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Public Pension & Law Enforcement Advocate; Law Enforcement News; Officer Down Memorials; Public Corruption News

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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, January 31, 2012

PENSION; (Illinois) Sola v. Roselle Police Pension Board

--Important ruling on COLA's for survivors.--

Sola v. Roselle Police Pension Board, 2012 IL App (2d) 100608 (January 6, 2012)

Illinois Appellate Courts

Sola v. Roselle Police Pension Board


A surviving spouse of a deceased police officer was entitled to continue receiving a 3% annual increase in survivors' pension benefits, even though the Pension Code does not authorize the annual increases for surviving spouses of police officers, because the board failed to seek review of the agency's decision within 35 days, as required by the Administrative Review Law.


In 1993, the plaintiff began receiving pension benefits as the surviving spouse of a former village police officer, and the board granted her an annual 3% cost-of-living increase on those benefits. The village, however, attempted to discontinue the 3% increases in 2001. The plaintiff filed a complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief, arguing that the pension board did not have jurisdiction to conduct a hearing to review her pension benefits. According to the plaintiff, the pension board did not timely review its original pension decision under the Administrative Review Law, which limits the review of an administrative decision to a 35-day period after the decision is issued. The trial court granted the plaintiff's request and permanently enjoined the board from conducting a hearing to review the plaintiff's pension benefits. The appellate court affirmed.

In 2009, the Illinois Supreme Court held, in Roselle Police Pension Board v. Village of Roselle, 232 Ill. 2d 546 (2009), that Article 3 of the Illinois Pension Code does not permit cost-of-living increases for survivors of police officers. After that ruling, the pension board notified the plaintiff that it was holding a hearing to determine whether the ruling in Roselle prohibited the pension board from awarding her cost-of-living increases. Ultimately, the board found that it had no jurisdiction to modify her pension benefits until ordered otherwise by the court. So, the board filed a complaint asking the court to order it to cease its practice of awarding cost-of-living increases. A week later, the village filed a motion to dissolve or vacate the permanent injunction enjoining the board from conducting a hearing to review the plaintiff's pension benefits pursuant to Roselle.

Both the pension board and the plaintiff filed a motion to dismiss the village's complaint, arguing that the village's claims were precluded on res judicata and collateral estoppel grounds. The trial court agreed and granted the motion to dismiss. The village appealed, and the appellate court affirmed.

The appellate court determined that the trial court properly denied the village's motion to dissolve or vacate the permanent injunction enjoining the board from conducting a hearing to review the plaintiff's pension benefits because the village did not demonstrate a change in facts or law that would warrant a modification of the injunction. Even though the Supreme Court's ruling in Roselle would seem to have changed the law regarding pension benefits for the survivors of former police officers, it did not change the Administrative Review Law. The issue here is only that the board does not have jurisdiction to review its previous decision because it was beyond the 35-day statute of limitations.

The appellate court also determined that the board's decision was not a standard or statement of policy, which would make it fall outside the definition of an administrative decision, as the board's decision was not a systemic miscalculation.

The appellate court further determined that a recent change in the Pension Code did not allow the board to review its prior decision. The village argued that, because the Pension Code seems to require annual specific pension board action, the board is vested with jurisdiction annually to review whether it correctly awarded a cost-of-living adjustment. The appellate court determined, however, that the village's argument was flawed for two reasons: (1) No language in the relevant Section of the Pension Code permits a pension board to recalculate a benefit already awarded; and (2) there is nothing to indicate that the legislature intended to rewrite the review law to enlarge a pension board's jurisdiction.

Finally, the appellate court determined that the trial court did not err in dismissing the village's complaint. Here, as stated above, the issue is not whether the plaintiff is entitled to cost-of-living increases, but rather whether the board has jurisdiction under the Administrative Review Law to review the award. Since the board's decision was more than 35 days old (the board's proposed review was actually eight years after its decision), the board was without jurisdiction to hold a hearing to review that decision. And, the village was precluded from litigating its claim under either res judicata or collateral estoppel.

The end result is that the plaintiff is entitled to continue to receive the cost-of-living increases to her benefits that she is not statutorily authorized to receive.

PAROLE ALERT: Cop Killer Robert Hayes

DO NOT grant parole to Robert Hayes, inmate DIN 78A0538. This inmate's violent murder of Police Officer Sidney Thompson in 1973 should preclude any consideration for parole.

On Tuesday, June 5, 1973, Officer Thompson, of the New York City Transit Police Department, was shot down in cold blood. He was murdered in the discharge of his duties in keeping the citizens of New York safe from violent criminals like inmate #DIN 78A0538.

DIN 78A0538 was a member of radical gang known as the Black Liberation Army that was responsible for the murders of 14 law enforcement officers and attacks on dozens more throughout the country. It is unacceptable that a convicted cop killer connected with such a violent group would even be eligible for parole, let alone have it be granted.



Police Officer Sidney L. Thompson
New York City Transit Police Department, New York
End of Watch: Tuesday, June 5, 1973

Bio & Incident Details

Age: 36
Tour: 6 years
Badge # 3801
Cause: Gunfire
Incident Date: 6/5/1973
Weapon: Gun; Unknown type
Suspect: Sentenced to life

Officer Thompson was shot and killed while attempting to arrest a fare evader at IRT Station 2 in the Bronx. While attempting to arrest a suspect, the suspect's companion shot him. Despite being wounded, Officer Thompson was able to return fire and wound the suspect he had originally stopped. He was assigned to Transit District 12. Both suspects were members of the Black Liberation Army and were apprehended several days later.

The gunman was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life. He has been denied parole seven times. He has another parole hearing in February of 2012.

Officer Thompson had been a member of the New York City Transit Police Department for six years and was survived by his wife, son, and daughter

The Black Liberation Army was a violent, radical group that attempted to fight for independence from the United States government in the late 1960's and early 1970's. The BLA was responsible for the murders of more than 10 police officers around the country. They were also responsible for violent attacks around the country that left many police officers wounded.

R.I.P.: Correctional Officer Tracy Hardin


Correctional Officer Tracy Hardin
Nevada Department of Corrections, Nevada
End of Watch: Friday, January 20, 2012

Bio & Incident Details

Age: Not available
Tour: Not available
Badge # Not available
Cause: Heart attack
Incident Date: 12/23/2011
Weapon: Person
Suspect: Not available

Correctional Officer Tracy Hardin died as the result of an injury suffered while struggling with an inmate at the High Desert State Prison.

Officer Hardin was speaking to the inmate about disciplinary issues when the inmate assaulted him. During the ensuing struggle Officer Hardin injured his ankle.

On January 20th, 2012, Officer Hardin was leaving the prison following his shift when he suddenly pulled into a pulloff outside of the employee parking lot. Seeing this, other officers immediately went to check on him and discovered he wasn't breathing. They immediately initiated CPR but were unable to revive him.

It was determined that a blood clot broke free from the injured ankle and caused him to suffer a fatal heart attack.

Officer Hardin had served with the Nevada Department of Corrections for five years.

Please contact the following agency to send condolences or to obtain funeral arrangements:

Warden Dwight Neven, High Desert State Prison
Nevada Department of Corrections
5500 Snyder Avenue
PO Box 7011
Carson City, NV 89701
Phone: (775) 887-3285

NEWS: (Chicago) Homicides up more than 50 percent in January, overall crime down 20 percent

----Smoke and mirror tricks do not prevent crime.--

Story at Chicago Tribune

By Jeremy Gorner
Tribune reporter
9:14 PM CST, January 30, 2012

Homicides in Chicago have risen sharply so far in January compared with a year earlier, continuing a trend that began over the last few months of 2011, police records show.

In a telephone interview Monday, police Superintendent Garry McCarthy noted that Chicago had gone the last five days without a single homicide, but he acknowledged for the first 29 days of January, homicides rose to 40, up from 26 for the same period a year earlier, more than a 50 percent jump.

The increase follows an upward trend in homicides citywide in the last three months of 2011. In that final quarter of the year, homicides totaled 115, compared with 92 homicides for the same period in 2010, a 25 percent increase, according to city crime statistics.

McCarthy said much of that increase was the result of a bloody 17-day stretch from October into November. The overall homicide rate fell a bit in 2011, compared to the previous year.

The homicide category was the only crime category up in the first month of 2012 with overall crime down by about 20 percent, McCarthy said.

The superintendent continued to express confidence that homicides would go down when shootings fall. So far in January, the number of shootings is identical to the same period last year at 140.

When asked what accounted for January’s spike in homicides, McCarthy replied: “We’re at 73 percent murder-by-gunshot right now, which means that the other categories have stacked up…stabbings, asphyxiation.”

But Michael Shields, president of the Fraternal Order of the Police, suggested the increase in homicides could be the result of the mild winter, but McCarthy laughed at that explanation.

Shields maintained that if the department takes credit for five days without a single homicide, it must be prepared to take the blame when homicides rise.

“If they’re going to take credit for the good, they have to take credit for the bad,” he said.

