete payments to the system.

What’s next

Because the bill was amended in the House, it must be approved by the Senate before it goes to Gov. Pat Quinn’s desk.

PENSION: Downstate Pension Fund Reform Passed


Changes to the Downstate Pension Fund (Illinois Local Public Pension Funds) has passed the Illinois House of Representatives.

Senate Bill 3538 will now go back to the Senate for a vote because it was amended and then to the Governor for presumably his signature.

***The complete text (72 pages) of the Senate bill 3538 with new additions underlined can be
downloaded --->>>HERE

***The voting roll can be downloaded --->>>HERE

This Thursday on Duke's Blotter Live we will discuss this new legislation and what it means to the furutre of law enforcement officers and retirees.

The major changes will affect those police officers and fire fighters hired after January 1, 2011.

The major changes are:

-- Changes the standard retirement age for police and firefighters from age 50 to age 55. Police and firefighters could retire early starting at age 50, but would lose 6 percent for each year before 55.

-- Leaves intact current provisions allowing firefighters and police to retire with maximum pension benefits of 75 percent of their salaries after 30 years of service. Police will continue to contribute 9.91 percent of their salaries and firefighters will continue to contribute 9.45 percent of their salaries to their pensions.

-- Caps the maximum salary upon which a pension can be based at $106,800. That number will increase annually at half the urban consumer-price index.

-- Seeks to end the “spiking” of salaries through late-career raises and promotions by basing pensions on the employee’s final average salary, which will be calculated by using an employee’s highest paying eight years out of the last 10 years they worked. Today, police and fire pensions are based on the employee’s salary on the last day worked.

-- Cost of living increases will be based on 3 percent or half the urban consumer-price index, whichever is less. Today, COLAs are an automatic 3 percent.

-- Requires cities to have the systems 90 percent funded by 2041.

-- Starting in 2015, it allows the pension funds to petition the state comptroller to subtract funds from tax money owed to the cities by the state if a city does not make complete payments to the system.

-- Requires the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability to assess the status of the 636 police and fire pension funds and the feasibility of pooling those funds. Mayors believe the pension funds would be more solvent if they were combined into one or two funds. COGFA’s report is due Jan. 1, 2013.


PENSION: Legislative Update (Nov 30, 2010) 4:15 P.M.

Bill was sent back to the House Personnel and Pensions Committee for a hearing that was to take place at 3:15pm. It is being amended for a 3rd time.

So, we just wait and wait.

PENSION: Bill would reduce police, fire pension benefits

--While I do not agree with all the content of this bill it is better than what the municipalities wanted to do to their employees. If it was up to the mayors we all would be screwed and they would just walk away from the problem that they made. The changes proposed by Rep. McCarthy, who I believe worked very hard, make it as fair as possible for employees while still helping the municipalities gain some financial relief. I still would have liked to see other changes made but this can be addressed again in the spring session. This is an issue that is far from over.--

State Journal-Register

Posted Nov 29, 2010 @ 11:30 PM
Last update Nov 30, 2010 @ 06:12 AM

Illinois lawmakers are expected to move a bill to the House floor today that would reduce pension benefits for future police officers and firefighters.

Springfield Mayor Tim Davlin called the plan, developed after negotiations involving city officials and representatives of police and fire unions, a good start. But Rockford’s mayor said the changes aren’t enough.

The legislation’s chief sponsor, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, D-Orland Park, said “this bill is about as agreed (to by both sides) as we’re going to get.”

“This isn’t going to be the panacea,” McCarthy said.

However, he said, “I think both sides received some things they were very happy about.”

The bill was being drafted by the Legislative Reference Bureau Monday and wasn’t immediately available, but McCarthy described its contents to a House committee.

Reforms in the bill wouldn’t apply to current or already retired police and firefighters, which Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey said is its biggest failing.

“We’re debating about what’s going to happen with future employees when we’re not doing any hiring,” Morrissey said. “What about all the existing employees and existing retirees?

He prefers to see employees put into a 401(k)-style, defined contribution plans.

“We’re going to have to deal with the fact that we have a system for the existing employees and the existing retirees that’s not sustainable,” he said.

Barring a vast improvement in the economy, some retirement systems will default on what they owe retirees, and cities will end up in court, Morrissey said. Public officials need to have a plan to reorganize those funds, he said.

“This is a problem nationwide,” he said.

Pat Devaney, president of the Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois, said he was incredulous that Morrissey does not think the new proposal goes far enough.

“They’re solving it (pension problems) on the backs of benefits for future police officers and firefighters,” Devaney said. Changing benefits for current employees and retirees, as Morrissey suggested, is “without question” unconstitutional, Devaney said.

Union spokesmen say most of the fiscal problems in the state’s 636 police and fire pension funds stem from cities underfunding them.

The firefighter union is waiting until the bill’s final language is drafted before taking a position, Devaney said.

Davlin said there probably are provisions in the plan that “both sides feel are despicable,” but said the bill is a good start.

Davlin said the coalition of cities seeking the changes will not try to change benefits for existing police and firefighters, but he said he hopes the General Assembly will consider legislation aimed at finding more efficiencies in the systems in the spring.

The city of Springfield could realize savings quickly because it’s short-staffed and will have to hire new employees who would fall under the new system, Davlin said.

“We’re going to reap the benefits faster than any other community,” Davlin said. “We’re going to be doing more hiring than anybody else.”

Chris Wetterich can be reached at 788-1523.

Senate Bill 3538

-- Changes the standard retirement age for police and firefighters from age 50 to age 55. Police and firefighters could retire early starting at age 50, but would lose 6 percent for each year before 55.

-- Leaves intact current provisions allowing firefighters and police to retire with maximum pension benefits of 75 percent of their salaries after 30 years of service. Police will continue to contribute 9.91 percent of their salaries and firefighters will continue to contribute 9.45 percent of their salaries to their pensions.

-- Caps the maximum salary upon which a pension can be based at $106,800. That number will increase annually at half the urban consumer-price index.

-- Seeks to end the “spiking” of salaries through late-career raises and promotions by basing pensions on the employee’s final average salary, which will be calculated by using an employee’s highest paying eight years out of the last 10 years they worked. Today, police and fire pensions are based on the employee’s salary on the last day worked.

-- Cost of living increases will be based on 3 percent or half the urban consumer-price index, whichever is less. Today, COLAs are an automatic 3 percent.

-- Requires cities to have the systems 90 percent funded by 2041.

-- Starting in 2015, it allows the pension funds to petition the state comptroller to subtract funds from tax money owed to the cities by the state if a city does not make complete payments to the system.

-- Requires the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability to assess the status of the 636 police and fire pension funds and the feasibility of pooling those funds. Mayors believe the pension funds would be more solvent if they were combined into one or two funds. COGFA’s report is due Jan. 1, 2013.

PENSION: House votes to reduce interest on pension credits

--This affects state employees only but it is a fair deal. They take, I think 12 to 14 furlough days a year and if you do not get paid for a day it does get credited towards your service time in a pension. In order for them to get all their time they have to have pay the pension for the unpaid days and it should be at a very low interest rate.--

State Journal-Register

Posted Nov 29, 2010 @ 11:30 PM
Last update Nov 29, 2010 @ 11:45 PM

Illinois state government workers who have taken furlough days and want to buy pension credits for those days will have to pay less interest on those credits under a bill approved by the House on Monday.

House Bill 1565 was approved on a 105-6 vote. It must be approved by the Senate and signed by Gov. Pat Quinn to become law.

State workers who take unpaid furlough days do not receive credit for those days when it comes to calculating their pensions. A bill passed last year allows them to purchase credits toward their pensions for those days, but workers would have to pay interest on the credits from the day they were first employed by the state until they purchased the credit.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Kevin McCarthy, D-Orland Park, and Rep. Raymond Poe, R-Springfield, allows interest to be charged only from the date the furlough day was taken until the date the pension credit is purchased.

“We passed that bill last year,” Poe said recently, “(but) we found a major flaw. That was quite a load to buy that back. We’ve got to act like we’re a little bit appreciative of people taking those furlough days.”

NEWS: (Illinois) Death penalty abolishment bill moves to full House

--This is a low down shame to try and get this bill passed during the last veto session of the year. This is a subject that deserves much discussion. The death penalty is a needed punishment in this country.--

State Journal-Register

Posted Nov 30, 2010 @ 10:13 AM
Last update Nov 30, 2010 @ 11:05 AM

On a partisan vote, a House judiciary committee approved a bill abolishing the death penalty and sent it to the full House.

