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ere the TRUTH starts. Public Pension Reform. Law Enforcement News. Officer Down News. Collective Bargaining. Corruption. - See more at: http://www.dukesblotter.com/#sthash.gzOejJCT.dpuf
Where the TRUTH starts. Public Pension Reform. Law Enforcement News. Officer Down News. Collective Bargaining. Corruption. - See more at: http://www.dukesblotter.com/#sthash.gzOejJCT.dpuf

Officer Down

Friday, November 30, 2012

NEWS: (Illinois) Poll: Pat Quinn “most unpopular governor,” would lose to Rutherford, Dillard

--Here is the funny thing....
I know the story says Quinn would lose right now but he wouldn't.
For whatever reason, if Mike Madigan decides he still needs an impotent governor he will see to it that Quinn wins.
It may not matter who wins simply because Madigan has the numbers now no matter who sits in the governor chair. It is strictly a publicity seat now--
Duke

Story at Chicago Sun-Times

BY DAVE MCKINNEY
Springfield bureau chief
dmckinney@suntimes.com
Last Modified: Nov 30, 2012 09:46AM

SPRINGFIELD — With only one in four Illinois voters approving his job performance, Gov. Pat Quinn is the least popular in the country and would lose in head-to-head pairings against two of three Republicans eying his job in 2014, a newly commissioned survey found Thursday.

Just 25 percent of voters in Illinois approved of the work Quinn is doing, while 64 percent disapprove, the Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling firm found. That level of support made him “the most unpopular governor [it] has polled on anywhere in the country this year,” the polling firm said.

If a general election were held today, Quinn would lose to state Sen. Kirk Dillard (R-Hinsdale) by a 44 percent to 37 percent and to state Treasurer Dan Rutherford by a 43 percent to 39 percent margin, the firm reported.

If matched up against U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.), another Republican considering a run for governor, Quinn would win narrowly: 40 percent to 39 percent.

“Quinn’s unpopularity puts the Republicans in a position where they could win despite the fact that none of them are very well-known,” said Tom Jensen, director of Public Policy Polling.

An aide to Quinn defended his tenure and acknowledged that his efforts to deal with difficult subjects, such as Medicaid reform, facility closures and tax increases, have not been popular — but are in the best interests of state government.

“Gov. Quinn is doing what’s right for Illinois and to make our state a better place,” Quinn spokeswoman Brooke Anderson said. “After decades of fiscal mismanagement and two corrupt governors in a row, Illinois now has no-nonsense ethics laws, a shrinking unemployment rate and less discretionary spending than ever before because of Gov. Quinn.

“He’s leading the state in its most difficult moment. What’s required right now is a lot of hard decisions and bold leadership, and it’s not easy and immediately popular but we’re doing what’s right,” she said.

In a September poll released by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, Quinn’s approval rating stood at 42 percent, up a notch from the 35.5 percent approval rating recorded by the institute in October 2011.

Beyond measuring how Quinn might match up against potential Republican opponents, the Public Policy Polling survey also showed the governor is vulnerable in a primary, though no Democrat has stepped forward and openly declared he or she is planning to take on Quinn in 2014.

The firm found that Quinn would trail Bill Daley, the ex-U.S. Commerce secretary and former Mayor Richard M. Daley’s brother 37 percent to 34 percent, and the spread would be even wider if Attorney General Lisa Madigan took on Quinn, the firm said.

In a hypothetical matchup, Quinn would trailer her by a 64- to 20-percent deficit.

The firm also sized up the growing GOP field aiming to unseat Quinn.

Rutherford is on top of the pack with 19 percent of Republican respondents saying he is their first choice. Schock is second with 18 percent, and 2010 GOP gubernatorial nominee Bill Brady pulled in 14 percent.

As the list goes on, Dillard has 12 percent; 8 percent favored departing U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.), and 7 percent chose businessman Bruce Rauner, an investor in Wrapports LLC, the parent company of the Chicago Sun-Times.

10-01: ISP Trooper Kyle Deatherage's family needs our help

 
Please CONTRIBUTE and SHARE. 

A fund has been established to assist the family with the many needs they have. This is especially vital since they are not eligible to receive support from BackStoppers according to bnd.com

The BackStoppers organization will not be able to assist the Deatherage family as the nonprofit serves only counties in Illinois State Police District 11.

"Unfortunately, where the death occurred is not in our coverage area," BackStoppers Chief Ron Battelle said. "Certainly, our thoughts and prayers are with the family during this time."

You can read more here BND.com

A toy drive is also being run for Trooper Deatherage's children:


ATTENTION: Looking for Police Officers....Casting for TV show

(Date of Post Changed to Keep at Top of Blotter) Posted on Nov 21, 2012

I was contacted today by Michael Yates, a casting producer with Gurney Productions (responsible for Duck Dynasty, American Digger and many more great shows) and asked to post this information.

This is an excellent opportunity for someone and I would hate for you to miss out on it.

Best of luck to everyone.
Duke

Are you a police officer, judge, or even the mayor? While your professional life is plenty busy, is your home life –even more- chaotic? We’re seeking somebody in the above professions who has just as much going on at HOME as they do at work. When you hang up the badge or gavel, do you have sports to coach? Projects the wife wants done? An unruly daughter or perhaps the over-achiever with events and extra classes? 