University of Chicago professor Jens Ludwig cautioned against reading too much into statistics over such a short period of time, saying there can be a lot of fluctuation year-to-year.

At an unrelated news conference Monday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel highlighted Chicago’s continuing gang problems as the source of the continuing concern over the homicide rate.

“Chicago has a problem unlike any other major city given the size of our gangs.,” the mayor said. “… Nobody can be content, but we are making progress in the right things that are necessary to bring a level of safety to our streets.”

McCarthy recently introduced a new strategy to combat violence in the Englewood and Harrison police districts, two of the more dangerous parts of the city, by calling for the saturation of officers in hot spots within those districts for a lengthy periods of time.

Over roughly the first half of January, many of the city’s homicides occurred in those two districts, McCarthy said. But since the department implemented its strategy in those neighborhoods, the situation has improved, he said.

McCarthy also pointed to the drop in overall crime in January as a promising trend. “If the other stuff was going off the charts, then I’d be a lot more concerned than I am,” he said.

PENSION: (Illinois) Illinois facing "financial disaster": Watchdog

--I'll give them their space here but my opinion is that the Civic Federation is nothing more than a club for rich CEO's who are trying to manipulate the system for their own benefit.--

Story at Chicago Tribune

3:43 PM CST, January 30, 2012


Illinois could see its pile of overdue bills climb to an unprecedented $35 billion in five years if the state fails to rein in pension and other costs, a watchdog group said in a report released on Monday.

"Failure to address unsustainable trends in the state's pension and Medicaid systems will only result in financial disaster for the state of Illinois," said Laurence Msall, president of the Civic Federation, the financial government watchdog group that produced the report. Msall said the governor and General Assembly need to act now.

The Civic Federation's five-year budget projection showed the backlog of bills owed vendors and others rising to $9.2 billion when fiscal 2012 ends in July.

Those numbers could balloon to $34.8 billion at the end of fiscal 2017, the report said. The rise was pegged largely to an unsustainable increase in the state's costs for Medicaid, the health care program for the poor that is jointly funded by states and the federal government.

At the end of fiscal 2011, Illinois had about $8.5 billion in bills, tax refunds and other obligations outstanding despite a big income tax rate hike enacted in January 2011, according to the state comptroller.

Illinois' fiscal woes and reliance on one-time revenue measures, such as borrowing, have made the state a riskier investment in the U.S. municipal bond market, where it has issued billions of dollars of bonds to make pension payments. Earlier this month, Moody's Investors Service cut Illinois' credit rating to A2, the lowest rating among the states it rates.

Medicaid-related bills alone could account for $21 billion of the projected fiscal 2017 bill backlog as Illinois budget appropriations lag rising costs for the program, the watchdog's report said.

As for pensions, chronic underfunding, exacerbated by investment losses in fiscal years 2008 and 2009, have left Illinois with a $83.1 billion unfunded liability and a funded ratio of only 43.3 percent, according to the Civic Federation. The group called for curbing pension benefit increases for all retirees and current employees.

Illinois has consistently been ranked by the Pew Center on the States as having the lowest pension funding level among states.

Meanwhile, Illinois' operating deficit, which is projected at $508 million in the current general funds budget, could jump to $3.2 billion in fiscal 2017 if the state continues to spend more than what it collects in revenue, the report said.

A statement from Governor Pat Quinn's Office of Management and Budget called the report constructive and said that Quinn, a Democrat, has proposed reforms such as a reduction in the Medicaid reimbursement rate.

It added that Quinn's fiscal 2013 budget plan will "continue to market the tough decisions necessary to address the state's financial challenges."

NEWS: (Suburban) Elmwood Park sees increase of gangs, but not active

Story at Pioneer Press

Last Modified: Jan 30, 2012 07:30PM

Elmwood Park Police Chief Frank Fagiano said there is no active gang issue in the village, but for those handful of gang members living in the village, “we know who they are.”

According to Chicago Crime Commission’s “The Gang Book,” which was released Friday, there has been “an increase in gang activity Elmwood Park since 2008.”

There is an estimated 40 gang members in the village, according to “The Gang Book.”

Nine active gangs operate in Elmwood Park. M.O.B Maniac Latin Disciples, Imperial Gangsters and Latin Kings were ranked as the biggest concerns, according to “The Gang Book.”

The commission listed M.O.B. as the newest gang in the community since 2008.

Fagiano said the commission’s findings are consistent with the information his department has, but there presence is not strong.

“We have no active gang issues going on,” he said. “That’s pretty evident in the community.”

But he admits that M.O.B. gang is new to the village.

“That’s a young group and they tattoo themselves,” he said. “They tattoo themselves with M.O.B. We know who they are.”

Fagiano said they don’t label people as part of a gang until they get evidence that the person may be a part of one.

“We don’t label them as gang members,” he said. “Either they are self-admitted or from prior arrest we know they are gang members. Some gang members are proud of their gang affiliation and they will come out and tell you.”

He said the closest thing the village has in terms of gang activity is tagging, which is rare.

“We have it (tagging) immediately removed by our code department,” he said. “You drive around the community you don’t see we don’t have gang graffiti.”

He said just because Chicago Crime Commission says gangs are in the village they may have moved since the commission’s findings. “Just because the say M.O.B is here they could have moved out of Elmwood Park,” he said.

“I think it’s the vigilance on the police department’s part,” he said in regards to gang prevention. “We take a proactive step against gangs through community outreach.”

“The residents of Elmwood Park still enjoy a very nice community,” he said.

NEWS: (Suburban) Lawsuits over fatal police shootings continue in courts

--Frivolous lawsuits.--

Story at Pioneer Press

By Mark Lawton
Last Modified: Jan 30, 2012 08:21PM

Two “wrongful death” lawsuits in response to shootings by area police continue to wind their way through Cook County Circuit Court.

The first was filed against Franklin Park by Patricia Mojziszek in 2010 after police shot and killed her former husband Dan Mojziszek on Jan. 11, 2010.

According to reports at the time, police spotted 52-year-old Dan Mojziszek of Lombard driving a Buick erratically on Mannheim Road. Franklin Park police followed his vehicle through parts of Melrose Park, Stone Park and into Northlake. During the low-speed chase, several other police departments joined in pursuit.

Police managed to push Dan Mojziszek’s vehicle to the side of the road at 61 E. Lake St. Franklin Park Police Chief Mike Witz said at the time that, “Officers surrounded the vehicle. The vehicle continued to move back and forth. At which time, officers believed they were in danger of the driver using the vehicle to run them over (and) officers discharged their weapons.”

Dan Mojziszek was taken to Elmhurst Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

Witz said the Illinois State Police integrity unit investigated the shooting and Franklin Park police were found to have acted lawfully.

Patricia Mojziszek disagrees. In the lawsuit, her attorney argues that Dan Mojziszek’s “vehicle was stopped by one or more police officers by curbing the vehicle making it impossible for (Mojziszek) to drive away, harm or pose a threat of death or great bodily harm to others.”

The court papers also say that Dan Mojziszek was not armed with a weapon, stayed in the vehicle when stopped and that “police knowingly employed deadly force before allowing (Mojziszek) to surrender to police.”

Attorneys for Franklin Park police argue that officers were justified “because they were acting in self-defense, in the defense of others and to prevent Dan Mojziszek from injuring persons on the scene.”

Dan Mojziszek had a history of driving drunk, according to a press release at the time from Franklin Park police. According the DuPage County Coroner’s Office, however, Mojziszek was not intoxicated.

In the other case, Northlake police shot and killed Sean Coe, 40, of Chicago, the morning of Aug. 19, 2010. Police said at the time that they caught Coe burglarizing a house on the first block of Armitage Avenue. Police cornered Coe on the 400 block of Haber Court, where, they said, he pulled a knife and stabbed two officers.

Coe had been convicted of three burglaries in Cook County since 1997.

Joyce Coe-Beckham, his mother, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Northlake in 2011 on behalf of Sean’s son. In court papers, her attorneys argue Northlake police “used force that was greater than reasonably necessary to attempt to arrest the plaintiff.”

Northlake Police Chief Dennis Koletsos did not respond to requests for comment on this article.

Neither case has gone to trial yet.

Monday, January 30, 2012

R.I.P.: Police Officer William D. "Bill" Talbert


Police Officer William D. "Bill" Talbert
Montgomery County Police Department, Maryland
End of Watch: Friday, January 27, 2012

Bio & Incident Details

Age: 64
Tour: 13 years
Badge # Not available
Military veteran
Cause: Duty related illness
Incident Date: Not available
Weapon: Automobile; Alcohol involved
Suspect: Not available

Police Officer Bill Talbert died as the result of contracting Hepatitis C.

Officer Talbert contracted the disease following a blood transfusion in 1980 after being injured by a drunk driver. He was standing between his patrol car and another vehicle when a drunk driver struck one of the vehicles, causing Officer Talbert to be pinned between them. He was transported to a local hospital where he underwent a blood transfusion. It was discovered later that the blood he received was infected with Hepatitis C.