Four Democrats on the committee voted for Senate Bill 3539 while three Republicans opposed it.

Jeremy Schroeder of the Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, said Illinois has the second highest rate of exonerations for death row inmate in the nation. He also said the state has pumped $100 million into the Capital Litigation Trust Fund since 2003 even though the state continues to have a moratorium on executions.

“That is just money tossed away,” he said.

However, a succession of state’s attorneys -- including Kevin Lyons of Peoria and Joe Bruscato of Winnebago -- argued the death penalty is an appropriate punishment for heinous crimes.

“I believe it provides justice for the victims,” Bruscato said.

They also said it was inappropriate to try to rush such a major issue through the closing hours of the brief veto session. Lyons called the move “offensive to victims.”

UNION: Aurora lays off 8 police officers

--This is a terrible move in a town that has been on the edge for the past few years. Aurora, while being a very nice place is like any other large municipality except for some reason the gangs seem to really like this place. It has been a Latin King strong hold for years with numerous homicides being attributed to them and the local, state and federal authorities have run several big investigations resulting in major arrests of some some very bad people. 
This town has been holding on to sanity by a thin string that may snap with the loss of any police presence.
We hope for the best for the residents and for our fellow officers.--

Daily Herald

By Marie Wilson

Eight Aurora police officers received layoff notices from the city Monday night, despite their union’s protests against shrinking the size of the force.

All the layoffs come from the patrol ranks, according to Chief Management Officer Carie Anne Ergo.

“The city will continue to maintain the same number of officers in the areas of community policing, school resources and gang prevention,” Ergo said in a statement.

The eight officers will be out of a job Jan. 1, according to the notices, said David Schmidt, president of the Association of Professional Police Officers, which represents Aurora’s patrol officers.

Ergo said layoffs were necessary because the police union was unwilling to discuss possible concessions. All bargaining units representing city employees have been asked to make concessions to help fill an $18 million budget gap.

Schmidt said the layoff notices made their way to seven of the eight officers about 10 p.m. Monday. The eighth officer, Schmidt said, is in the Army reserves, and did not yet receive the notice.

Schmidt said he is unsure how the city decided on eight as the number of officers that must be laid off.

“They provided us no answers about where the math is coming from,” Schmidt said Tuesday. “When you get into the numbers, it doesn’t make any sense.”

The union and the city have been going back and forth about whether 13 vacant police positions are still listed in the city’s budget. But the 2011 budget has not been released to the city council.

“To come out with layoff notices before the aldermen even had a chance to look at the budget, to me, is just a huge power play,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt said the police union will meet Tuesday night to discuss what actions can be taken and suggestions for the laid-off officers.

In the past, the union proposed alternatives to the city which it believed would increase revenue, such as charging an administrative fee for booking prisoners and prosecuting DUI offenses within the city. The union had opposed layoffs, saying they would threaten public safety.

“While it is unfortunate that Aurora officers chose layoffs over concessions, the city will have eight more officers on the street in 2011 than it had in 2008 when the city achieved a record low crime rate with only two homicides,” Ergo said in a statement.

Monday, November 29, 2010

PENSION: Senate Bill 550 passes out of Committee (UPDATED)


During the meeting today of the House Personnel and Pensions Committee Senate Bill 550 was approved with a House Amendment attached. The Bill is set to be read for the 3rd time on the floor with a short debate.

The full text of the new law with the changes underlined is available for download --->>>HERE

UPDATE: 9:20pm --->>>

The bill will be discussed again at 8:00am on November 30, 2010 in committee.
The changes proposed to the bill by Rep. Kevin McCarthy are not that bad or off what would be considered reasonable and meaningful reform.

Synopsis of changes are:

* Normal retirement age of 55.
* Early retirement at age 50 with a 6% reduction for each year prior to age 55.
* Pensionable salary cap of $106,800.00 indexed to 1/2% of the CPI-U.
* Final average salary calculated using 8 out of last 10 years.
* Survivor benefits of 66 2/3%.
* Cost-of-living adjustments beginning at age 60.
* 30 year closed amoritization period with funding goal of 90% by 2041.
* State shared revenue diversions to pension funds beginning in 2015 equalling the difference between the employer contribution and the actuarial required contribution. Three year phase-in with up to 1/3 of state-shared revenue diverted in 2015, up to 2/3 in 2016, and up up to the full contribution difference beginning in 2017.
* COGFA study on investment pooling.
* COGFA study on each pension fund for release in 2017.

It is expected that this bill will move and pass quickly.
I do not like the investment pooling option but it is just a study.
And I still would like to see changes to the "Act of Duty" standard on the legislative level.
All in all these changes are not to bad for new hires as these changes will effect those hired after January 1, 2011.


BREAKING NEWS: Parolee charged with killing cop, ex-CHA officer

--Awesome news. GREAT JOB!!!!--


Chicago Tribune

A man on parole for armed robbery has been charged with the fatal shootings of Chicago Police Officer Michael Flisk and a former Chicago Housing Authority officer in a Southeast Side alley last week.

Timothy Herring Jr., 19, of the 8100 block of South Manistee Avenue, was charged with first-degree murder. Prosecutors said Herring is eligible for the death penalty if he is convicted at trial. Prosecutors have not decided whether they would seek the death, officials said.

Herring is also charged with attempted murder and aggravated battery with a fire arm stemming from an incident that happened in June.

Flisk, a evidence technician and a nearly 20-year-veteran of the department, was processing the scene of a burglary in the 8100 block of South Burnham Avenue at about 1:30 p.m. Friday. Also killed was Stephen Peters, who had reported the burglary to his car.

Herring lives in a home across the alley from where the shooting occurred and was on parole for a 2007 armed robbery conviction. He had been on parole since September, according to Illinois Department of Corrections records.

A married father of four, Flisk had three siblings who are also Chicago police officers. Peters, a U.S. Army veteran and AT&T employee, was a former CHA officer.

Neither victim fired a shot, and police recovered guns from both of them at the scene.
Police have offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the slayings.

-- Annie Sweeney, Jeremy Gorner

Arrangements for CPD Officer Michael Flisk

The visitation and funeral information for fallen brother Michael Flisk.

Brady and Gill Funeral Home
2929 W. 87th St.
Evergreen Park, IL
Tuesday, 30 NOV 2010
Public Visitation 1500-2100

Funeral Mass: St. Rita of Cascia Shrine Chapel
7740 S. Western
Wednesday, 01 DEC 2010
1000 Hours

Cemetery Holy Sepulchre
6001 W. 111th Street
Alsip, IL

PENSION: Legislative Update (Nov 29, 2010)

The House Personnel and Pensions Committee met at 10:00 am today to take a vote on proposed pension reform legislation. If any changes are needed they will meet again at 1:00 pm.

As soon as any information or legislation text becomes available it will be posted.

I sent a letter to Representative Kevin McCarthy who chairs this committee. The text of the letter is posted --->>>HERE

I have also sent letters to numerous state senators and representatives on this issue. I hope you folks have.

This is truly life altering legislation that is taking place and it concerns us all.

PENSION: (National News) Middlesex sheriff kills self, police say

--It is a shame that this man felt he had to take his own life over a bad decision. He realized the example he was setting with public pensions being the trigger point that they are across the United States. He publicly apologized and still felt the need to kill himself. Such a tragic end.--

DiPaola’s office was subject of ethics inquiry
WELLS, Maine — The longtime sheriff of Middlesex County, James V. DiPaola, was discovered dead yesterday from an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound in a resort in this coastal town, authorities said.

DiPaola, a 57-year-old Democrat with more than 30 years in public service, had announced abruptly a week ago that he would retire in January, after being questioned by the Globe about his plans to collect a state pension while continuing to serve as sheriff. He had also acknowledged an ethics investigation into his office.

A statement released last night by the police in Wells, a southern coastal town, said DiPaola was discovered by hotel workers lying on a bed, with a gunshot wound to the head.

A hotel maid had become concerned when DiPaola failed to leave his room by checkout time and summoned the manager of the Lafayette Oceanfront Resort on Mile Road, who used a master key to open the door.

Wells police said when they entered the room, they found a note several pages long that DiPaola had left behind, along with the gun they believe he used to commit suicide.