A MAJOR CABLE NETWORK is creating a show based around YOU and your three-ring circus at home! We’re seeking a police officer, a judge, a DA, the mayor, etc with children in the 15-20 age range living at home, or near you that keep you busier than when you’re actually working. 

Please email us mikeycasting@gmail.com  with your;

·         Name
·          Age
·         Where you live
·         Tell us a little bit about your situation;  Why are you so busy once you’re “off the clock”? What are your family’s activities, and what fills all your time? Tell us a bit about each family member.
·         A few recent photos of you and your family
·         Email
·         Contact phone number

 (Date of Post Changed to Keep at Top of Blotter) Posted on Nov 21, 2012

NEWS: (Illinois) While Illinois Hits Bottom, Lawmakers Get Top Dollar

Proponents of good pay and benefits argue that lawmakers merit compensation commensurate with their responsibilities as directors of a multi-billion operation.

--If our elected officials are running our state like a multi-billion dollar operation then they should all be fired, indicted and jailed.
They have done nothing but run us into the ground while collecting their pay on time.
We have the most useless politicians in the world.
They pass no law unless they make money off of it somehow or the publicity will be a benefit to them.
They want to freeze union pay, cut pensions, increase health care payments then why don't they do it to themselves first?
Bunch of hypocrites.--
Duke

Story at Better Government Association

Video at ABC7 News

video


November 29, 2012 05:30 PM

Despite state pension woes and ailing finances, legislators among nation's highest paid, a BGA "Rescuing Illinois" examination reveals.

By Barbara Rose/BGA

Newly re-elected lawmakers returning to the General Assembly will enjoy a measure of financial security that few other people have —especially when compared to peers in other state governments, many private sector professionals or regular folks.

In fact, Illinois’ legislators are among the highest paid lawmakers in the country, and their benefits include retiree healthcare and pensions valued at more than $1 million for the longest-serving incumbents, according to the Better Government Association examination of lawmakers’ annual payouts.

Their annual salary is $67,836, but about three-fourths of General Assembly members also get additional cash compensation for leadership positions ranging from $10,327 for chairing a committee to $27,476 for a top General Assembly job.

In the current fiscal year, these leadership stipends boosted average pay to $77,382, according to data obtained by the BGA under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act from the Illinois Comptroller. In contrast, Illinois workers make an average $46,550, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In the House of Representatives, the average annual pay with stipends is $76,296. Average Senate pay is $79,652, based on the Comptroller’s data.

Their annual salary without stipends is the fifth highest in the country, according to the Empire Center for New York State Policy, a project of Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. Third highest is Michigan, where legislators receive $71,685 annually not including stipends, topped by Pennsylvania, New York and California.

But despite getting top salaries, Illinois lawmakers delivered a bottom ranking performance. "Illinois is among the worst states in the nation with regard to its fiscal condition," according to a July report by the State Budget Crisis Task Force. The group is co-chaired by former Federal Reserve Board Chairman Paul Volcker and former New York Lieutenant Governor Richard Ravitch.

Citing a "culture of budget gimmickry and short-sightedness," the task force noted that Illinois put off funding pensions, piled up debt, and failed to develop a broad enough tax base to keep up with spending. The result is sobering:

"Illinois’ past fiscal choices and future threats challenge the state’s ability to meet its population’s basic needs, let alone accommodate future growth," the report states. "Infrastructure is deteriorating. Education is threatened. Public safety, public health, and care for the needy all are at risk. Taxpayers and the state’s competitiveness are also at risk."

Mindful of the fiscal mess and the fact that many taxpayers are struggling, lawmakers voted in each of the last four years to forego cost of living increases and to take 12 furlough days, effectively reducing base pay by 4.6 percent to $64,716. The cut does not affect pension calculations.

"I’m concerned we could have gone farther," says State Rep. Michelle Mussman, (D-56th), who was reelected for a second term in the November election. After furlough cuts, she makes $64,716.

Mussman introduced a bill last year with a bipartisan coalition that would have permanently cut salaries by 10 percent and eliminated cost of living increases. The bill passed the House but stalled in the Senate.

"There’s still a perception that we didn’t do anything," Mussman says. "Unfortunately, I think it continues to erode the public’s faith in the Assembly to do anything that’s in the better common interest. It’s a matter of trust."

House Minority Leader Tom Cross (R-Plainfield) pushed for the furlough cuts and introduced a bill in January that would have eliminated pensions for new legislators. The bill never made it to a vote. House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) has "no opinion" on salaries, according to a spokesman.

Madigan and Cross each make $95,312 including a $27,476 stipend, as do Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) and Minority Leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemont).

Lawmakers earn the equivalent of a full-time salary for a job that allows some of them to run businesses or practice law on the side. Forty-seven percent of Illinois lawmakers listed "full-time legislator" as their occupation, according to a 2008 survey, the most recent available, by the National Conference of State Legislatures. A significant minority--nearly 19 percent—listed their occupation as attorney. Others listed such occupations as business owner or manager, real estate, agriculture and educator.