He was forced to medically retire in 1984 and his health continued to deteriorate until he passed away on January 27, 2012.

Officer Talbert was a U.S. Navy veteran and had served with the Montgomery County Police Department for 13 years when he was forced to retire. He is survived by his wife, daughter, three sons, ten grandchildren, and sister.

Please contact the following agency to send condolences or to obtain funeral arrangements:

Chief of Police Thomas Manger
Montgomery County Police Department
2350 Research Boulevard
Rockville, MD 20850
Phone: (301) 279-8000

Sunday, January 29, 2012

NEWS: (National) Calif. cop shot, killed by fellow officers during arrest

--A distressing situation for all involved.--

Story at PoliceOne


The officer, who was manning a DUI checkpoint at the time, was arrested for sexual misconduct with a teenage minor

Associated Press

SANTA MARIA, Calif. — A police officer under investigation for sexual misconduct with a teenage minor was shot and killed while on duty by fellow officers Saturday as they tried to arrest him on California's central coast, authorities said.

The officer was manning a DUI checkpoint when the shooting occurred shortly after 1 a.m. He was declared dead after emergency surgery at Marian Medical Center, Santa Maria police Chief Danny Macagni said in a statement.

The officer, a four-year Santa Maria department veteran, had just learned of the internal investigation of an alleged sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl, and it became necessary to arrest him immediately, Macagni said.

"We had no choice," Macagni said in video of an afternoon news conference posted by KCOY-TV. He said investigators had evidence "that demanded that we go out and take this officer off the street immediately."

Supervising officers were sent to make a felony arrest, but he struggled with them when they arrived, first putting up a physical fight, then firing his gun but hitting no one, Macagni said.

"He chose to resist, he drew his weapon, a fight ensued, he fired his weapon," the chief said.

Several officers came to help the police making the arrest, and one of them shot the suspected officer in the chest once, Macagni said.

Detectives had begun investigating the alleged relationship on Thursday night, and minutes before the shooting had confirmed that an "inappropriate" and "very explicit" relationship had been going on, Macagni said.

He said he could not give details because of the sensitivity of the investigation, but "there was some witness intimidation involved" and the arrest couldn't wait for a more proper time or place.

"The information that we had in hand demanded that we not let him leave that scene, get in a car, drive somewhere, it would put the public at risk," Macagni said at the news conference. "We just did not know what was going to happen, we did not expect him to react the way that he did."

Macagni said police had expressed condolences to the officer's family.

The officer who fired the fatal shot, an eight-year department veteran, has been placed on administrative leave, and the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department was investigating the shooting, Macagni said.

The name of the officer killed has not been released because some family members were still being notified, and the name of the officer who fired the shot was withheld while the incident was under investigation, police said.

Santa Maria is a city of some 100,000 people about 60 miles northwest of Santa Barbara and 160 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

R.I.P.: Master Corporal Sandra "Sandy" E. Rogers


Master Corporal Sandra "Sandy" E. Rogers
Aiken Department of Public Safety, South Carolina
End of Watch: Saturday, January 28, 2012

Bio & Incident Details

Age: 49
Tour: 27 years
Badge # Not available
Cause: Gunfire
Incident Date: 1/28/2012
Weapon: Gun; Unknown type
Suspect: Apprehended

Master Corporal Sandy Rogers was shot and killed while responding to a call for a suspicious vehicle at Eustis Park at approximately 7:50 am. Master Corporal Rogers arrived on scene and radioed that she was approaching a blue vehicle. Another officer called for her one minute later and did not receive a response.

Master Corporal Rogers was transported to Aiken Regional Medical Centers where she succumbed to her wounds.

The subject was linked to another shooting in Richmond County, Georgia, earlier in the day. He was apprehended in Batesville-Leesville several hours later.

Master Corporal Rogers was a 27 year veteran of the Aiken Department of Public Safety and a lifelong resident of Aiken County.

Please contact the following agency to send condolences or to obtain funeral arrangements:

Director of Public Safety Charles Barranco
Aiken Department of Public Safety
251 Laurens Street NW
PO Box 1177
Aiken, SC 29802
Phone: (803) 642-7620

PENSION: (National) State pension assets, earnings grew in 2010

Story at Reuter's

Thu, Jan 26 2012
By Lisa Lambert

(Reuters) - Bucking criticism about their financial performance, state retirement systems' assets grew in 2010, with investment earnings rising for the first time since 2007, the U.S. Census reported on Thursday.

The pension funds' cash and investments totaled $2.2 trillion in 2010, up 10.7 percent, or $213.9 billion, from 2009, when their cash and investment holdings fell by $610.8 billion.

The funds' investment earnings were $289.6 billion in 2010, compared with 2009, when the investments lost $511.5 billion.

In November 2010, conservative Republicans and Tea Party members swept many state elections, bringing with them to statehouses and governor mansions skepticism about public employee compensation.

For the last year, the country has been in a long, and often angry, debate about how public pensions should work.

Members of Congress, including Senator Orrin Hatch, the highest-ranking Republican on the Finance Committee, and Senator Jim DeMint, a Republican member of the bicameral Joint Economic Committee, are planning to introduce federal legislation to address public pension funding.

The Census found that total pension obligations were $3.2 trillion in 2010, compared with $3.1 trillion in 2009. Benefit payments in 2010 alone rose 6.2 percent to $63.5 billion.

Estimates of how much pensions are short for paying benefits to future retirees range from around $600 billion to $3 trillion, depending on how investment returns are projected. Investments provide the bulk of pension funds' revenue.

According to the Census, contributions from employees and employing governments totaled $97.7 billion in 2010. Government contributions accounted for two-thirds of the pension fund receipts and increased 1.8 percent, while employee contributions decreased 1 percent.

The recession and financial crisis hit pensions hard, with investment values plunging just as a revenue collapse made it harder for states to make contributions. In fiscal 2010, which for most states ended in June 2010, 30 states shortchanged their pension funds, according to Loop Capital Markets.

Meanwhile, public sector lay-offs left fewer employees to contribute to pensions.

In Florida, employees contributed the smallest proportion of pension funds - 1 percent, Census data showed.

In five states, including Wisconsin, where fights over public employee compensation have led to campaigns to recall elected officials and weeks-long demonstrations, they put in half or more of the contributions. The other four states were North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Dakota and Wyoming.

Most of the dispute over the magnitude of the shortfalls hinge on projections of annual investment returns. The systems prefer using historic averages, usually about 8 percent, while some federal lawmakers say they should use a "riskless" rate closer to 4 percent.

The Census report encompassed 222 state-administered public-employee retirement systems, which can include local government employees.

It found that investment earnings for 2010 were still $112.7 billion below the $402.3 billion level reached in 2007, the last time earnings rose.

Their corporate stock investments, which make up more than a third of total holdings, increased 14 percent and corporate bonds, which represent 15.8 percent of holdings, were up 3.3 percent in 2010, the Census said.

Foreign and international securities were up 14.2 percent and federal government securities were up 4.7 percent. Combined, they comprised a quarter of the total holdings, the data showed.

There were decreases in cash and short-term investments, mortgages and real property, the Census found.

"The most notable of these decreases was mortgages, which declined 14.5 percent from $11.1 billion in 2009 to $9.5 billion in 2010," it said, adding that mortgages made up less than 1 percent of total holdings.

PENSION: (Suburban) Municipal pensions eat more, but they’re still hungry

--This is typical of the pension issues throughout the country. Politicians crying that the sky is falling and others saying it is not. 
The truth is, no one knows what will happen but they want to make changes that will have no effect anyways.--

Story at Illinois Times

Thursday, January 26,2012

By Bruce Rushton

Whether the city of Springfield is facing a pension crisis in police and firefighter retirement systems depends on who’s doing the talking.

Mayor Mike Houston and Bill McCarty, director of the city’s budget and management office, say that while pension costs are always a concern, the city is in relatively good shape.

But Ward 7 Ald. Joe McMenamin warns that the city faces fiscal catastrophe if pensions for police and firefighters aren’t reined in.

“It’s a major financial problem,” McMenamin says. “It’s going to get to the point that all the real estate taxes the city collects will go to feeding these pensions, and we’re also going to have to use sales tax.”

McCarty, however, is counting on an economic recovery to bolster the city’s pension funds for police and firefighters, which is now costing the city $17.7 million a year.

“I don’t blame him (McMenamin) for being concerned,” McCarty said. “I think it has to be a concern. I’m more in a wait-and-see-what-happens. The simple fact is, the last few years, everybody has gotten hammered.”

Besides an expected economic recovery, McCarty said that pension reform that took effect last year will prove a big help. Without reforms that included reduced pension benefits for new hires, the city in the coming fiscal year would have to allocate an additional $1.4 million to cover pension costs for police and firefighters, he said. Instead, the city’s costs will drop by $700,000, from $17.7 million to $17 million, he said.