The Middlesex Sheriff’s Office confirmed “the sudden death’’ of DiPaola, a former Malden police officer and state representative who was first elected sheriff in 1996 and reelected this month.

“We ask that the family’s privacy be respected during this difficult time,’’ the statement reads. “Operations at the Middlesex Sheriff’s Office will continue under the direction of Special Sheriff John Granara.’’

Reaction from top state officials to the news arrived swiftly.

Governor Deval Patrick described the sheriff’s death as “a shocking and tragic event.’’

“I extend my deepest condolences to the DiPaola family and to the sheriff’s staff, all of whom are certainly reeling with this news,’’ the governor’s statement said. “Sheriff DiPaola had a 30-year record of public service. Tonight we honor that service and pray for his family.’’

House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, who had served in the Legislature with DiPaola, expressed similar sentiments. “My thoughts and prayers go out to his family,’’ the speaker said in a statement.

The Massachusetts Sheriffs’ Association said its members “will remember him for his strong law enforcement leadership, his longstanding commitment to effective inmate programs, and his devoted service to public safety in Middlesex County.’’

A Middlesex sheriff’s deputy was posted at the DiPaola residence in Malden last night, turning away media. The house — a tan, three-bedroom residence that sits at the end of a steep cul-de-sac — was dark. The deputy said no one was home.

DiPaola leaves his wife, Adeline, three daughters, and three grandchildren.

Friends of DiPaola said they were baffled by his apparent suicide. One, who did not want to be quoted by name, said it was completely out of character for the sheriff, who was outgoing and affable, and seemingly well-adjusted.

Katie Kelly, the manager of the Lafayette Oceanfront Resort, said she was the one who found DiPaola’s body. During 22 years in the hotel industry, she said, she had never encountered a suicide before.

The resort, a 153-room, 14-building complex, is perched on the coast in an idyllic New England setting, with clapboard buildings and white wooden porches. It is one of dozens of lodging properties owned by the Lafayette family, which operates hotels and resorts in Maine, New Hampshire, and Michigan.

A Wells police sergeant, Kent Berdeen, said it appeared that DiPaola shot himself with his service weapon, a Glock issued by the sheriff’s department. There were no reports of a shot being fired, the sergeant said, but it appears DiPaola used a pillow to muffle the gun.

The sheriff’s body was examined by a state medical examiner, Berdeen said, and is expected to be released to the family today.

DiPaola’s name had burst into the news in the past week, when the Globe reported that the longtime sheriff had hatched a scheme that would have allowed him to collect a $98,500 annual pension at the same time he earned a sheriff’s salary of $123,000. After reporters confronted him, DiPaola abandoned his plans to take advantage of a loophole in pension law and said that, instead, he would resign in January.

The Globe reported his pension scheme and his change of heart last Sunday. That night, WFXT-TV (Channel 25) broadcast a story alleging that DiPaola pocketed money intended for his political campaign committee and had sheriff’s employees use official vehicles to pick him up on occasions when he had been drinking.

The following day, DiPaola acknowledged that the State Ethics Commission was investigating the Middlesex Sheriff’s Office. That inquiry, he said, had nothing to do with his pension. Instead, ethics investigators are reviewing whether workers in the sheriff’s office raised money for his reelection, a practice forbidden by state law.

The ethics commission turned the matter over to the Middlesex district attorney, who forwarded it to the attorney general last week, according to a law enforcement source. The attorney general’s office has not started its investigation.

“When it comes out, I am confident it will find no wrongdoing on my part,’’ the sheriff told the Globe. “Nothing happened under my direction.’’

During his 18 years on the Malden police force, DiPaola served as a patrolman, sergeant, and undercover narcotics detective. He was elected to two terms in the state House.

He won a special election for Middlesex sheriff in 1996, becoming the 29th Middlesex sheriff. He was reelected to six-year terms in 1998, 2004, and this year.

Before he was reelected Nov. 2, DiPaola had hit upon a loophole in state law that would have allowed him to legally double-dip, collecting his salary and pension simultaneously.

Unbeknownst to his staff and voters, DiPaola quietly filed retirement papers Oct. 28, although he continued to serve as sheriff. His plan was to forgo his sheriff’s salary until he was sworn in for a new term in January. Then, because of that hiatus in salary, he could qualify for his pension and salary.

But the sheriff underwent a dramatic change of heart after being queried about his plan by a Globe reporter, saying it had sparked his conscience.

“I’d always be remembered for this, for double-dipping, that that would be my legacy,’’ he said.

“From a financial perspective it was great. It was legal. But I tossed and turned all night. I did put myself first this time, and I don’t want it to end that way.’’

He continued: “I asked myself, ‘Is this really worth it?’ ’’

Instead, DiPaola announced that, despite winning overwhelming reelection, he would resign Jan. 6, allowing the governor to appoint his successor. He also said because remaining in office would earn him only about $25,000 more a year than if he retired and took his pension, he decided it wasn’t worth it financially to remain in office.

Paul Carew, a 58-year-old from Natick, stood outside the hotel last night with his eyes red. He had worked for several years under DiPaola and was vacationing in the same hotel where his boss of four years and friend of 15 years died.

Carew, who led a veteran’s intervention program in the sheriff’s office, lauded DiPaola for his work with children and troubled veterans in Massachusetts. “When you’re in politics, especially with as many people as there are in Middlesex County, you’re bound to make enemies,’’ Carew said.

On the sheriff’s office website, a page devoted to DiPaola’s biography said he is guided by this ethos:

“There is no excuse for crime. There is no justification for violence. There is no solution without example.’’

NEWS: (Suburban) DuPage murder suspect’s life as cop under scrutiny

--Don't recall ever running into John Gilbert while he was in Maywood. I would think though that for anyone with prior police experience it would automatically be used as a way of showing you had some kind of knowledge of how things work.--

DuPage County Case Number 2009CF000566
Daily Herald 

By Josh Stockinger

DuPage County prosecutors are seeking a judge’s permission to introduce evidence about a murder suspect’s past life as a police officer.

John Gilbert, 47, of Chicago is charged in the February 2009 shooting death of 38-year-old Jason Dragos near Burr Ridge.

According to court documents, Gilbert was a part-time police officer in some of the Chicago area’s most crime-ridden jurisdictions including Phoenix and Maywood between 1999 and 2007.

Prosecutors are seeking to use that information as evidence to demonstrate Gilbert has a working knowledge of firearms, crime scene investigations and “how to avoid detection during a police investigation.”

Gilbert’s attorney, however, says the information is irrelevant.

“He is not Drew Peterson,” Jed Stone said. “It’s a stretch to suggest that, because John Gilbert served the community as a part-time police officer many years ago, he is now more likely guilty than innocent.”

Dragos’ body was discovered Feb. 9, 2009, in a closet at the SAIA Trucking Co. near Burr Ridge, where Gilbert was his sales supervisor, after his wife reported him missing.

According to police, Gilbert and Dragos, of Highland, Ind., met at the office the day before Dragos’ body was found. They were planning for a presentation in Chicago.

Police said the presentation was canceled after Gilbert left the office and checked himself into a hospital, claiming he nearly had a heart attack over an e-mail in which Dragos said company executives forced him to “secretly follow” Gilbert and report back on his whereabouts and actions.

Investigators said they later discovered that the e-mail, which described a “witch hunt” against Gilbert and his family, had been generated on a computer recovered from Gilbert’s home.

Prosecutors have alleged in court that Gilbert was stressed and angry that the victim “went over his head” at work.

Authorities believe Dragos was shot with a .40-caliber gun. No murder weapon has been recovered, according to court records, but investigators say Gilbert reported two firearms, including a .40-caliber Glock, stolen in 2005.

DuPage County Judge George Bakalis is scheduled to hear arguments surrounding Gilbert’s past work as a police officer at a hearing in January.

If convicted, Gilbert could be sentenced to natural life in prison. He remains in the DuPage County jail without bond.

NEWS: (Chicago) Slain officer, David Blake, was always 'coming to the rescue'

Chicago Tribune

Investigation continues into Blake's killing

By Kristen Schorsch, Tribune reporter
8:58 PM CST, November 28, 2010

David Blake was the ultimate partner, an aggressive Chicago police officer yet gentle friend who loved a good road trip and a solid hit on the football field, friends and colleagues said Sunday.

"Dave was always the guy that's coming to the rescue," said Sean Davis, one of Blake's former partners.