They meet in Springfield from January through May and throughout the rest of the year as required, typically in fall for veto sessions. But legislators also work outside of sessions and in their districts.

"We’ve seen the time demands for being a legislator in all states increase dramatically over the last 20 years," says Morgan Cullen, a NCSL policy analyst tracking legislative compensation. "Constituent outreach has grown, issues are more complex, and with campaigning and raising money there’s a lot more responsibilities associated with being a legislator."

The NCSL includes Illinois among 10 state legislatures requiring 80 percent or more of a full-time job, along with Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin in the Midwest region.

"While the position of senator has historically been considered a part time occupation, you would be hard pressed to find a legislator who isn’t spending more than 40 hours a week fulfilling the duties related to the position," President Cullerton said through a spokeswoman.

A spokeswoman for Radogno said, "For most lawmakers this is not a part-time job. The time requirements preclude holding another job."

Along with the equivalent of a full-time salary, lawmakers enjoy:

Health insurance: Legislators pay $684 to $1,014 annually for a single premium depending on salary and type of plan. That compares favorably with the average annual single premium of $951 in a 2012 national survey of U.S. public and private employers by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

About two-thirds of employers offer health care benefits, but only 28 percent of those employers also extend them to part time workers, the survey found.

Retiree healthcare: Illinois is one of only two Midwest states, with Ohio, that subsidizes healthcare for retired legislators, according to the Midwest office of NCSG.

Until last year, retiree healthcare was free. Under current law, retirees pay premiums on a sliding scale depending on length of service and ability to pay. This benefit is rarely offered in the private sector, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI).

"Most U.S. private-sector workers will never become eligible for health insurance in retirement through a former employer," states an EBRI study in 2008. "Fewer employers are offering health benefits to future retirees; eligibility criteria are becoming harder to meet; and employer subsidies are disappearing."

Kaiser’s 2012 survey of public and private employers found that only 25 percent of large employers that offer health benefits extend them to retirees.

Pensions: Starting in 2011, new legislators must work at least 10 years to retire with a pension, but most legislators are grandfathered under an earlier plan. They can retire with as few as four years of service at age 62, or at age 55 after eight years. They receive 85 percent of their final salary after 20 years. And retirees under both the old and new plans get 3 percent cost of living increases compounded annually.

"The pensions are extremely good compared with other states," says suburban Chicago pension consultant William Zettler, who has worked as an independent consultant for the BGA and is also a proponent of overhauling the state’s public pension system.

Pensions are an increasingly rare benefit in the private sector. Only 15 percent of private workers participate in employment-based defined benefit plans, according to EBRI.

The average annual benefit for retired lawmakers as of June 30, 2011 was $52,188, according to the General Assembly Retirement System (GARS). But a 2011 BGA investigation found that six-figure pensions were not uncommon for the state’s top office holders including some former lawmakers. Nine percent of the 286 retirees covered by the General Assembly Retirement System (GARS) enjoyed annual pensions of more than $100,000.

Participants contribute as much as 11.5 percent of their salary, but the payback is lucrative for long serving incumbents.

For instance, a 62-year-old committee chair retiring after 20 years would get a first-year benefit of $66,438. A comparable annuity with 3 percent compounded interest would cost $1.6 million, according to Racine, Wis.-based Financial Service Group, Inc., a financial planning firm. The lawmaker’s contributions--a maximum of about $180,000 based on current salary over 20 years—would be earned back in less than three years.

"All of the attention is on public salaries," says Financial Service Group founder Michael Haubrich, a certified financial planner. "The real issue is these benefits, and they’re simply not sustainable."

Proponents of good pay and benefits argue that lawmakers merit compensation commensurate with their responsibilities as directors of a multi-billion operation.

"If you pay them very little, as is the case in many states, how much time can they devote to it?" says political science professor Christopher Mooney, at the University of Illinois at Springfield, Institute of Government and Public Affairs. "They’re either independently wealthy or retired, and you’ve got a very limited pool. If we have a more diverse legislature, we’re more likely to get policies that reflect values of the state."

"I personally think if you’re going to ask people to do a job, you’ve got to pay them for what they’re asked to do," he says.

Comparisons with the private sector aren’t easy because there are no formal requirements for legislative seats other than age and residency. Arguably, a lawmaker’s job involves a basic understanding of business, financial and legal principles as well as administrative and management skills.

A lawmaker’s average salary of $77,382 (including stipends) pays less than the two highest-paying job sectors in Illinois--management jobs, which average $100,440 annually, and legal jobs at $110,070, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. But lawmakers make more than business and financial operations workers, who as a group average $68,730 annually.

Mooney says lawmakers risk voter backlash when they vote themselves higher salaries. "There’s a strong argument that says they’re underpaid because it’s politically poisonous to vote yourselves a raise," he says.

In some states including Illinois, lawmakers circumvent the issue by adopting an automatic cost of living increase. Salaries go up unless the legislature votes to suspend the pay hike.

Other states rely on recommendations from compensation boards or commissions, or they peg salaries to a percentage of other state office holder pay, such as judges.

In 2009, Illinois abolished its 12-member Compensation Review Board. The last time lawmakers got a raise was in 2008.