Reckoning day is four years away, when provisions contained in pension reform legislation take effect that allow the state to divert taxes to pension funds that would otherwise go to municipal general funds if actuarial studies show that a city isn’t on target to have pensions 90 percent funded by the year 2040.

Houston doesn’t sound worried.

“I would not anticipate that that would cause any problem for the city of Springfield because I would anticipate that we would be meeting our obligations in terms of funding the police and fire funds,” Houston said.

Much hinges on the economy.

Public contributions to police and fire pensions increased dramatically a few years ago, when the city began figuring its obligation based on a 7.5 percent rate of return, McCarty said; the previous calculation was based on an 8 percent return. McMenamin says that the projected rate of return again needs a downward adjustment to 6 percent over the next four years.

Houston doesn’t see the need. Reducing the projected rate of return by 1 percent, to 6.5 percent, would require another $3.5 million a year in public contributions to the police and fire pensions, he said.

“That would be a significant dollar amount at a time when we’re trying to get our fiscal house in order,” Houston said. “While 7.5 percent is on the high end, it’s still an acceptable number.”

Police and fire pensions remain a concern for the Illinois Municipal League, which says that unfunded pension liability continues to grow in cities across the state despite pension reform.

In 2010, cities in Illinois outside Chicago had less than 55 percent of police pensions funded, even though public contributions to those funds more than doubled since 2004, from $138 million to $284 million, collectively, said Joe McCoy, Municipal League legislative director. Despite the spending increase, the funded portion of pensions decreased by 7 percent, he said.

McCoy said he isn’t optimistic that the legislature will enact further municipal pension reform this year. For one thing, he said, it’s an election year, and politicians are loathe to anger public employee unions. For another, there’s an awareness issue, he said.

“I think if you approach your average legislator, they will realize that the state has a very substantial pension problem but they would say that their local pension system is OK,” McCoy said. “That’s simply not the case.”

PENSION: (Suburban) DuPage mayors: Make cops, firefighters part of pension reform

--Here it is. In black and white folks. Your politicians are going to be going after your pensions this year.

If you have not contacted your state legislators, I would say the time to do so is now.


Story at Daily Herald

By Robert Sanchez

With rising pension costs putting a financial strain on local budgets, municipal leaders in DuPage County are calling on state lawmakers to expand proposed pension reform so it applies to police officers and firefighters.

Reforming the pensions of teachers and state workers is a topic Illinois lawmakers say they want to focus on during the upcoming legislative session, which starts next week. But unless something changes, there are no plans to touch the pensions of public safety employees.

“They (lawmakers) must in this legislative session deal with public safety pensions along with the other pensions,” said Gary Grasso, mayor of Burr Ridge and president of the DuPage Mayors and Managers Conference, which this week released its legislative priorities for 2012. The group listed pension reform as a “critical” issue. Conference officials say a state law that reduces pension benefits for current police and firefighters is needed to stabilize municipal budgets and prevent pension systems from collapsing.

“We have a fear that at the end of the day the pensions won’t be there,” Hanover Park Village President Rodney Craig said. “That would be devastating for those of us who really respect what police and fire (employees) do.”

In 2010, Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation that requires new suburban police officers and firefighters to wait until age 55 to retire with a full pension.

That law, however, doesn’t affect police or firefighters who are already working or retired. They continue to serve under pension rules that allow for a full pension after age 50.

In the meantime, existing pension benefit obligations are putting communities “on the verge of insolvency,” according to the mayors and managers conference.

“If you did an analysis of any municipality in the state, you are going to find out that the money just isn’t going to be there for the good policemen and firemen that we have in our communities,” Grasso said.

Grasso cited Burr Ridge as an example of a municipality that has had its pension costs go up dramatically in recent years.

The village’s police pension system was 110 percent funded in 1999. Now it’s 68 percent funded even though the village contributes nearly four times more money annually, according to Grasso.

“That is the definition of unsustainable,” Grasso said. “I am putting in more money and I’m falling behind.”

Itasca Village President Jeff Pruyn said the village last year contributed roughly $600,000 to its police pension fund. That amount represented more than 30 percent of the town’s payroll.

“As a non-home rule community, we couldn’t just raise taxes to pay for that,” Pruyn said. “So all that extra money that went into the police pension fund basically came out of our general fund and put more strain on that.”

But while DuPage mayors say their communities need “immediate” relief, it remains to be seen whether lawmakers will respond. In fact, it’s unclear if any pension reform plan capable of finding enough support in Springfield will emerge this year.

Grasso said conference representatives are planning to make monthly visits to Springfield to push the group’s legislative priorities.

“We have the same constituency that the legislators do in Springfield,” Grasso said. “So we want to press some of our points.”

Thursday, January 26, 2012

GUN CONTROL: (Illinois) Data show increase in Illinois gun licenses

Story at Southtown Star

The Associated Press
Last Modified: Jan 26, 2012 02:12AM

SPRINGFIELD — The number of people licensed to own guns in Illinois increased 6.1 percent last year, according to new figures from state police.

More than 78,000 licenses were issued in 2011 and nearly 1.4 million people had firearm owner’s identification cards as of Jan. 1, 2011, compared with more than 1.3 million on Jan. 1, 2010. Illinois residents must have a card to possess or purchase firearms.

“That is a pretty big increase,” said Mark Walsh, campaign director of the Illinois Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. Walsh attributed the increase to the end of Chicago’s handgun ban in 2010.

State Rep. Brandon Phelps (D-Harrisburg) said the increase may have come after concealed-carry legislation was approved in bordering Wisconsin.

“That may have gotten people thinking Illinois will be next,” Phelps said.

Phelps sponsored a proposal last year that would have legalized concealed weapons in Illinois. However it failed passage in the Illinois House, and Gov. Pat Quinn had said he would veto the measure. Currently only Illinois and the District of Columbia prohibit the concealed carrying of weapons.

Todd Vandermyde, the National Rifle Association lobbyist in Illinois, said the concealed-carry issue along with economic instability may be the cause for the increase.

“You can’t put it on any one issue,” Vandermyde said.

NEWS: (Chicago) Reputed drug dealer guilty of killing Chicago police officer

Story at Chicago Tribune

By Jason Meisner
Tribune reporter
4:15 PM CST, January 26, 2012

A Cook County jury today convicted a reputed drug dealer of fatally shooting Chicago police Officer  Nathaniel Taylor in September 2008 as the officer tried to serve him a search warrant.

The jury deliberated just about two hours before finding Lamar Cooper, 40, guilty of first-degree murder for Taylor’s slaying outside Cooper’s home in the 7900 block of South Clyde Avenue.

Cooper's attorneys did not deny that their client sold drugs or that he shot Taylor but argued he did not know Taylor was a police officer and fired in self-defense in what he thought was an armed robbery.

Cooper faces a possible life sentence.

Earlier today,  in closing arguments before a courtroom packed with hundreds of police officers and other spectators, prosecutors said the reputed drug kingpin fatally shot Taylor as he tried to serve a search warrant because he saw the police as the enemy and was bent on staying out of jail.

 Prosecutors said the suspect shot Taylor in the head and chest in an “ambush” as the officer approached Cooper in his car outside his home.

Cooper's attorneys argued that on the darkened street that early-Sunday morning, their client did not realize the plainclothes Taylor was a police officer and fired in self-defense in what he thought was an armed robbery.

“As a drug dealer in the streets of Chicago, he knew his life was always one step away from being over because people wanted his money or his turf or both,” Assistant Public Defender LaFarrell Moffett told jurors.

Assistant State’s Attorney James McKay ridiculed that theory in his rebuttal argument, saying it was “in the job description” of any successful drug dealer to know how police operate, including that narcotics officers often wear street clothes.

McKay said that even if Cooper did not see Taylor’s police star around his neck, he could have just driven away, called 911 or fired a warning shot if he thought he was about to be robbed.

“This was a sneak attack by this drug dealer on one of our heroes,” McKay said, walking over to the defense table and pointing at Cooper, who kept his eyes down and scribbled notes on a pad. “He didn’t want to go to jail. It’s real simple. It’s what criminals think about every day.

Added benches were brought into Judge Nicholas Ford’s courtroom to try to accommodate the overflow crowd trying to hear the closing arguments. Ford allowed the courtroom doors to remain open so dozens more police officers could hear the lawyers.  Chicago police Supt. Garry McCarthy and Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez sat in the front row.

In his argument, Assistant State’s Attorney Brian Sexton asked jurors to reject the notion that Cooper was somehow a victim. He held up evidence found in Cooper’s heavily fortified home, including loaded guns, police scanners, a bulletproof vest, cash and bag of cocaine found in a basement freezer, right next to a box of children’s popsicles.

“Not only is he a drug dealer, he is a successful drug dealer,” Sexton said. “Why? Because he knows his enemy... He knows the police.”