Hundreds of people attended a wake Sunday for Blake, a SWAT team member who was on the force for 15 years.

Blake, 45, was found Nov. 22 dead with multiple gunshot wounds inside his SUV in the 2900 block of West Seipp Street, several miles from his home. A cigarette was dangling from his mouth. The vehicle's windows were up, suggesting the shots were fired from inside, several sources have told the Tribune.

No one is in custody, and police continue to investigate, authorities said.

Blake was laid to rest wearing his olive-green SWAT uniform, his helmet nearby. Inside Leak & Sons Funeral Homes in Chicago's Chatham neighborhood, photos on display captured Blake's various experiences on the force.

The officers weren't grieving only for Blake. He was one of two Chicago police officers killed last week and the sixth to die violently this year.

"When you go out every day, you don't know if you're coming back," said Carmelena Dunson, a retired Chicago police officer. "It's frightening. It's frustrating. We all are devastated when we have one of our own killed."

Amid the pain, colleagues described Blake's close friendships. He taught a fellow officer how to ride a motorcycle and, having a knack for photography, snapped prom pictures for a friend's daughter.

Samuel Jones, one of Blake's coaches on the Chicago Enforcers, the police football team, said Blake could still pummel with force on the field, despite his age.

Strong and swift, Blake was known to run after assailants and have them in handcuffs before other officers arrived on the scene, said Samuel Kendrick, a close friend who vacationed with Blake and was on various police teams with him for 13 years.

"Dave was a great guy who did not deserve to go the way he did," Kendrick said, his eyes welling with tears.

NEWS: (Chicago) $20,000 reward in slayings of cop, ex-CHA officer

Chicago Tribune

November 28, 2010

The reward money offered for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the slayings of Chicago Police Officer Michael Flisk and a former Chicago Housing Authority officer on the Southeast Side last week was increased Sunday to $20,000, police said.

Meanwhile, investigators this afternoon continued to hold a parolee described as a "person of interest" for questioning in connection with the Friday afternoon shooting that claimed Flisk's life and that of former CHA officer Stephen Peters.

An unmarked police vehicle was stationed outside the parolee's home in the South Chicago neighborhood Sunday afternoon as the man's car was towed away.

Shortly after Peters, 44, reported a burglary in his mother's garage behind the 8100 block of South Burnham Avenue to police on Friday, he and the 46-year-old Flisk, an evidence technician who had responded to the call, were shot outside the garage in the alley. Both Peters and Flisk also had guns which were found not fired at the scene, police said.

The person held for questioning, a 19-year-old man on parole for a 2007 armed robbery conviction, lives across the alley from where Peters parked his prized Ford Mustang GT inside his mother's garage, sources told the Tribune on Saturday.

When approached by a reporter outside the home--located on a block dotted with single-family homes and two-story apartment buildings--a relative of the 19-year-old declined to comment.

The Tribune is not naming the person being held for questioning because he hasn't been charged in the investigation.

Several members of the Chi-Town Mustang Club, an organization that Peters also belonged to, held a vigil this afternoon in the alley where Flisk and Peters were killed.

"It was senseless. It was dumb...It just don't make no sense," Keith Flowers, president of the club, said of the shooting. "Whatever they were trying to take, he (Peters) would've given it to them."

Flowers said Peters "loved his cars" and was a member at the club for a number of years.

"You can call him up anytime, night or day or whatever, if he doesn't answer he'd call back and say 'What's up? What's going on? What do you need?" Flowers said. "He was that generous of a person."

An anonymous donor's contribution through the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation doubled the reward money from $10,000 to $20,000.

Anyone with information about the case can call Calumet Area detectives, 312-747-8272, or place a confidential, toll-free call to 888-976-7468.

--Jeremy Gorner

Sunday, November 28, 2010

PENSION: Where does your fund stand?


This is a file from the Chicago Tribune. It lists 623 pension funds in Illinois and their financial standing. It is a file that opens in Microsoft Excel. It is in alphabetical order.

Illinois Pension Funds ---->>>HERE


PENSION: Flaws in the pension system

--Everyone understands that the system is broken, that is not an issue. The issue is in how to fix it. The local politicians need to just own up and say they contributed the problems and it is not the rank and file that need to fix it. It needs to be a cooperative effort in which all parties involved sit down and come with reasonable and meaningful pension reform. It can be done but it won't until the bosses are able to admit that they started the downturn and stop trying to turn the public against the police, fire and public works employees.--

Chicago Tribune 

A look at how some suburbs are struggling

November 28, 2010


Earlier this year Countryside officials asked the state to weigh in on a pension-boosting pay bump in the police union contract — years after it had already been used to beef up retirement checks for outgoing officers.

Regulators said they should stop giving it.

The contract granted an $850 "longevity" bonus to officers with 20 or more years on the job and who were eligible to retire. A letter of understanding attached to the contract specifically outlines the check should be multiplied to reflect a pay raise of more than $20,000. With a pension typically based on 50 to 75 percent of that amount, it can add $10,000 to $15,000 to the first year's retirement checks.

If the officer lives another 20 years — based on a legally required, compounded 3 percent pension increase each year — the one-time $850 bonus translates into $250,000 to $400,000 in extra pension payments.

State regulators said that bonus should only add a total of $850 to an officer's annual salary to determine a pension. But the advisory opinion has little enforcement effect.

Asked about the "longevity" bonus provision, Mayor Robert Conrad said other towns agree to similar perks in union contracts. But he said with the current eight-year contract up for renewal, the town is mulling its future.

"I'm sure this is going to be quite a topic in those negotiations," Conrad said.

The state's advisory opinion came after Chief Timothy Swanson retired last year.

With nearly 27 years on the force, he was able to collect more than $13,000 extra in the first year of retirement thanks to the longevity bonus, making his starting pension $84,555 at age 50. Swanson declined to comment.

Countryside's police pension system was evaluated at 54 percent funded in the last fiscal year, dropping from 75 percent in 2006. The town's payments to the fund have more than doubled over four years to $858,000 in the previous fiscal year.


Investment losses racked Barrington's police pension fund in 2008, helping boost the amount owed by the village 57 percent over the last three years to $584,000.

But even as more money is going in, the system's health has dropped from 87 percent funded in 2008 to about 69 percent this year. Faced with the economic downturn, the village has turned to cutting 29 positions, said Village Manager Jeff Lawler, the former police chief.

The financial hit also came as Lawler and several other police brass landed 6 percent pension-boosting pay bumps as part of an early-retirement incentive to save the jobs of younger officers. The police contract for lower-level officers gave a similar perk to many retirees, Lawler said.

Lawler is now looking at negotiating out the pension-sweetening pay bump in the next union contract. But, he said it has not been an uncommon perk.

"It was certainly out there, not only in the public safety world, but in the education world and many other governmental areas," he said. "You negotiate the best deal you think you can at the moment."

Former Lake Zurich Chief William Urry knows, in hindsight, the deal was too generous.

Under what he considered a long-standing village practice, the chief was set to get a $13,000 last-minute pay bump in 2008 to boost his pension. Two other officers were also in line for a similar bump, said Village Administrator Bob Vitas.

But Vitas, a new administrator at the time, said he put the brakes on the deals. Urry said he understands why: Such perks aggravate taxpayers and only add to the growing pension bills.

"You really have a pretty nice pension as it is, and you can't keep asking for more," Urry said.

Urry, 64, said he already had a pension from 22 years on another suburban force. His Lake Zurich pension started at $26,574 for nine years' work. One of the officers who was denied the end-of-career bump fought it in court, where Vitas said it remains tied up.

He said the "golden parachute" giveaway would only add to problems exacerbated by the village not putting enough into the police and fire funds in previous years.

Next year the village plans to pay a total of nearly $2.5 million to its police and fire funds, more than four times as much as the far northwest suburb paid in fiscal 2009 and more than a third of its projected property tax levy.

As costs have risen and the economy suffers, the village has cut 24 positions in the last three fiscal years. Village actuaries say the firefighter pensions are now 50 percent funded and peg the police pensions at 37 percent.

"It is kind of like drowning," Vitas said. "You get your head to the surface just to get your head pushed under."


In the last six years, Niles' public safety pension payments have jumped more than 500 percent.

The cost is rising partly because of investment losses. But the village is also trying to come close to paying what the actuaries say is needed to keep the fund healthy.