Barbara Rose is a freelance investigator for the BGA. To reach the BGA, please call Robert Reed, Director of Programming and Investigations, at (312) 453-0631 or email rreed@bettergov.org.

CORRUPTION: (Suburban) Why Waste Time When Clout’s On The Line?

--Nobody familiar with Proviso Township should be surprised by anything with Yarbrough's name attached to it.
I am just surprised that she, her husband and her Michael Madigan supported machine were able to wrest control of the township away from Melrose Park. 
This 'nobody can touch me' attitude is typical of Madigan's Minions until he doesn't need then any longer, then he feeds them to the feds.--
Duke

Story and Video at FOX News Chicago

video

November 29, 2012 05:11 PM

Before she was even elected, incoming Cook County Recorder of Deeds Karen Yarbrough insinuated herself into the agency’s hiring process – a brazen move that may have violated an anti-patronage court order.

By Robert Herguth/BGA and
Dane Placko/FOX 32

Karen Yarbrough didn’t waste any time in exerting clout at the Cook County recorder of deeds office, which she was elected to oversee earlier this month.

In fact, she didn’t even wait until she was elected.

In late September, roughly six weeks before the Nov. 6 general election that saw Yarbrough voted into the county post, she tried to halt all hiring at the agency until she was able to take office, according to documents reviewed by the Better Government Association and FOX 32, and interviews.

The suspicion was Yarbrough, a Maywood Democrat who has been serving as a state representative, wanted to ultimately fill any open jobs with her political supporters.

The problem: aside from the brazenness of trying to influence an agency she didn’t technically run yet, Yarbrough may have violated a federal court order known as the "Shakman Decree" that is intended to minimize politically motivated hiring, firing and promotions in local government, according to the documents, and interviews.

Of the 200 or so jobs in the recorder of deeds office – which keeps real estate records relating to sales and foreclosures, among other things – only a half dozen can be filled with political appointees, under the court order. The rest of the jobs are supposed to be filled in an objective manner.

On Sept. 20, the recorder’s office publicized a job opening to find someone to help run the agency’s mapping division, a hire that’s supposed to be devoid of political considerations.

The next day, Yarbrough campaign aide Bill Velazquez met with a top recorder’s office employee named Darlena Williams-Burnett to relay that Yarbrough "was displeased with the recent posting," according to a recent report filed by a court-appointed monitor.

What’s more, Velazquez wanted the agency "to cease attempting to fill any and all vacant positions through the remainder of its administration," the report stated.

Williams-Burnett "attempted to explain to Mr. Velazquez that she had a duty to maintain a staff capable of servicing the public but . . . Mr. Velazquez was not swayed," according to the report. She also told Velazquez the agency "was filling these positions not by political appointment but through public postings in accordance with their Shakman obligations."

The report relayed that on Sept. 26 Yarbrough wrote an email to Williams-Burnett, saying Yarbrough was "extremely disappointed that several high-level hires are being made." The email ends somewhat ominously, with Yarbrough writing: "I am clear that you do not work for me neither are we colleagues, therefore, you owe me nothing. But, in light of our face-to-face meeting of the minds several months ago, I hopefully expected consideration, collaboration and information. You may have ‘gone through this before’ with other officeholders however it was not with Karen Yarbrough. I look forward to November and beyond and whatever it presents."

Williams-Burnett, wife of Chicago Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th), is the No. 2 person in the recorder’s office, behind retiring Recorder of Deeds Eugene Moore. Her job isn’t among the half-dozen positions that can be filled with political appointees, but her position likely will be put into that category soon because the list is being revamped, officials said. In other words, Williams-Burnett could rightfully be worried about losing her job under Yarbrough.

Although Williams-Burnett said the fear of losing her job wasn’t her motivation – she was trying "to extend some level of cooperation" – she reversed course and decided not to fill the mapping job or six other non-political posts, the report stated.

Williams-Burnett’s actions were "plain violations" of the Shakman Decree, the report stated, and the county’s inspector general, the in-house investigative watchdog, began an investigation that’s believed to be ongoing. It included an Oct. 26 interview with Yarbrough and her attorney, according to the report.

Yarbrough, who has close political ties to Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan (D-Chicago), didn’t return phone calls from reporters.

However, her aides relayed that Yarbrough’s intentions were pure, designed to halt 11th- hour political hiring by Moore that she’d later have to undo.

Yarbrough "wanted to be sure that, should she be the successful candidate on November 6th, she would not inherit more problems created by her predecessor’s office," Velazquez said via email.

"I personally know that Karen Yarbrough supports the implementation of the Shakman Decree to its fullest and is committed to carrying out the court's mandate," Velazquez said. "There is no one that wants that office cleaned up more than Ms. Yarbrough."

The agency "has a history of political patronage hiring and blatant violations of the Shakman Decree."

That’s true, and the reason why the recorder’s office is still subject to the Shakman Decree – named for Chicago attorney Michael Shakman, whose 1969 federal lawsuit challenged the patronage system in local government and resulted in court-sanctioned agreements limiting political hiring. (A court monitor was appointed by a judge to keep watch over hiring and issue periodic reports, which are public.)

Moore denied trying to pack the rolls on his way out the door and said Yarbrough, a long-time political foe, wanted to halt hiring so she could put more of her people on the county payroll.