The jury began deliberating about 1:45 p.m.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

PENSION: (Illinois) Biz begins to open its wallet in state pension reform battle

--The Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago is trying to do what big money private sector CEO's do. 
Buy off the politicians to vote in favor of  pension laws that do nothing to fix a broken system.
All the Civic Committee is interested in is making themselves look better to employees that they already ripped off in return for bigger bonuses.--

Greg Hinz
January 25, 2012

One of the bigger questions about state government in the past couple of years is why Chicago's business community hasn't brought its checkbook to a cause it clearly cares about: Illinois pension reform.

There's now a big sign that's about to change.

Ty Fahner, the head of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club, over the holidays quietly put together a big-bucks political action committee that raised $142,750 in its first week of operation and likely will raise a ton more in this election year.

The group, which has received no coverage that I'm aware of except for a brief mention in Capitol Fax, potentially is a game-changer. In its statement of purpose, We Mean Business PAC — catchy name, no? — says it's function is to "reform public pensions in the state of Illinois through non-federal political activity."

Translation: It's going to bankroll candidates who are willing to cross labor unions and vote to reduce pension benefits and/or require workers to pay more for them.

Insiders say the goal is to emulate what school reform forces did in the last election — putting hundreds of thousands of dollars behind legislative candidates who promised to be independent of the teachers union. That strategy worked when the unions came to the table and agreed to things such as a longer school day and year.

Mr. Fahner doesn't want to give any details, and suggests the new PAC is "not prepared to play ball" in a fundraising derby with the unions. Previously, Civic Committee forces have jawboned a lot but limited their spending to generic pro-reform TV and newspaper ads.

But others familiar with the effort say Mr. Fahner is just being publicly cautious, lest the Civic Committee's tax status be jeopardized.

Labor groups certainly are aware what's occurring.

"It's unfortunate that the wealthy individuals behind this PAC . . . are trying to use big campaign contributions to cut the modest pensions earned by teachers, firefighters and other public employees," says Anders Lindall from AFSCME, the big public-workers union.

Mr. Fahner will say that the $143,000 — which came both from normal Republican backers such as Craig Duchossois and Democratic loyalists such as J. B. Pritzker — is just the start.

"Substantial" additional resources are coming, says Mr. Fahner, whose Civic Committee represents Chicago's biggest companies. Will it be a lot more? "Absolutely."

News of the new group comes as Springfield has begun to send signals that something may happen this year, though exactly what is uncertain.

For instance, House Speaker Michael Madigan the other day hinted that local school districts pick up the cost of teacher retirement that the state now bears.

That wouldn't solve the problem, though, merely shift it to local taxpayers.

If Illinois' pension woes are going be solved, if a $85 billion-plus unfunded pension liability is to be filled, someone's going to have to make some tough decisions this spring. Perhaps the prospect of all that campaign cash will force some action.

PENSION: (National) The Pension Debt Crisis that Threatens America

United States Senate Committee on Finance
State and Local Government Defined Benefit Pension Plans:
The Pension Debt Crisis that Threatens America

Pension Liabilities Are Contributing to Our Nation’s Debt Crisis

The pension funding crisis facing state and local governments has been widely reported.1 Vested pension benefits are a fixed financial obligation of governments, and to the extent the assets that have been set aside to pay for the benefits are inadequate, the pensions represent an unfunded financial obligation. Unfunded obligations are implicit government debt, although not as transparent as explicit debt such as municipal bonds. It has been estimated recently that aggregate underfunding of state and local defined benefit pension plans may exceed $4 trillion.2 Aggregate municipal bond debt totals $2.9 trillion, by comparison.3 Thus, although the debt associated with underfunded pension plans is not as transparent to the public as municipal bond debt, it represents the greater portion of aggregate municipal debt. This crushing debt load is ravaging state and local government budgets, and there are few options available to them for addressing this crisis – cuts in services, reductions in benefits, higher taxes, or some combination of the three.4

Some have argued that the public pension underfunding crisis was caused by the collapse of the housing bubble and subsequent global financial meltdown in 2008, suggesting that pension underfunding is a temporary problem that will be corrected by the states over time.5 This analysis severely understates the character of the crisis. Unfunded public pension liabilities are a longstanding problem that existed well before the current economic downturn. Over 30 years ago, the Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) warned Congress that poorly funded public pension plans could lead to a “fiscal disaster and possible loss of employees’ earned benefits.”6 The current pension debt crisis began not in 2008, but at least a decade ago. According to the GAO and the Congressional Budget Office (“CBO”), as well as Standard & Poor’s (“S&P”), the funding levels of municipal pension plans have been declining since 2000.7 A funding ratio of pension assets to liabilities of 80 percent is
generally considered the indicator of a sound government pension plan.8 As shown in Table 1 below, 40 percent of state and local government pension plans had already dropped below the 80 percent funding level before the 2008 recession began.

NEWS: (Illinois) Alorton mayor: 'There's nothing wrong with this administration'

--It is not just in the Chicagoland area that these things happen.
It is a statewide epidemic and every mayor has the same response "I didn't do anything wrong".
I think they all drink the same water.--

Story at Belleville News Democrat

Alorton Mayor Randy McCallum in a photo taken early this month- Derik Holtmann/BND

Read more here:
Posted on Wed, Jan. 25, 2012

The mayor says despite a federal probe into systemic corruption in the village government, his administration has done nothing wrong.

"Judge us for City Hall. There's nothing wrong with this administration. "Don't believe them. (There) ain't no money missing from the Village of Alorton," Mayor Randy McCallum said Monday night at the Village Board meeting. McCallum appeared confident, upbeat and cheerful while delivering his remarks.

Earlier this month, when federal agents raided the village and served a warrant on McCallum, he said he was "clean as a whistle," and that agents told him they were looking for TIF documents.

"When the facts are in at the end of the day, judge us for City Hall not for our private lives. Our private lives are our private lives," McCallum told those attending the meeting.

Federal agents raided McCallum's home on Jan. 5, but to date he has not been charged with anything.

Last week, former Alorton Police Chief Michael Baxton, who was working as the East St. Louis police chief at the time, pleaded guilty to theft as part of the federal sting. A few days later, Street Director Ronnie D. Cummings was indicted by a federal grand jury on two counts of being a convicted felon in possession of firearm ammunition, and of lying to a federal agent during the course of an investigation.

McCallum said that charges do not necessarily constitute guilt.

 "We've done nothing wrong. Until they show you that thousands of dollars are missing, don't believe what you hear in the media. Give us our day in court. Give us the opportunity to defend ourselves," McCallum said.

McCallum said he has heard rumors that certain politicians in Centreville are talking about annexing Alorton with Centreville, "based off of this stuff that's going on here (the federal raid and arrests)."

"People are acting like they are going to get our city and give it to Centreville," McCallum said. "That's not going to happen." These words from McCallum drew a round of applause from the audience.

R.I.P.: Senior Police Officer Gail Thomas


Senior Police Officer Gail Thomas
Atlanta Police Department, Georgia
End of Watch: Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Bio & Incident Details

Age: 46
Tour: 15 years
Badge # Not available
Cause: Vehicular assault
Incident Date: 1/24/2012
Weapon: Automobile; Alcohol involved
Suspect: Charged with vehicular homicide

Senior Police Officer Gayle Thomas was struck and killed by a suspected drunk driver while assisting other officers with a traffic incident on the exit ramp from southbound I-75 to northbound I-85.

She had just exited her vehicle when she was struck. The drunk driver was arrested and charged with vehicular homicide, DUI, and reckless driving.

Officer Thomas had served with the Atlanta Police Department for 15 years.

Please contact the following agency to send condolences or to obtain funeral arrangements:

Chief George Turner
Atlanta Police Department
226 Peachtree Street SW
Atlanta, GA 30303

PAROLE ALERT: Cop Killer Gerald G. Johnson


DO NOT grant parole to Gerald G. Johnson, inmate #C73227. This inmate's violent murder of Correctional Officer Richard Fordham in 1977 should preclude any consideration for parole.

On Monday, May 9, 1977, Correctional Officer Fordham, of the Lee County Sheriff's Department, was brutally beaten and strangled to death. He was murdered in the discharge of his duties in keeping the citizens of Lee County and Illinois safe from violent criminals like inmate #C73227.


Correctional Officer Richard Bert Fordham, Sr.
Lee County Sheriff's Department, Illinois
End of Watch: Monday, May 9, 1977

Bio & Incident Details

Age: 39
Tour: 6 months
Badge # Not available
Cause: Assault
Incident Date: 5/9/1977
Weapon: Person
Suspect: Sentenced

Correctional Officer Richard Fordham was beaten and strangled to death after being overpowered by two inmates at the Lee County Jail in Dixon.

Both inmates were convicted of his murder and sentenced to up to 100 years in prison.

Correctional Officer Fordham had served with the Lee County Sheriff's Department for only six months. He was survived by his wife and five children.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

GUN CONTROL: Oak Park meeting highlights handgun safety, use and control

Story at Chicago Tribune

Far left, David Gawne, a 44-year Oak Park resident speaks to the Village of Oak Park health board during a gun forum at Oak Park Village Hall. (Nuccio DiNuzzo/ Chicago Tribune / January 24, 2012)
 By Bridget Doyle
Tribune Reporter
9:23 PM CST, January 24, 2012

Oak Park residents, officials and members of the Illinois State Rifle Association from around the state met Tuesday night to weigh in on issues related to handgun safety, use and control in the village.