In the six years, the village has shorted its fire and pension funds a combined $11.3 million compared with what the actuaries said was needed. The state cited the village for not putting in what it should in a 2009 audit of the fire fund.

Village Manager George Van Geem said local taxpayers can't afford to pay as much as the actuaries say is needed, but officials plan to pay the full amount in the next fiscal year.

"We just don't have the money," he said, before insisting: "We are going to get caught up eventually."

The village's actuary pegged the fire pension system at 62 percent funded and the police at 53 percent last year.

"Something needs to be done," Van Geem said.


Wilmette officials recently decided to map out just how much taxpayers will have to put into public safety pensions for the next 23 years under state law, and the conclusion was jarring.

For every dollar spent on police and firefighter salaries, an average of nearly 50 cents will have to be set aside for their pensions to cover a projected total liability of $236 million.

This comes after the North Shore suburb has watched the funds go from a relatively healthy rating of 84 percent in 2002, to hovering at or below 65 percent this year. The recession dealt a big hit to the funds, but benefit increases approved by lawmakers didn't help, said village finance director Robert Amoruso.

The village also changed the assumptions, such as how long retirees will live, in a way that boosted required payments. The amount set to be paid next year, nearly $4 million, is double what it was in 2006 and comes in at more than a quarter of the suburb's property tax levy.

Stone Park

Stone Park endured its share of struggles early this decade, including a former top cop and ex-mayor going to prison for taking mob bribes. But a census figure in 2000 shocked town leaders and helped create one of the worst-funded police pension systems in Illinois.

The census counted more than 5,000 residents in the land-locked near west suburb, a milestone town leaders never expected. That population boost triggered a state law boosting police retirement benefits to state-mandated levels.

Town officers used to have to work 30 years to get a pension with half-pay. The state law put that at 20 years. And officers who stayed 30 years got to retire with pensions of three-fourths their pay, said Mayor Ben Mazzulla.

The town had saved about $1 million in its smaller, in-house pension fund, officials said. That wasn't nearly enough to cover officers' newly promised, retroactively acquired benefits.

Veteran officers retired, collecting the more generous benefits. Worse yet, it took years for the town to certify and start collecting property taxes to fund the pensions, officials said. Then the economy soured investment returns on what little cash was in the fund. The result: The town at last count had $860,000 in its police pension fund. By state standards, it would need to invest $10.8 million more this year to ensure it can cover benefits already promised to current and past workers. So its funding level is 7 percent.

Pension fund officials agree current town leaders inherited the problem and are doing what they can. The mayor said they've cut the budget to keep other taxes lower so residents can afford the increasing pension levy. Among the cuts: not replacing part-time officers who leave the force.

PENSION: Tale of two city workers

Chicago Tribune

November 28, 2010

Compared to the office clerks or street sweepers in their own communities, police officers and firefighters can retire much earlier, generally at a higher salary and the retirement checks will grow faster.

Supporters say this is because the jobs are dangerous and rigorous. Who wants a 65-year-old police officer chasing crooks?

But those in less dangerous jobs have a pension that is far better funded, partly because taxpayers are forced to pay for it.

Regular municipal workers fall under the consolidated Illinois Municipal Retirement System. Under state law, the system's actuaries decide how much towns must pay each year. Towns that don't pay the required amount can be taken to court, and have their tax proceeds garnished.

That fund was at 100 percent before the recession. At the end of 2009, it was 82 percent funded.

Police and firefighters have their own pension systems in each town. The state doesn't let those funds dictate how much each town must pay and rules meant to keep the fund's sound are routinely ignored.

Before the recession, they were collectively funded at 63 percent statewide. By 2009, according to the most available figures, they were collectively funded at 51 percent statewide.

Yet, the benefits are also different. Generally, police and firefighters can retire earlier and get more pay — maxing out at 75 percent of pay after 30 years. Other municipal worker have to work 40 years to get that pension. Emergency workers put in nearly 10 percent of every check toward their pension. Other municipal workers put in less than half that. New municipal workers hired starting next year will fall into a stricter system.

Most public safety workers don't pay into or get Social Security benefits from their jobs. Other municipal workers do.

Figuring out their pensions is different too. Non-emergency municipal workers use a four-year average of pay to help determine a pension. All types of compensation can count, such as bonuses and unused sick and vacation time — something the Tribune found has been used to inflate pensions of top village administrators over the years.

Police and firefighter pensions are based on the salary at the last day of work, making it even easier to inflate pensions. Bonuses and unused sick or vacation time don't count. But pensions can be boosted by pay raises on the last day.

Both sets of retirees get 3 percent raises each year, but those for emergency workers are compounded. Without compounding, checks over 20 years increase by 60 percent. With it, they increase by 80 percent.

Spouses also get a big boost under the police and fire plan. Once a retiree dies, the surviving spouse gets the full pension check amount until he or she dies. For other municipal workers, the spouse gets half the check.

NEWS: (Chicago) 'Person of interest' questioned in slaying of Officer Flisk

 Chicago Tribune

November 28, 2010 8:04 AM

Chicago police are questioning "a person of interest" in the shooting that killed both veteran police Officer Michael Flisk and a former Chicago Housing Authority officer whose car had been burglarized, law enforcement sources told the Tribune.

The person, a 19-year-old parolee, lives across the Southeast Side alley from where former CHA officer Stephen Peters parked his prized Ford Mustang GT inside his mother's garage, the sources said Saturday.

Shortly after Peters reported the burglary to police, he and Flisk, an evidence technician who had responded to the call, were shot in the alley on the 8100 block of South Burnham Avenue. Both Peters and Flisk also had guns, but did not use them, police said.

The new development came hours after police Superintendent Jody Weis expressed frustration Saturday over having "no solid leads" in solving the fifth police slaying in six months.

"It appears as if the individual perpetrated this crime, then fled the scene immediately," Weis said during a Saturday afternoon news conference outside police headquarters. "It just shows the evil that's out there, that someone is willing to kill two human beings, over, perhaps, the proceeds that he might take out of a garage burglary."

Peters' mother, Laura Peters, said her son reported the Friday burglary then, after finding some car parts in an alley trash can, ran inside her home to get his gun because he believed the thief would return.

Moments later, she said, she heard two shots, followed shortly afterward by two more, which prompted her to look outside her kitchen window.

"I saw the guy run down the alleyway (carrying) the garbage can" where the car parts had been stashed, she said Saturday at her home, surrounded by friends and family.

Both men's guns lay unfired in the alley when police responding to the shooting found the victims, Weis said. Nothing had been taken from Flisk.

Stephen Peters, 44, loved the Mustang he kept in her garage, his mother said. A member of a local Mustang club, he had loaded the car with many extras, including a television and stereo. That was his passion, she said -- buying cars and building them up.

When he found the car broken into, Peters called his wife, Djana, to tell her about it. Djana Peters, who goes by DJ, asked if she should join him at the house, but he told her to stay put.

"The next call I got was from the police," said DJ Peters, 41, who lived with her husband in an apartment in Forest Park.

She found out her husband was dead when she reached the hospital.

"No one would tell me anything," she said. "I had no idea."

Stephen Peters served in the Army after graduating from South Shore High School, his mother said. A former CHA police officer, he had worked for 11 years as a utility lineman for AT&T, his mother said.

His younger half brother, Justin Peters, 21, was also shot to death in 2004. But the two men were nothing alike, said their father, Robert Peters.

While Justin hung out with a rough crowd that sought trouble, Stephen "was a genuine good guy" who would sometimes round up kids in his family's Southeast Side neighborhood to buy them shoes, their father said.

Because there was no emergency attached to the burglary report, Flisk was dispatched alone to process the scene for evidence, Weis said.

In light of Flisk's death, the superintendent said he will review the department policy of allowing evidence technicians to respond to crime scenes by themselves. But he pointed out there was no reason to think Flisk, a 20-year department veteran, was walking into a dangerous situation.

"Keep in mind evidence technicians are not usually first responders. They don't go where an emergency exists," Weis said.

Police have offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the slayings, and officers and volunteers spent much of the afternoon knocking on doors and distributing fliers in the blocks around the alley where the shooting happened.

Urging the public to offer any information that might help solve the slayings, Weis appeared exasperated over what one veteran police union official described as the deadliest year for Chicago cops in decades.

"When a uniformed Chicago police officer is gunned down in the middle of the day while assisting a member of our community, it is time for everyone to take a really good look in the mirror," Weis said. "How much more can we take?"