"She was trying to dictate policy before she even got there," Moore said.

Williams-Burnett also said the implication from Velazquez and Yarbrough was they wanted the jobs to fill with their allies. Williams-Burnett said the pair appeared to be "clueless" about the hiring restrictions in place through the Shakman Decree.

Yarbrough won the Democratic primary for recorder of deeds in March, and faced a Republican opponent in the November general election. However, Democrats almost always win countywide elections in Cook County because the city and suburbs are so heavily Democratic, so Yarbrough’s post-primary confidence was not unusual.

But could her intrusion into hiring get her into trouble?

That’s not clear. The inspector general’s office has the authority to recommend penalties in some instances, but it’s uncertain whether it could do so here. In an interview, Shakman said someone doesn’t have to work for the county to run foul of the decree bearing his name, and could ultimately face contempt of court citations in federal court.

Regardless, Shakman said of Yarbrough, "Maybe she’s got an innocent explanation, maybe she doesn’t, but it does reflect an insensitivity to what she should know about the office she’s running for, which is it’s under a federal court order, and that order is intended to eliminate patronage playing a role, politics playing a role, in hiring."

"For her to call up as a candidate to say ‘stop the hiring process’ raises serious questions."

Yarbrough is supposed to formally take office Monday, making $105,000 a year.

Over the years, reformers have questioned why the agency needs to exist, and some have suggested merging it with other agencies, including the Cook County clerk’s office to streamline operations and save taxpayer money.

This story was written and reported by the Better Government Association’s Robert Herguth, and Dane Placko of FOX 32. They can be reached at (312) 821-9030 or rherguth@bettergov.org.

CORRUPTION: (Illinois) Rep. LaShawn Ford indicted on bank fraud charges

--C'MON!!!!!!! Another one?
Is anybody surprised? I'm not.
This is Illinois, no longer 'The Land of Lincoln' but rather 'The Land of Get What I Can For Me'
We are nothing but a laughing stock.
If I could afford to get out, I would, but then that would allow them to move in one more robot voter for them to control.--
Duke

Story at Chicago Tribune

Staff report
3:04 PM CST, November 29, 2012

A state legislator from Chicago was indicted Thursday on federal charges he made false statements to a bank to obtain a $500,000 increase on a line of credit.

LaShawn K. Ford, 40, was charged with using the money to pay for personal expenses rather than to rehab properties in the city as he had claimed he would to the bank, prosecutors said.

Ford was first elected in 2006 to represent the 8th House District on Chicago’s West Side and several western suburbs.

The charges allege that Ford fraudulently obtained $373,500 in advances from the line of credit to rehabilitate six real estate properties on the West Side. But he used part of that money to pay off car loans, credit cards, mortgages, casino debts and expenses for his 2006 campaign, prosecutors said.

According to the indictment, Ford submitted false tax returns that inflated his personal and business income to increase the line of credit to $1.5 million at Shore Bank.

Ford’s state biography lists him as a real estate entrepreneur and founder of Ford Desired Realty Inc.

CORRUPTION: (Chicago) Ex-Chicago cop gets 3 1/2 years for accepting bribes

--The scandal that just keeps going and going and going....--
Duke

Story at Chicago Tribune

By Naomi Nix
Tribune reporter
3:08 PM CST, November 29, 2012

A federal judge today sentenced a former Chicago police officer to three and half years in prison for accepting bribes in exchange for steering business to tow truck drivers.

Juan Prado, a 12-year veteran of the department, pleaded guilty in July to accepting hundreds of dollars in payoffs from a tow truck operator who was secretly working for the FBI.

Ten Chicago police officers have been snared as part of an undercover FBI probe code-named Operation Tow Scam. Seven have been convicted, and charges are pending against the other three officers.

NEWS: (Chicago) Chicago cop charged in hit-run that seriously hurt bicyclist

--Last time I checked, an accident is just that, an accident. You stay and make the report, that is why we have insurance.
This guy is going to lose his job because he did not use his head.--
Duke

Story at Chicago Tribune

By Rosemary Regina Sobol
Tribune reporter
4:23 PM CST, November 29, 2012

A Chicago police officer has been charged with striking and seriously injuring a bicyclist, then fleeing in his truck and later filing a false report about the accident.

Michael Bergeson, 33, an officer since 2003, was driving his truck near California and Wabansia Aug. 3 when he struck the woman while she was riding her bicycle with her boyfriend, knocking her unconscious with a head injury, officials said.

Bergeson stopped and called 911 from his cell phone without identifying himself as a Chicago police officer and provided the location and condition of the victim, stating “female down, reason unknown, appears to be conscious,’’ according to the Cook County state's attorney's office.

Two minutes later, he called 911 again and stated the victim was possibly injured, the office said.

As the ambulance approached, Bergeson got back into his truck, drove around the victim and hit two parked cars as fled the scene, the office said. But his license plate was knocked loose and recovered on the scene by responding officers, officials said.

The woman was taken to Illinois Masonic Hospital with facial injuries, fractured bones in her foot and abrasions, the office said.

On Aug. 5, Bergeson made a false traffic accident report at the Grand Central District police station, the office said.