The meeting, conducted by the village’s Board of Health, came more than a year after aU.S. Supreme Court decision gutted a local handgun ban and a few weeks after the opening of a gun shop on Roosevelt Road in the western suburb.

Members of the Illinois State Rifle Association arrived in gold hats, T-shirts and other identifying clothing and were directed by village staff to sit in the back.

Village Manager Tom Barwin gave a brief background on the village’s history with firearm laws, touching on Oak Park’s April 1984 handgun ban and the July 2010 invalidation of the village’s ban following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision regarding Second Amendment rights.

“Tonight is a forum to hear from Oak Parkers (and the) ideas, suggestions and thoughts in light of the McDonald case and the invalidation of the Oak Park handgun ban,” Barwin said. “What, if anything, should the board consider in order for Oak Park to stay the safe and nurturing community it has been…It’s quite clear firearms, violence, accidents and crimes are costly to our village in a myriad of ways.”

Barwin said the bottom line is to get all sides on the issue together in one room to come up with strategies and ideas.

“This is so we can do all we can collectively to make sure children aren’t taken down by stray bullets,” Barwin said Monday. “That could mean solutions like education efforts or training efforts. We’re not trying to do any interpretation of the Second Amendment. We’re just coming together to minimize the proliferation of firearms ending up in the wrong hands.”

Oak Park residents were invited to sit in the front rows and speak first during public comment. Residents spoke on both sides of the issue, all greeted with nods and murmurs from the audience.

Oak Park resident Dan Dittmer said he, his wife and children regularly face crime and violence in their neighborhood, and often work with police during and after crimes in their area. Dittmer said he owns a firearm, but has never found the need to use it.

“In each case -- escalation into violence -- I had in my possession options to protect my family when every second counted and my friends, the police, were minutes away,” Dittmer said. “Public safety is responsible, capable adult citizens in an encouraged cooperative.”

Michael Podolak, an Oak Park resident, said he has a long family history of gun use and ownership, but has seen first-hand how powerful they are when in the wrong hands.

“I feel strongly about people being educated,” Podolak said. “Not everyone is responsible. People become complacent. People become frustrated. That weapon, whatever it is --- handgun, rifle, shotgun --- was designed for one purpose long ago. Please think about that.”

Jim Kelly, an Oak Park resident who said he lives near a new gun shop on Roosevelt, said he’s aware the village can’t prohibit the sales of guns, but would like to see stricter zoning ordinances on where gun shops can be located.

“We should create a zoning code to position firearm sales away from parks, schools, playgrounds and daycare centers,” Kelly said. “That’s a safety measure that must be in place.”

Oak Park resident Edward Ferraro said he would like to see the public health department focus more on controlling gangs than controlling guns.

The Illinois State Rifle Association had sent a message to members via Facebook urging them to attend the meeting.

“There’s been no crime wave since taken over since the handgun ban was lifted. There’s actually been a decrease in crime,” Illinois State Rifle Association Vice President Mike Weisman said.

Berwyn resident Justin Delafuente recently applied for a business license to open Windy City Firearms on Roosevelt Road.

Village Clerk Teresa Powell said the gun shop opened last month and primarily conducts Internet-based sales.

PENSION: (Illinois) Apply pressure on officials to fix pension problem

--You can see just by reading Brady's comments that this so-called committee will do nothing but conduct business as usual when it comes to your pensions.
The Illinois pensions systems need to be overhauled from top to bottom. These so-called knee jerk reforms do nothing but make the situation worse and are not doing anything to protect the employees or the tax payers.--

Story at The Pantagraph

Monday, January 23, 2012

The state’s fiscal problems are immense, with multiple causes. But one thing is for certain: Illinois will never get back on solid footing without tackling the hotly debated issue of public pensions.

And that has to be done now — not this fall, not after the November election. Now.

The state’s pension system is underfunded to the tune of $85 billion. Let’s say that again: $85 billion.

That can’t be fixed overnight, but delays and piecemeal fixes have put us in the mess we are today.

Fortunately, both Democrats and Republicans seem to recognize the current situation is not sustainable. So we’re crossing our fingers that an agreement can be reached this spring.

Gov. Pat Quinn recently promised the public employee pension system would be reformed “once and for all” this spring. He asked legislative leaders to appoint members to a task force to recommend a legislative solution.

State Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, will serve on that panel.

Brady, who lost to Quinn in the 2010 race for governor, was talking about the need for pension reform long before it was on the front burner for most politicians. He has seen good ideas come and go — mostly go nowhere.

Yet, in a recent conversation on the subject, Brady seemed remarkably upbeat, answering without hesitation, “I do,” when asked if he thought meaningful reform could be approved this spring.

But it will take commitment from the current General Assembly and those beyond.

“When we passed the reforms in ’95, we thought no one would ever vote not to fund the pensions,” said Brady, who foresees a hybrid system, in which current employees are given a choice of options: a 401(k)-style plan that most businesses in the private sector have adopted; a modified defined benefit program, with reduced benefits; or continuation of their current pension plan, with employees making larger contributions.

With this approach, the state would determine what percentage of an employee’s salary it would pay into a retirement program. Then the employee would select an option and pay the difference between what the state is contributing and what actuaries say is needed to fund the plan.

A person nearing retirement might want to retain their current pension plan, while a younger employee might see a 401(k) plan as a better choice. In all cases, employees would retain what they already are vested in.

A plan along the same lines that was advocated by House Republican Leader Tom Cross of Oswego last year gained some support last year, but never got to a vote on the floor.

There are advantages and disadvantages to trying to enact such legislation in an election year.

Brady said there will be pressure from special interest groups not to fundamentally alter pensions, but there also will be pressure from individual voters for meaningful change.

He said it’s important to fulfill constitutional requirements: “We don’t want to kick the can down the road by passing something, patting ourselves on the back and having courts throw it out.”

Brady said the state must “live up to obligations” to public employees, but added Illinois “can’t continue to ignore the real costs of pensions.”

We agree on both points — and emphasize that the state must “live up to obligations” to taxpayers, too.

PENSION: (Illinois) Brauer calls for independent actuary to review pension systems

--We don't need another politician making hundreds of thousands of dollars to watch our pension systems.
We need a law enacted that makes it illegal for money collected by the state (or any other government body) to be used for anything other than being placed into the proper pension fund.
We need to overhaul the pensions statutes in Illinois to make them more up to date and realistic.--

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

State Rep. Rich Brauer, R-Springfield, is calling for the creation of a new constitutional office to get “partisan politics” out of Illinois’ five pension systems.

Modeling the new office after that of the auditor general, Brauer said the actuary general would do the calculations involved with figuring out how much the state owes to the pension systems.

While each of the five pension systems has its own actuary, Brauer said an outside agency examining the pensions would be free of political pressure.

“There’s political pressure you don’t see with those numbers,” Brauer said. When asked, Brauer said he could not name a particular incident in which he believes something has been hidden from the General Assembly and the public.

But Brauer did mention the recent controversy at the city of Springfield over whether the city would pay for health insurance coverage for partners of city workers in civil unions.

An actuary hired through the city’s Joint Labor/Management Health Care Committee originally estimated the cost of providing benefits for civil union couples at $725,000 annually. Critics said the figure was out of whack because it made poor assumptions about how many city workers would enter in to civil unions and how many would abuse them by entering into a civil union with a domestic partner just to get health benefits.

The numbers were re-examined and the estimate lowered to $66,936.

Brauer said that was an example of how political pressure can affect the numbers.

David Urbanek, spokesman for the Teachers’ Retirement System, said the actuaries his system employs—and their findings—are reviewed every year by the Illinois auditor general. It’s “vital” to do so when dealing with the amount of money the pensions concern, Urbanek said.

Urbanek said he understands Brauer’s concerns, but thinks misunderstandings contribute to questions about how pension-system actuaries figure pension costs.

One rumor that Urbanek has heard a number of times is that the actuaries use outdated figures – from as far back as the 1980s, he sa9id.

“It’s simply not the case,” Urbanek said.

He said the data tables the actuaries use are for five-year periods.

“If you determine mortality tables every year, you lose stability in the numbers,” Urbanek said.

NEWS: (Illinois) Illinois to allow courtroom cameras on ‘experimental basis’

It's about time. We have some high profile cases in Illinois that would make for great tv.--

Story at Beacon News

Sun-Times Springfield Bureau Chief
Last Modified: Jan 24, 2012 02:11AM

SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois Supreme Court will open up trial courts to cameras, handing news broadcasters a major victory in a 29-year battle to bring high-profile trials to the masses.

“The Supreme Court plans an announcement [Tuesday] dealing with cameras in the courtroom on an experimental basis,” said Joseph Tybor, a spokesman for the state’s high court.