Tribune reporters David Heinzmann, Annie Sweeney and Andrew L. Wang contributed.

--Jeremy Gorner, John Byrne and Lisa Black

Saturday, November 27, 2010

PENSION: Suburbs face their own pension mess

--FINALLY!! An article that tells it the way it is and where the problem came from and who is to blame. Some mayors are still trying to push it all off to the state instead of shouldering the blame. The problems begin and end at the local politicians, plain and simple.--

Chicago Tribune

Region's taxpayers find police and fire funds are out of sync by $5 billion

By Joe Mahr, Steve Schmadeke and Joseph Ryan, Tribune reporters

November 28, 2010

Suburbs from wealthy to working-class have combined to dig a $5 billion hole for taxpayers on the hook to pay for the pensions of police officers and firefighters.

A Tribune analysis of the Depression-era pension system found that suburban leaders' failures and missteps have collectively helped create another staggering layer of crisis beyond the better-known problems that have the state and city of Chicago in a stranglehold.

Some communities are now slashing budgets or even laying off workers as they try to reconcile the promises they made to cops and firefighters with the amount of money actually set aside for them.

Of the 300-plus pension funds across the region, only about 20 are rated by the state as fully funded.

"I feel at the moment as if I'm lying to every new hire to the police and fire departments by promising them a pension I'm not sure I can deliver," said Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl.

Some towns did not put nearly enough into their pension funds. Some padded pensions of workers by boosting salaries just before they retired. Some boards overseeing the funds violated basic management rules.

And state regulators have little power to police excesses, allowing problems to fester from suburb to suburb.

The Tribune documented problems that alone might not seem large, but add up to a big burden for taxpayers:

In Niles, officials failed for years to pay their pension funds what actuaries said was needed, and crawling out of the hole has led to a fivefold jump in payments as police and fire jobs go unfilled.

In Barrington, officials jacked up pensions for top brass to entice retirements and agreed to a pension-inflating perk in the union contract. Then town leaders joined a PR campaign to push state lawmakers to ease the "unsustainable burden" of such pensions on towns.

And in St. Charles, the board overseeing pension cash has used some to pay the board president's wife for clerical work and to send board members, all expenses paid, to out-of-state conferences while the pension fund's health worsened.

The flaws and excesses were long masked by a strong economy, when big investment returns pushed average funding levels to nearly 80 percent a decade ago — which many experts consider to be healthy. The latest figures from 2009 show suburban public-safety pension funds, on average, have just 52 percent of the assets needed to be fully funded.

Though the true cost will vary from place to place, the unpaid tab averages nearly $2,700 for every suburban household. A strong economy could boost investment returns and lessen the liability, but experts say the financial sins of the past are too great for pension systems to merely invest their way out of them.

As lawmakers consider reforms, town leaders and unions point fingers. Unions complain towns haven't saved enough and lawmakers failed to force them. Suburban leaders complain lawmakers required them to offer lucrative benefits without the cash to pay for them. The one thing they agree on: The recession made the problems far worse.

The looming crisis frustrates residents such as Jim Young, who joined an Evanston panel studying that city's pension woes. He said government needs to pay for its promises, or stop promising so much.

"Don't kick the can down the road, because that's a debt you're giving my kids and my grandkids, and they're going to have to run the marathon of life with a 5-pound weight on their back," Young said. "How in the hell are they going to compete when they have all this debt?"

Passing the buck

Given their dangerous jobs, police and firefighters have long been promised more generous pensions than rank-and-file government workers. Towns are supposed to collect enough property taxes each year so that, if combined with employee contributions and prudently invested, it would over time cover the benefits already earned by current and future retirees.

But the law doesn't say how much towns must put in, often leading to fights over the math.

The Department of Insurance provides figures to each town to levy in taxes and transfer to the pension funds. But the law lets towns hire their own actuaries to come up with different figures. Pension funds can get their own actuaries, too.

There are no set standards — allowing tweaks in the formula that can sharply lower what a town has to pay, pushing more debt to the future.

And many times, the Tribune found, suburbs' payments failed to meet even the lowest amount required by law.

The state doesn't compile figures of how many towns have done that, with such findings usually buried in individual fund audits. The Tribune reviewed every audit the state would provide — 153 of them in metro Chicago — and found regulators cited a third of their taxing districts for not providing enough cash to their pension funds.

Pension boards complain and even sue the towns, as Summit's police board did last month, alleging it is owed at least $1.1 million.

Meanwhile, towns plead poverty or cut jobs to boost pension funding.

Lake Zurich administrators are trying to catch up after previous town leaders shorted the police pension fund for years. They are planning to pay $1.2 million to the fund next year, six times what they paid just two years ago.

To make budget in recent years, officials have cut 24 positions.

"I wish we could pass the buck to the next guy," Village Administrator Bob Vitas said. "But the reality is you can't."

After shorting its funds, Niles is paying more, in part, by not filling about five open slots for police and firefighters this year. Bridgeview is leaving spots unfilled, too.

Towns that shorted their funds for years get little sympathy from pension fund officials. They say they long warned that the practice would eventually lead to skyrocketing bills.

"When you have politicians with this discretionary authority, where they don't have to pay, that's a real problem," said Jim McNamee, a retired Barrington officer who runs an advocacy group for police and fire pension funds. "They gave themselves a huge tax break during the best economic times we had."

Even sweeter pensions

The skyrocketing bills haven't stopped towns from inflating pensions. A Tribune review of audits and area departments found the practice has been happening for years — even among towns that complain about high pension costs.

Because the size of workers pensions is based in part on their final salary, raises just before retirement inflate the payouts for years to come.

The spiking is written into union contracts from Wood Dale to Lansing, the Tribune found, spelled out as "longevity" pay boosts that coincidentally occur during the anniversaries when employees are likely to retire.

It was just that kind of pay hike that boosted the pension of Countryside police Chief Timothy Swanson 20 percent — to $84,555 — when he retired last year. He declined to comment.

Some pay bumps are offered to induce retirement — it's the boost in pension that is the real enticement.

That's how a retiring Franklin Park deputy chief ended up with a salary higher than her boss.

Some of the end-of-career pay raises are part of regular retirement deals to top cops.

In Justice, five police brass retired with pay bumps this decade, even as the town failed to pay the money it was supposed to into the pension fund. That included Carmine Gioiosa, a chief whose pension was bumped about $23,000 a year, to $85,995.

Gioiosa said the deal was fair — retirees gave up health insurance coverage for as long as 15 years in exchange for the pension boost. Former Mayor Melvin VanAllen agreed, saying shifting the costs to the pension fund "is what the law allows."

But current Justice Mayor Kris Wasowicz called the deals "unconscionable." He said his town is simply too broke, having cut 12 positions in recent years, to pay for pensions he describes as too lucrative.

In Barrington, one chief got a big payday and a new job — in the same town. As part of a deal to clear police payroll and avoid layoffs, Barrington Police Chief Jeff Lawler got an extra 6 percent raise to induce his retirement. The extra pay bump boosted his pension by nearly $5,500 to about $97,000 at the age of 56.

Then the town rehired him as its $128,000-a-year village manager.

One of his top priorities as village manager: get a handle on rising pension costs.

Lawler says his early-retirement bump was justified — a similar deal was offered to other brass and in the union contract. But he wonders if the system can survive without changes.

"The concern is that, over time, if these costs continue to rise, is it sustainable?" Lawler said. "And does that do anybody any good?"

A unique setup

State regulators frequently receive complaints about spiking and often issue "advisory opinions" saying it shouldn't be done. But they have little power to stop it.

What they can do is audit the funds to point out problems.

There are more than 600 separate funds across Illinois, and each has its own five-member board representing municipalities, workers and retirees. Each board hires its own lawyers and investment advisers.

Investment returns varied widely. In limited data from the state, the area's best fund last year earned 24 percent, the worst lost 12 percent.

It's unique for pension systems. Most other states — and most Illinois government workers — have pooled, statewide systems run by full-time staffs. Police and firefighter unions say local control is better, but lawmakers have limited how risky their investments can be and insist the Department of Insurance regularly audit the funds.

Those audits commonly cite boards for breaking basic management and accounting rules, often paperwork oriented, but sometimes more serious.

Pensions boards have been cited for making improper and risky investments, for repeatedly miscalculating pension checks, for spending too much on trips or personal expenses, and for failing to meet — for years.