He told the desk officer he was driving north on California and was turning west onto Wabansia when a bicyclist disregarded a stop sign and hit his truck, which he said was now missing a front license plate. Prosecutors say Bergeson claimed the bicyclist fled the scene.

Paint samples from the truck showed it had struck the woman's bike as well as the two parked cars, the office said.

Bergeson was charged with leaving the scene of a motor vehicle accident involving death or personal injuries, a Class 1 felony, and disorderly conduct filing a false report, a Class 4 felony, according to the state’s attorney’s office.

Judge Israel Desierto today set bail for Bergeson at $25,000 during a bond hearing today. He will appear in court again on Dec. 20.

R.I.P.: Police Officer Tom Decker

OFFICER DOWN MEMORIAL PAGE

Police Officer Tom Decker
Cold Spring Police Department, Minnesota
End of Watch: Thursday, November 29, 2012


Bio & Incident Details

Age: 31
Tour: Not available
Badge # Not available
Cause: Gunfire
Incident Date: 11/29/2012
Weapon: Gun; Unknown type
Suspect: Arrested

Police Officer Tom Decker was shot and killed as he and his partner performed a welfare check on a man whose family believed was suicidal.

Officers had attempted to make contact with the subject but were not successful. They returned to the scene approximately 45 minutes later. As they made contact with the subject he opened fire, killing Officer Decker.

Officer Decker is survived by his wife and four children.

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

Police Chief Phil Jones
Cold Spring Police Department
27 Red River Avenue South
Cold Spring, MN 56320
Phone: (320) 685-8666

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

PENSION: (Suburban) Naperville chief: no interest in boosting police pension

--Sure, he doesn't want to boost his police police pension, he just wants to collect two pensions for the same job.
No matter how you look at it, he is doing the same job and should follow the rules and quit looking for loopholes.
He is currently making almost $250,000.00 a year and still looking for a way to get over on the system.--
Duke

Story at Daily Herald

By Justin Kmitch

The only new year’s resolution Naperville Police Chief Bob Marshall has his eye on is the resolution of his pension status.

Marshall testified before the five-member Naperville Police Pension Board Tuesday that he never even considered re-entering the Illinois Downstate Police Pension program when he was appointed the city’s new police chief in May.

Marshall is collecting $98,148 annually from the fund he paid into during his 28-year police career. Since 2005, when he retired and was named assistant city manager, however, Marshall’s second pension has been held in the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund. Marshall and city officials have maintained that Marshall should be allowed to continue paying 5 percent of his earnings into the IMRF while also collecting his police pension and his current $151,000 salary.

The ongoing hearing before the pension board was prompted by the state Department of Insurance position that Marshall is once again a police officer and his pension payouts must cease until he retires as chief.

Marshall and city officials argue the state’s public pension code distinguishes between police officers and police chiefs and allows police chiefs to continue collecting a pension while paying into another. Department of insurance officials, however, are under the opinion that the code makes no distinction between officers and chiefs.

Marshall said he never considered applying to re-enter the pension fund because he had already earned IMRF credits during his seven-years as assistant city manager.

“I’ve contributed 5 percent of my paycheck for seven years and I want to continue earning credit in IMRF because I’ve been in that program, now, since 2005,” Marshall testified. “I was satisfied in IMRF and I want to continue earning that service credit.”

Marshall, however, has since been informed that he has been “kicked out” of IMRF for also drawing his police pension. He is appealing that decision.

Marshall said he was also cognizant of the stigma associated with public officials who get pay bumps to pad their pensions and didn’t want to be perceived as greedy.

Had Marshall applied to re-enter the police pension system as chief, his payments would be calculated on his current salary, as opposed to his approximately $100,000 police officer salary, thus costing the fund more.

“It would have elevated everything,” Marshall said. “I didn’t want a pension-enhancement type situation. I didn’t want to do that.”

Attorneys representing Marshall, Naperville and the department of insurance now have until Jan. 2 to file their closing argument briefs and the board will reconvene at 3 p.m. Jan. 15 to deliberate and render their decision regarding whether to continue paying Marshall or suspending his benefits.

NEWS: (Illinois) Sex assault charges dropped against ex-NIU police officer

--Lot of problems at the Northern Illinois University Police Department lately.
Several stories here on what has been happening.--
Duke

Story at Chicago Tribune

By Clifford Ward
Special to the Tribune
6:59 AM CST, November 28, 2012

Sex assault charges against a former Northern Illinois University police officer were dropped Tuesday after new revelations of possible irregularities in the investigation surfaced, the officer’s attorney said.

The charges against Andrew Rifkin were dropped following a hearing where a campus police IT specialist testified that he was summoned around 10 p.m. on Nov. 9, by NIU Police Chief Donald Grady and was told to remove between 60 and 70 files from the chief’s computer, Rifkin attorney Bruce Brandwein said.

Earlier that day, university administration had appointed a new supervisor to oversee Grady and the department. That same day, a DeKalb County judge had ordered the NIU police to sign an affidavit confirming that all evidence in the Rifkin case had been handed over to county prosecutors, following a previous finding that the department had withheld evidence.

Grady was placed on administrative leave the following day.