The matter has been a high priority for Chief Justice Thomas Kilbride, who has pushed the issue during his stint heading the seven-member court.

It was not immediately clear of the impact on Cook County’s court system, and Tybor would confirm no other elements of the announcement.

However, a source familiar with the matter indicated the court’s edict would set up a process by which the state’s 23 circuits could petition the Supreme Court to allow cameras to record proceedings.

Arguments before the state’s appellate courts and the Supreme Court have been allowed since 1983, but television and radio broadcasters have been stymied at the trial court level since then.

One top journalism expert characterized the move by the Illinois high court as a victory for the public, whose only real glimpse into what transpires in courtrooms is through popular television programs.

“Putting cameras in the courtroom and allowing the public to know firsthand what’s going on allows them to see how the court system works and to understand in real life what the judicial system does, rather than depending on ‘Law and Order,’ ‘Perry Mason,’ or ‘L.A. Law,’ ” said Al Tompkins, a senior faculty member at the Poynter Institute, a nonprofit journalism center.

The news media currently is not allowed to use cameras and tape recorders in federal courts, which meant that Illinoisans could not see or hear the historic proceedings that resulted in federal felony convictions against former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

In December, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) joined Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) in introducing legislation to require televising U.S. Supreme Court proceedings.

NEWS: (Melrose Park) Radio Silence in Melrose Park, Despite Some Promising Reforms

--This is just funny stuff. Only in good old Melrose.--

Hey, where'd you get that uniform?
January 23, 2012 · 1:46 pm

Melrose Park remains a curious place.

Historically it was a town with strong organized crime influences. While the current leaders of Melrose Park may not like that image, they don’t do a lot to correct it either, considering Mayor Ron Serpico continues to take campaign contributions from a waste-hauling company that the FBI has long contended is run by two high-ranking mob figures.

But we digress.

The mob aside, run-of-the-mill public corruption hasn’t disappeared from the western suburb, as evidenced by a scandal a few years back that sent the now-former police chief, Vito Scavo, to federal prison.

His crimes?

The Chicago Sun-Times puts it quite succinctly:

    Scavo “was convicted of racketeering and extortion for strong-arming local businesses into using the two private security firms he illegally ran out of his west suburban police department.” What’s more, “Scavo used on-duty officers and village equipment to staff his firms.”

With Scavo as a backdrop, you’d think Melrose Park employees would be cautious these days about their secondary employment, and how it interfaces with municipal government.

Turns out the current deputy police chief in Melrose Park, Michael Castellan, ran a company that, until recently, sold uniforms and other supplies to the very agency that he also helps run.

The BGA detailed some of this a few months back (along with revelations that Assistant Fire Chief Bill Campanelli ran a vending company on the side that was dispensing snacks and pop at Village Hall and other village facilities, as well as local businesses that face inspections from Campanelli’s public agency.)

Although this surely represented a conflict of interest, it wasn’t against the rules. It was legal—and apparently not even frowned upon—for a municipal worker in Melrose Park to have a private business arrangement of this kind with the municipality.

However, prompted by questions from the BGA, Melrose Park’s village board did the right thing in the end: just before Christmas, trustees passed an ethics ordinance that, officials said, prevents the type of business relationships Castellan and Campanelli had with their town.

The “conflict-of-interest” measure reads in part: “No Employee at the level of a department head or higher shall have any Business Relationship with any entity other than the Village. . . . No Employee, or entity in which an Employee has a Financial Interest, shall have any employment or Business Relationship with any Person who is Doing Business with the Village if such Employee exercises Contract Management Authority with respect to the business with the Village.”

The ordinance also touches on possible discipline for those engaged in “impermissible conduct.”

It was like pulling teeth to get Mayor Serpico to talk, but when we finally got him he told the BGA that “when some of these things were brought to our attention, that’s when we addressed the ordinance . . . not that anyone did anything wrong from a legal” perspective.

“We took that extra step” to avoid even the appearance of impropriety, he said.

Mayor Serpico made it clear he considers this matter now closed, although we at the BGA still have questions about one aspect of Castellan’s business—which was (reportedly it’s now closed) called Shirt Stop and, until 2007, had a virtual lock on the village’s uniform sales to cops.

We discovered that, in 2008, the police department bought 14 Motorola police radios from Shirt Stop for $3,500. We obtained the sales documents from Melrose Park by making a request under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act and, wow, the documents are sparse.

So far as we can tell, there’s no warranty, no paperwork from the manufacturer, no indication of bidding—very little of anything in the village’s official record except a copy of a check and an invoice.

Which raises two points: Why did the village buy the radios? And where did they come from?

A village spokesman answered the first question by basically saying, Hey, we bought the radios from Castellan because it was good equipment at a good price.

But nobody seems to know where the radios originated.

A Motorola spokesman told the BGA via email that Shirt Stop “is not an authorized Motorola dealer and is not licensed to sell Motorola Solutions radios.”

Motorola is looking into the history of the devices, he added.

Castellan wouldn’t talk to us about this subject, but the village spokesman, acting as intermediary, relayed that Shirt Stop had a flood some time ago and the water destroyed records showing where the equipment came from. So, in other words, Castellan can’t say with certainty where he got the radios.

Roger that, 10-4.

As we said, Melrose Park remains a curious place.

R.I.P.: Deputy Sheriff James I. Thacker


Deputy Sheriff James I. Thacker
Pike County Sheriff's Department, Kentucky
End of Watch: Monday, January 23, 2012

Bio & Incident Details

Age: 53
Tour: Not available
Badge # 71
Cause: Automobile accident
Incident Date: 1/23/2012
Weapon: Not available
Suspect: Not available

Deputy Sheriff James Thacker was killed in an automobile accident on U.S. 460, just past Marrowbone Creek Road, at approximately 9:00 pm.

He was returning to Elkhorn City from Pikeville at the end of his shift when he was involved in a three-vehicle crash.

Please contact the following agency to send condolences or to obtain funeral arrangements:

Sheriff Charles Keesee
Pike County Sheriff's Department
146 Main Street #204
Pikeville, KY 41501
Phone: (606) 432-6260

Monday, January 23, 2012

SCOTUS: Supreme Court: Warrants needed in GPS tracking

--Not sure how many tracking cases are being done but this is important to know.--

Story at Washington Post

By Robert Barnes
Updated: Monday, January 23, 11:32 AM

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Monday that police must obtain a search warrant before using a GPS device to track criminal suspects. But the justices left for another day larger questions about how technology has altered a person’s expectation of privacy.

Justice Antonin Scalia wrote that the government needed a valid warrant before attaching a GPS device to the Jeep used by D.C. drug kingpin Antoine Jones, who was convicted in part because police tracked his movements on public roads for 28 days.

“We hold that the government’s installation of a GPS device on a target’s vehicle, and its use of that device to monitor the vehicle’s movements, constitutes a ‘search’ ” under the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, Scalia wrote.

All justices agreed with the outcome of the case, which affirmed a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit that said evidence of Jones’ s frequent trips to a stash house where drugs and nearly $1 million in cash were found must be thrown out.

The police had obtained a warrant for GPS surveillance of Jones, but it expired before they attached the device to his car.

But there was a significant split on the court about whether Monday’s decision went far enough.

Scalia’s majority opinion, joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Sonia Sotomayor, said the electronic surveillance, if achieved without having to physically trespass on Jones’s property, may have been “an unconstitutional invasion of privacy.”

But Scalia added: “The present case does not require us to answer that question.”

It was that question — society’s expectation of privacy in a modern world — that had animated the court’s consideration of the case. In an intense hour-long oral argument last November, the Big Brother of George Orwell’s novel “1984” was referenced six times.

The justices pondered a world in which satellites can zero in on an individual’s house, cameras can record the faces at a crowded intersection and individuals can instantly announce their every movement to the world on Facebook. They wondered about the government placing tracking devices in overcoats or on license plates.

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said the decision also should have settled some of those questions instead of deciding a case about a “21st-century surveillance technique” by using “18th-century tort law.”

“The court’s reasoning largely disregards what is really important (the use of a GPS for the purpose of long-term tracking) and instead attaches great significance to something that most would view as relatively minor (attaching to the bottom of a car a small, light object that does not interfere in any way with the car’s operation),” Alito wrote.

Alito’s point was that it was the lengthy GPS surveillance of Jones itself that violated the Fourth Amendment and that “the use of longer term GPS monitoring in investigations of most offenses impinges on expectations of privacy.”

“For such offenses,” he wrote, “society’s expectation has been that law enforcement agents and others would not — and indeed, in the main, simply could not — secretly monitor and catalogue every single movement of an individual’s car for a very long period.”

The key to the court’s more narrow decision on the case seemed to be Sotomayor. She praised Alito’s “incisively” written concurrence but indicated it might not have gone far enough.

“People reveal a great deal of information about themselves to third parties in the court of carrying out mundane tasks,” Sotomayor wrote. Perhaps people come to see a “diminution of privacy” as inevitable, Sotomayor said.