In Des Plaines, the police board used pension money to pay for food as well as cell phone bills that averaged $450 a month. Board president Nicholas Chiaro said the expenses were fair — volunteer board members need to eat during meetings and stay in touch between them — and the fund's investments have done well.

The Department of Insurance itself struggles to comply with state law requiring that it audit each fund every three years. The Tribune asked for the most recent audits of every fund. Of audits provided, half were older than three years.

That included St. Charles, where the police fund has 51 percent of needed cash to cover earned benefits.

In 2003, its most recent audit, the board was cited for renting an office where it met just four times a year. Board president Larry Laughlin said the board no longer rents it because the city now allows it to meet at the police station.

The board, upset at the city's handling of paperwork, hired Laughlin's wife to do it after seeking bids from her and several accounting firms, Laughlin said. He said he didn't vote on the deal, and he would not disclose her pay.

Laughlin also confirmed the board regularly pays travel expenses for board members to attend pension conferences. That included two members going to New York City to learn about the stock market.

State auditors have questioned similar expenditures in audits of other towns. But with seven years since the last audit, it's unclear what they think of St. Charles' fund.

The Department of Insurance won't answer questions about why it hasn't been back to St. Charles, or comment publicly on any other aspect of the Tribune's findings.

A former state pension regulator, Tom Jones, said it's impossible for the state to keep close tabs on the funds. Even when audits find problems, there's little the state can do.

Jones, who ran the Department of Insurance's pension division from 1990 to 2004, said public pensions are mostly untouchable, barring any criminal behavior. That's different from insurance companies.

"I can go shut down an insurance company," he said. "But I can't shut down the pension fund if they don't have enough money."

Towns and unions, however, have only ratcheted up the public-relations battle over underfunded pensions. Unions want more pressure on towns to make payments. Towns want debt payments eased, current workers to shoulder more of the cost, and new hires to get fewer benefits.

"I think the state has to deal with the issue, or there will be bankrupt funds," said Tisdahl, the Evanston mayor.

A coalition of municipal leaders ran carefully worded nonbinding referendum proposals in 44 communities this month, asking something few would dispute:

Should lawmakers and the governor take immediate steps to protect taxpayers from the burden of police and fire pension costs through meaningful pension reform?

In all 44 communities, more than three-fourths of voters answered yes, as they brace for higher taxes and fewer services to pay for past pension promises.

NEWS: Coverage of CPD Officer Michael Flisk murder

Local coverage of the murder of Chicago Police Officer Michael Flisk and retired Chicago Housing Authority Officer Stephen Peters.

Press Conference by Supt Jody Weis on Saturday Nov 27, 2010

Chicago Tribune
$10,000 reward in slayings of cop, ex-CHA officer

Chicago Sun-Times
On-duty cop, ex-suburban cop fatally gunned down

Daily Herald
Chicago officer, civilian killed at burglary scene

Channel 7

Channel 2

Channel 5

Fox News Chicago


R.I.P.: Police Officer Michael Flisk


Police Officer Michael Flisk
Chicago Police Department
End of Watch: Friday, November 26, 2010

Biographical Info
Age: 46
Tour of Duty: 19 years, 11 months
Badge Number: Not available

Incident Details
Cause of Death: Gunfire
Date of Incident: Friday, November 26, 2010
Weapon Used: Gun; Unknown type
Suspect Info: At large

Officer Michael Flisk was shot and killed while processing the scene of a vehicle burglary inside an alley garage at 1:30 pm in the 8100 block of South Burnham Avenue.

Officer Flisk was shot in the head and died an hour later at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. The homeowner, a former Chicago Housing Authority and Robbins police officer was also shot and later died at Advocate Christ Medical Center.

The suspect responsible for the shootings remains at large.

Officer Flisk had served with the Chicago Police Department for nearly 20 years and was assigned to the Evidence Technician Team – South Unit. He is survived by his wife, daughter and three sons. He is also survived by three siblings who all serve on the Chicago Police Department.

Agency Contact Information

Chicago Police Department
3510 S. Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60653
Phone: (312) 746-6000

OFFICER DOWN BREAKING NEWS: (Updated) Chicago Police Officer Shot and Killed

Date and time changed to hold at the top of the blog.

*UPDATE* 3:45pm-- The Cook County Medical Examiner's Office has reported the officer has died from his injuries.

*UPDATE 9:45pm*-- Officer Michael Flisk identified as victim.

Memorial info will be posted when available

Getting reports of an on duty Chicago police officer and another person being shot in the area of 81st and Manistee on the South Side.

Officer was working as an evidence technician processing a crime scene and was shot in the head.

The officer was taken to Northwestern Hospital in critical condition.

More information when it becomes available.

Channel 7 Video Jody Weis statement

 Chicago Sun-Times

Cop fatally shot in head in South Shore neighborhood

November 26, 2010


A Chicago police evidence technician was shot in the head and killed Friday afternoon while investigating a garage burglary in the South Chicago neighborhood, while the home owner, a former CHA officer, was slain as well, police said.

The shootings happened about 1:30 p.m. in the alley behind the 8100 block of South Burnham.

The Chicago police officer was 46, a 20-year veteran of the force, married and a father of four. He was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital where he died about an hour after he was shot. He comes from a police family with three siblings who are also officers. Initial reports said Lake Shore Drive was shut down to expedite the ambulance’s arrival.

The former CHA officer was taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn.

One witness in the neighborhood said police armed with assault weapons were going door to door, possibly in search of a suspect.

“We will squeeze that neighborhood, and we will find out who did this,” Chicago Police Supt. Jody Weis said Friday at a news conference outside Northwestern Memorial.

Weis said police had very limited information about the offender or the motive.

“It just shows how some people have no respect for human life,” Weis said.

The shootings follow the fatal shooting on Monday night of off-duty Chicago Police Officer David Blake, a SWAT team member. No one has been charged in Blake's slaying.

Neighborhood resident Avis Walker, 44, said she was sleeping upstairs in her home when she heard two shots.

“I sat up and heard two or three more shots behind it,” Walker said.

About five minutes later, ambulances and police officers arrived at the scene, she said.

Walker said she believes one of the wounded men was a police officer who lives just east of her across an alley on Burnham Avenue.

“We heard it was a burglary,” Walker said.

Her mother, Frieda Walker, said there have been several break-ins in the neighborhood recently, including a man who tried to steal a car from her garage. The man ran away when her husband saw him, she said.

“There have been a lot of shootings, too, but not on this block,” Frieda Walker said.

She said her neighbors have a block club and regularly communicate about crime in the area.

Chicago Tribune
Police officer among 2 fatally shot in South Chicago

A Chicago police officer and another person were shot and killed this afternoon in the South Chicago neighborhood on the South Side.

The shooting happened about 1:30 p.m. in the 8100 block of South Manistee Avenue.

Law enforcement sources said the officer is an on-duty evidence technician who was processing a crime scene at that location when the shooting occurred. Investigators were on the scene this afternoon.

The officer was shot in the head, one of the sources said. The officer was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, and the other victim was taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn.

Both victims were initially taken in serious-to-critical condition, but a spokesman for the Cook County medical examiner's office said the victims have since been pronounced dead.

Sources said the wounded officer comes from a family of Chicago police officers and has nearly 20 years on the job.

Johnny Walker said his daughter heard at least one gunshot, and he saw a large number of police personnel swarm the crime scene, which is behind his home.

He said the area around 81st and Mannistee has experienced dangerous crime over the last four or five years. Walker said someone tried to steal his truck from out of his garage recently.

"It's bad. It's dangerous. Breaking into houses, that's all they want to do," said Walker, 67.

The wounded officer was the second Chicago police officer shot this week. Off-duty Officer David Blake was shot and killed Monday night in his sport-utility vehicle in the 2900 block of West Seipp Street.

Police at the scene said they were searching for a suspect and advised neighbors to stay in their homes. Traffic on Manistee was closed off around the 8100 block.

The street was crowded with detectives, uniformed police officers and several police dogs.

Meanwhile, the street near the Northwestern emergency room was crowded with police vehicles, among them two forensic services squad cars. Chicago Police Supt. Jody Weis was seen arriving at Northwestern and entering the ER.

-- Jeremy Gorner and Annie Sweeney

Friday, November 26, 2010

OFFICER DOWN NEWS: (UPDATE) Cop, ex-CHA officer killed in South Chicago

Chicago Tribune

A Chicago police evidence technician and a former CHA officer were shot and killed this afternoon while the police officer was investigating a garage burglary in the South Chicago neighborhood on the South Side.