Brandwein said the specialist did not know whether the files he removed pertained to the Rifkin investigation, but Brandwein said he found the timing curious.  After hearing about the removal of the files, DeKalb County State’s Atty. Clay Campbell told the judge that prosecutors would drop the charges against Rifkin, Brandwein said.

“It was incredible,” he said. “I applaud the state’s attorney for doing the right thing.”

An attempt to reach Campbell for comment was not successful Tuesday night.

Rifkin, 25, was fired from the department in October 2011 after it was alleged he sexually assaulted an NIU student. However, the NIU police’s investigation of the case came under fire this month when it was learned that the department had failed to turn over reports of witnesses who indicated that Rifkin and the student had engaged in consensual sexual activity.

Those reports ended up in a personnel file in what the NIU police said was an oversight. But DeKalb County Judge Robin Stuckert called it an “egregious” error and ruled that the department had purposely withheld the evidence.

That prompted university officials to place Grady on leave, pending a final disciplinary action. NIU also said it plans to terminate the officer who conducted the investigation against Rifkin.

NEWS: (Illinois) More changes coming to the Open Meetings Act

--Everyone (citizens, employees, etc) should be aware of the Illinois Open Meetings Act and the Illinois Freedom of Information Act.
The Open Meetings Act applies to every board in your town, including the village board, pension board, police &fire board, and any other boards....

They all must comply with this act. If you feel they have violated it you can file a complaint with the Illinois Attorney General's Office and they will investigate it.
The Better Government Association offers periodic free training in both of these acts. I found it very enlightening and have used the FOIA on many occasions for information used on Duke's Daily Blotter.--
Duke

Article at OBKCG

Legal Insights for Pension Boards (Fall 2012)

by Brian J. O`Connor

A recently signed law, Public Act 97-0827, made two significant changes to the Illinois Open Meetings Act (5 ILCS 120/1 et seq.) effective January 1, 2013. The changes are included in a new sub-section (c) added to Section 2.02 of the Act.

Descriptive agendas. The first change requires that posted agendas for meetings at which final action will be taken on any resolution or ordinance, must include a description of “the general subject matter” of the resolution or ordinance.

Posting of notices and agendas. The second change requires that the notice and agenda of a public meeting must be posted so as to be continuously available for the public to review for the 48-hour period preceding the meeting. The change also provides that posting of the notice and agenda on a website maintained by the public body for the 48-hour pre-meeting period satisfies this second requirement.

A failure to comply with this second change and ensure that the public meeting notice and agenda is continuously available for the public to review for the 48-hour period preceding the meeting may result in invalidation of any meeting or action taken at that meeting, unless the non-compliance is due to actions outside of the control of the public body.

PENSION: (Illinois) Pension board relies upon functional capacity evaluation to deny disability benefits

--I took a couple of these Functional Capacity Exams (FCE) when I was going through my injury and subsequent disability.
There is no specific test for police officers or fire fighters and while I didn't pass my exams I think they are very unfair.
Putting nuts and bolts in holes on a board may show fine motor skills so you can write but the rest of the test is nothing like our actual jobs.
Pushing or lifting 35 lbs is not a good measure of whether or not you can perform all the physical aspects of our jobs.
There should be an FCE developed for us or maybe make us try to perform the hiring physical agility test as a an FCE. At least those use some aspects of our jobs.
Just a thought.--
Duke

Article at OBKCG

Legal Insights for Pension Boards (Fall 2012)

by Brian A.F. Gorka

The First Appellate District recently agreed that a police officer was ineligible for a line of duty disability because a functional capacity evaluation indicated his ability to physically perform the duties of his position. In Goodman v. Morton Grove Police Pension Board, 2012 IL App (1st) 111480, a police officer injured his left knee while conducting a traffic stop. The officer required two surgeries to repair his ruptured anterior cruciate ligament. Following the surgery, he continued to experience pain in his knee. According to his doctor, the officer was at maximum recovery and unable to return to work as a police officer. Upon this advice, the officer filed an application for disability.

Pursuant to Section 3-115 of the Illinois Pension Code (40 ILCS 5/3-115), the pension board sent the officer to three doctors for examination. The first doctor concluded the officer suffered a work related injury and had a “guarded” outlook for continued progress. He recommended the officer undergo a functional capacity evaluation to determine his maximum level of physical function. The second doctor opined the officer was likely disabled. He believed the officer may be able to work, but recommended a functional capacity evaluation (FCE) for confirmation. The third doctor’s assessment indicated that the officer was disabled and could not function as a police officer.

The officer underwent the FCE. According to the comprehensive report, the officer passed 35 of 37 criteria, meaning he could perform a job with medium physical demands. After comparing the officer’s results to a description of the work performed by a police officer, the evaluation concluded that this officer could return to work with limitations on lifting and carrying.

After reviewing the functional capacity evaluation, the second doctor amended his initial report. He agreed the officer could perform a job with medium physical demands. Since a police officer’s job requires medium physical demands, the doctor concurred with the evaluation and determined the officer could return to work.