“I for one doubt that people would accept without complaint the warrantless disclosure to the government of a list of every Web site they had visited in the last week, or month, or year.”

But, she said, “resolution of these difficult questions” is unnecessary because she agreed with the majority that the government’s “physical intrusion on Jones’ Jeep” supplies a narrower avenue to decide the case.

The case is United States v. Jones.

NEWS: (Chicago) New crackdown by cops targets neighborhoods on West, South sides

--More smoke and mirrors??--

Story at Chicago Tribune

By Jeremy Gorner
Tribune reporter
1:48 PM CST, January 23, 2012

Chicago police officers from several specialized units will focus on two districts – Englewood on the South Side and Harrison on the West Side -- that accounted for nearly one quarter of Chicago’s murders and shootings last year, Superintendent Garry McCarthy said today.

The units – including narcotics, gang enforcement and fugitive apprehension – will be working more aggressively to combat corner drug markets, curb gang violence and track down parole violators, McCarthy said.

After being appointed superintendent by Mayor Rahm Emanuel in May, McCarthy  eliminated two other specialized units and sent those 500 officers to eight of the city’s most crime-ridden districts – Englewood and Harrison among them – to work beat patrols under the direction of the district commanders.

McCarthy said today the narcotics, gang enforcement, fugitive apprehension and other units will now be charged with targeting specific areas in the Englewood and Harrison districts prone to violence.

“Once we’ve shut down these locations …  we are going to ensure that we hold those zones and do not return them to their previous state,” McCarthy said at a press conference at the Englewood District police station attended by Emanuel and police command staff. “This will be a systematic elimination of narcotics markets within each one of these districts.”

Late last month McCarthy noted that even though murders fell slightly last year overall in Chicago compared with the year earlier, murders rose 40 percent and shootings 15 percent in the Englewood district. The department has yet to release its official statistics for 2011.

In light of the climb in murders and shootings in the Englewood district, McCarthy removed its commander, Anthony Carothers, who is now assigned as the executive officer to Harrison Area Deputy Chief Eddie Johnson. Replacing Carothers as the Englewood commander will be Leo Schmitz, former commander of the gang enforcement unit.

The department’s goal to reduce crime in Englewood and Harrison is also contingent on “a collaborative community-based initiative” in which clergy and community organizations will support the crime-fighting efforts, McCarthy said.

“This is not something that is going to go away,” he said.” We are going to relentlessly pursue reducing violence in these two districts for the people who live (there) because they’ve suffered too long.” 

NEWS: (Chicago) Trial starts for man charged in '08 cop killing

--We need the death penalty back in this backwards state--

Story at Chicago Tribune

By Jason Meisner
Tribune reporter
3:22 PM CST, January 23, 2012

As Chicago police Officer Nathaniel Taylor Jr. approached a drug suspect sitting in a car to serve him with a search warrant, his partner heard the pop of two gunshots and saw the interior of the vehicle light up with the muzzle flashes.

“It was like a Polaroid camera,” testified Officer Lemornet Miller about the night his partner was killed when his team of narcotics officers allegedly tried to serve suspect Lamar Cooper with a search warrant.

Taylor fell to the ground with fatal wounds to his head and chest. Stunned, Officer Lemornet Miller said he drew his gun and began shooting back, unloading 10 rounds at suspect Lamar Cooper before calling for help on his radio and running over to check on his partner.

Shifting uncomfortably on the witness stand at the start of Cooper’s trial Monday, Miller paused to wipe tears from his eyes with his palm as he described how he sat on the ground in the middle of the 7900 block of South Clyde Avenue and cradled his dying partner’s head in his lap.

“I talked to him, told him it was going to be all right … I could hear the rasp of his breath,” Miller testified.

Taylor, 39, a 14-year veteran of the force, never responded. He died hours later during surgery at Christ Medical Center.

Cooper, 40, who recovered from multiple gunshot wounds in the September 2008 gun battle faces up to life in prison without parole if he is convicted of the first-degree murder.

Prosecutors said Taylor and other narcotics officers had staked out Cooper’s home and waited for him to pull up in his car to serve him with a search warrant. After Taylor approached the vehicle with a police star around his neck and identified himself as an officer, Cooper opened fire, prosecutors said. 

Miller testified that just before he heard the gunshots, he saw Cooper looking back at Taylor, nodding his head and smiling as he approached.

Cooper, a convicted felon who had previously served time for a 1990 conviction for attempted murder of a police officer, had narcotics hidden in his mouth at the time of the shooting. Police said they later found drugs, guns, cash and bulletproof vests in his house.

Cooper’s attorneys contend that the officers fired first and Cooper shot back in self-defense.

NEWS: (Chicago) Police board fires seven officers

Story at Chicago Sun-Times

Staff Reporter
Last Modified: Jan 23, 2012 02:09AM

The Chicago Police Board recently fired seven officers for violations ranging from a drunken road-rage incident to lying to investigators about a raid.

Officers also were fired for failing to process thousands of tickets, abusing the department’s medical-leave policy and possessing guns while drunk and off-duty.

An ordinance passed last year required the board to post disciplinary findings about cops on its website along with an explanation for each decision.

These are officers who were fired over the last four months:

◆ Officer Matthew Riley allegedly lied to investigators about an illegal raid on a Northwest Side home in 2004.

Members of the Special Operations Section were accused of stealing $13,000 in savings from the home in the 2600 block of North Laramie. Officers had stopped a Cadillac driven by Miguel Melesio, a high-school student, and held him in a squad car while other officers raided his family’s home, officials said. Sources said they do not think the family was involved in illegal activity.

The police board said Riley lied to Internal Affairs investigators that Melesio was in the home during the raid and let officers inside. He also lied that a supervisor was present during the search, the board found.

Riley told the board that a sergeant ordered him to lie and that a lieutenant was present when the sergeant gave the order but never said a word.

Riley was not charged criminally, but 10 other members of the Special Operations Section have pleaded guilty to various crimes including home invasions, robberies and plotting a murder-for-hire that was not carried out. The unit was disbanded after the scandal surfaced. The sergeant resigned and the lieutenant retired.

◆ Officer Kevin Carey was allegedly involved in a road-rage incident in 2006.

Willie Flood, a waiter, told the police board he was heading to work when Carey “for no reason” started to chase his car from the South Side to Logan Square on the Northwest Side. Carey allegedly pointed a gun at Flood on the Kennedy Expressway and later in Logan Square.

Officers unaware Carey was an off-duty cop ordered him to drop his weapon. But, according to a sergeant, Carey continued to point his gun at Flood. Officers eventually knocked the weapon out of Carey’s hand. Only then did they learn he was an off-duty officer.

Two sergeants and two officers testified Carey used racial epithets when referring to Flood.

Carey was charged with aggravated assault and driving under the influence, misdemeanors. He refused to take a Breathalyzer in the criminal case but took one for the department’s internal investigation, and his blood-alcohol level was .145, nearly twice the .08 legal limit, officials said.

Carey challenged prosecutors for using the department’s Breathalyzer results in his criminal case. But an appeals court upheld the prosecutors’ decision.

Carey pleaded guilty to the DUI charge, records show. The assault charge was dropped.

Police board members said they did not believe Carey’s testimony that Flood pointed a gun at him and that Carey complied with the officers’ orders to drop his weapon.

◆ Officer William Whelehan allegedly tossed a bag of dog feces on a neighbor’s porch in 2009 and called the resident, Kenneth James, a racial epithet after James complained that Whelehan’s dog urinated on his Northwest Side lawn. An argument between the men allegedly resulted in Whelehan pointing his weapon at James before officers arrived at the scene. Board members said they did not believe Whelehan’s statement that James was lying.

◆ Officer Dale Prince allegedly fired his weapon in his backyard while he was off-duty and drunk.

Officers also found seven unregistered guns in Prince’s home when they investigated the gunfire in 2007. Board members did not believe Prince’s story that he drew his gun because he was responding to a possible burglary and his gun discharged when he tripped.

◆ Officer Brian Gentzle allegedly was drunk while carrying his weapon in 2008 and lied to investigators about the incident. Gentzle was off-duty when he and an armed civilian were stopped by officers in the stairwell of an apartment building in the 2800 block of North Clybourn, the police board said.

◆ Lasandra Harrell allegedly failed to process thousands of traffic and parking citations between 2004 and 2008. She stuffed the citations in her desk, the board found, adding, “she attempted to hide the fact that she was not doing her job.”

◆ Officer Safona Calderon allegedly took a 2010 vacation in the Dominican Republic while she was on the department’s medical roll and was supposed to stay at home. She made a false statement to the department’s Medical Integrity Unit to cover up her misconduct, the board found.

In September, the Sun-Times reported the Medical Integrity Unit investigated about 1,800 cases since it was formed in 2009. Under their contract, officers are allowed 365 days of sick leave every two years. In 2009, officers took about 150,000 sick days for an average of 11.6 per officer.