Michael Flisk, 46, was a 20-year veteran of the department and had a wife and four children, according to Supt. Jody Weis. Three of his siblings are also on the force.

"It's surreal. Even when I was told, it didn't resonate," said Flisk's sister-in-law, Gina Flisk.

The former CHA officer was identified by family members as Stephen Peters, 44, who was married with three sons.

"He was a good guy, hard-working. He loved his family," said his sister Pamela Reed.

Reed said her brother called police today after someone broke into the garage of his mother's home near East 81st Street and South Burnham Avenue.

Flisk was shot in the head. He was in uniform and armed, and his marked squad car was parked in the area. There apparently were no witnesses.

Police sealed off streets in the neighborhood in the hours after the shooting and advised neighbors to stay in their homes. Streets were closed off around the crime scene. "We will squeeze that neighborhood and we will find the people who did this," Weis said.

Flisk is the second Chicago police officer shot and killed this week. Off-duty Officer David Blake was shot and killed Monday night in his sport utility vehicle in the 2900 block of West Seipp Street. Four other officers have been killed this year, three of them by gunfire.

Johnny Walker, a neighbor near the shooting scene, said his daughter heard at least one gunshot and he saw police swarm the crime scene.

He said the area around 81st and Burnham has been plagued by crime over the last four or five years. Walker said someone tried to steal his truck from of his garage recently.

He said there's been a lot of burglaries around his home for the last several months. "It's bad. It's dangerous. Breaking into houses, that's all they want to do," said Walker, 67, "Everyday, somebody's breaking in."

Walker said shootings are also common. "In the summer," he said, "you couldn't sit out front."

Flisk was assigned to the south unit of the evidence technician team for the last 3 ½ years. He began his career in the Deering District, and also worked in the South Chicago District and Mass Transit Unit.

Gina Flisk said her husband couldn't even turn on the radio when he heard what happened. He kept saying, "This must be a mistake," she said. He had heard the news from another brother.

Flisk had two brothers and two sisters.

Gina Flisk's children looked up to their Uncle Mike. When she told her daughter, she said, "I'm like a turtle and Uncle Mike was my shell, and now that he's gone, a part of me is missing."

A colleague of Flisk's, who was in  the same evidence technician class, described him as a "really quiet guy. A really nice guy."

The officer said many of the fingerprints Flisk inventoried at crime scenes, especially burglaries, would lead to a suspect's identity.

"You can tell he was great because he had so many hits," the colleague said.

On the officer's block in the Beverly neighborhood on the Southwest Side, neighbors came to his home to pay their condolences.

"He was one of the nicest guys you would ever meet," said Virginia Espinola, who lives a couple of doors down from the officer. "He was very calm, laid-back and quiet."

Espinola said that when she heard from another neighbor that the officer had been shot, it took her breath away.

"I just didn't believe it at first," she said. "He was one of the last guys you could have imagined this happening to."

The officer was very involved in the community, she said, organizing block parties with his wife and fixing cars for his neighbors. Espinola's son Matthew said he plays baseball with a teenage son of the officer and described the officer as "an involved father."

"He was at every game," Matthew Espinola said.

Another neighbor, Tricia Fitzgerald, was walking on the sidewalk near the officer's home, crying. She said the officer's wife bought him a Harley-Davidson motorcycle last Christmas.

Gina Flisk said his sons walked his Harley down the street on Christmas day for him last year.

Asked how she would remember him, she said, "You picture him on his motorcycle on a warm day."

She said he and his wife were very supportive of each other. "They're the couple, in my opinion, that you wanted to be like" Gina Flisk said. "They're the family that you wanted to be like. They were a good balance."

The other victim, Peters, had recently been working at AT&T after serving as a CHA police officer. He was in the U.S. Army and attended Chicago Vocational Academy High School.

Reed said her brother loved cars and even owned a GT Mustang.

Flisk was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital. The ex-CHA officer was taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn.

The Chicago Police Memorial Foundation is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the killer or killers. Police said anyone with information about the case may call Calumet Area detectives, 312-747-8272, or place a confidential, toll-free call to 888-976-7468.

-- Jeremy Gorner, Annie Sweeney, Cynthia Dizikes, William Lee, Andy Grimm and Andrew L. Wang

Chicago Sun-Times 

On-duty cop, ex-suburban cop fatally gunned down

November 26, 2010


The two men shared much in common.

They both loved cars.

One, Michael Flisk, 46, was a highly decorated Chicago Police officer. The other, Stephen Peters, 44, was a retired Chicago Housing Authority officer and former suburban cop.

The burglary of Peters’ prized red Ford Mustang Cobra brought them together Friday at the garage on the Southeast Side where Peters stored the car.

Flisk, an evidence technician, was there simply to process the scene, but in a stunning outburst of violence, both men were gunned down, leaving their families and the police force reeling.

Peters had called the police after discovering the seats and radio were stolen from his car, which was parked in his mother’s garage for the winter in the 8100 block of South Burnham.

Flisk had responded to the home in the South Chicago neighborhood when suddenly, two bursts of gunfire erupted about 1:30 p.m., according to neighbors. The men lay dying of bullet wounds — with Flisk being shot in the head. The killings mark the second murder of a Chicago Police officer in less than a week.

“It’s surreal. Even when I was told, it didn’t resonate,” said Flisk’s sister-in-law, Gina Flisk.

Peters’ wife, Djana Peters, was equally stunned.

“I don’t understand why someone would do this to him,” she said, sobbing after visiting the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office. “Everyone adores him.”

Peters, a military veteran, was taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, where he later died.

Flisk, a married father of four, was a 20-year veteran of the force. He was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where he died about an hour after he was shot. Flisk comes from a police family with three siblings who are also officers.

More than 60 police cars, their lights flashing, headed in a solemn procession to the medical examiner’s office Friday afternoon to accompany the vehicle bearing Flisk’s remains.

Chicago Police Supt. Jody Weis said the murders showed how some people have no respect for human life.

“We will squeeze that neighborhood, and we will find out who did this,” Weis said, adding that police have scant information about the gunman or the motive.

On Friday afternoon, police armed with assault weapons searched door to door for a suspect.

Later, evidence technicians worked under bright lights processing the murder scene in the alley. The area was cordoned off two blocks in every direction. Officers were stopping cars and asking drivers what they were doing there.

In the Beverly neighborhood on the Southwest Side where Flisk lived, the officer’s family gathered outside his home and embraced one another.

One neighbor, Tricia Fitzgerald, was in tears as she clutched her young son. Her husband also is a Chicago Police officer.

“They are the nicest people you would ever meet, just really wonderful people,” Fitzgerald said. “He was laid back and good-natured, always available if you needed anything.”

“He’s the one who kind of smoothed everything over with everybody. He wasn’t the oldest, but he was the one who kind of made everybody happy,” Gina Flisk added.

Michael Flisk and his wife, Nora, doted on one another, with his wife buying him a Harley-Davidson motorcycle last Christmas. Flisk’s sons had parked the motorcycle at a neighbor’s house, and on Christmas Day they pushed it in front of their house and woke him up to his delight. Flisk loved to ride it on summer days.

Another neighbor said Flisk was “always tinkering with cars.”

Peters also enjoyed fixing up cars. He was a former CHA and Robbins police officer, and most recently worked for AT&T as an engineer, his wife said.

He liked to race cars, his wife said. Peters was a member of a local Ford Mustang Cobra owners’ club and had won several major awards at car shows.

Peters lived in west suburban Forest Park, but he grew up in his mother’s home on the Southeast Side.

A neighbor, Avis Walker, 44, said she was sleeping upstairs in her home when she heard two shots.

“I sat up and heard two or three more shots behind it,” Walker said.

About five minutes later, ambulances and police officers arrived at the scene, she said.

Sources said no witnesses saw the shooting, but someone saw a man running from the scene.

Walker’s mother, Frieda Walker, said there have been several break-ins in the neighborhood recently, including a man who tried to steal a vehicle from her garage. The man ran away when her husband saw him, she said.

“There have been a lot of shootings, too, but not on this block,” Frieda Walker said.

The slayings follow the fatal shooting Monday night of off-duty Chicago Police Officer David Blake, a SWAT team member. No one has been charged in Blake's slaying.