The pension board denied the officer’s line of duty disability pension for two reasons. First, it noted the officer had a general lack of credibility throughout the proceedings. Second, the board believed the officer could perform the physically demanding duties of a police officer. It based this determination on the results of the functional capacity evaluation and the opinion of the second doctor. The pension board possessed no qualms about basing its judgment on the functional capacity evaluation because the officer did not present any case law designed to discredit reliability of FCEs as evidence.

The officer appealed the pension board’s determination to the circuit court, and that court reversed the pension board’s decision. The appellate court, however, reversed the circuit court, siding with the pension board. According to the appellate court, there was no argument that the officer sustained an injury from the performance of an act of duty. Additionally, there was no argument that he suffered continued issues from that injury, as all three of the examining doctors and the FCE identified. The issue was whether his injury rendered him disabled for service in the police department.    

According to the pension board and the appellate court, the injury did not render him disabled for police service. The appellate court agreed with the pension board because the pension board reviewed all the medical evidence before arriving at its determination. The board read the reports of those medical experts who opined the officer was unable to perform the physical demands of the position. The pension board denied the line of duty disability because it placed more weight on the FCE and second doctor’s opinion following his review of the evaluation. According to the appellate court, having the opportunity to review all the evidence meant the pension board arrived at a proper determination. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

PENSION: (Illinois) Inability to invest in bonds of underlying municipality

--This is something all pension fund members should be watching for.--
Duke

Article at OBKCG

Legal Insights for Pension Boards (Fall 2012)

by David T. Zafiratos

With decreases in property values negatively impacting the tax levies of local governments, the question often arises as to whether a pension fund can “loan” money to the local government with which it is associated. The short and simple answer to that question is no. However, for tax-capped villages, cities and fire protection districts who have historically provided proper funding to their pension funds and who now see themselves limited in their ability to levy taxes for operational purposes, a short and simple “no” may not suffice. A better answer is that such an “investment” creates the potential for a conflict of interest, thereby jeopardizing the pension board’s ability to fulfill its fiduciary duty to the fund. 

A review of the investment authority granted by the Illinois Pension Code to firefighter pension funds can complicate the issue somewhat. Sections 1-113.1 through 1-113.4 (40 ILCS 5/1-113.1 through 1-113.4) define the board’s authority to invest on behalf of the fund. Note that Section 1-113.2(9) allows a pension fund to invest in “interest bearing bonds or tax anticipation warrants of any county, township, or municipal corporation of the State of Illinois.” (40 ILCS 5/1-113.2(9)). It is conceivable that this provision could be read to allow a municipality to sell tax anticipation warrants to its own pension fund, in effect taking a “loan” from the pension fund. 

Remember, however, that all actions of the pension board need to be taken with an eye towards the fiduciary responsibilities owed to the fund and its members. Additionally, a pension board should always strive to avoid conflicts of interest, or potential conflicts of interest, and make investment decisions in a “prudent” manner.

 Section 1-109 of the Illinois Pension Code (40 ILCS 5/1-109) defines the applicable fiduciary duties, and requires all fiduciaries to act solely in the interest of the participants and beneficiaries. Actions must be taken (1) for the exclusive purpose of providing benefits and defraying expenses; (2) with the same level of prudence someone acting on his or her own behalf would use; (3) by diversifying investments; and (4) in accordance with the Illinois Pension Code. (40 ILCS 5/1-109). Investing in tax anticipation warrants issued by a pension fund’s own underlying municipality would be inconsistent with the fiduciary responsibilities imposed by Section 1-109.

Section 1-110(b) of the Illinois Pension Code (40 ILCS 5/1-110(d)) places additional constraints on a fiduciary’s ability to invest on behalf of a pension fund by prohibiting self-dealing.  While the investment in the underlying municipality’s tax anticipation warrants would not necessarily violate Section 1-110(d), such investment could raise questions as to the motivations of the pension board in making the investment. 

In addition to the statutory concerns about such a transaction, certain investment-related concerns exist. The most practical of these concerns ties back to the question of a conflict of interest.  Whether the investment is “prudent” could also be raised, especially where a local government’s bond rating is not stellar.

However, given that pension board members usually have a strong interest in the financial well being of the village, city or fire protection district for which they work, a pension board might be willing to purchase tax anticipation warrants of the municipality at a lower interest rate than the market would bear. Such an investment might violate the pension board members’ fiduciary responsibility to the pension fund. 

If faced with the question as to whether a pension fund can loan money to its own municipality, the answer is no. If more support for that answer is needed, the key points to remember are that although the pension fund has the authority to invest in tax anticipation warrants issued by units of local government, the investment in the fund’s own municipality’s tax anticipation warrants raises the question of conflicts of interest. It also creates the risk that the pension board members will fail to fulfill their fiduciary duty to act solely in the interest of the pension fund when making decisions on behalf of the fund.

PENSION: (Illinois) Pension offsets and windfall elimination provisions shrink retirement benefits for public employees

--I do not endorse politicians or lawyers here on Duke's but I have to give credit where credit is due.
I get a lot of great pension information from the website of  Ottosen Britz Kelly Cooper Gilbert & DiNolfo, Ltd.
A few times a year they post some great articles that are extremely important for us to know about.
I have never talked with anyone there but I just wanted to say thanks.

There are several bills pending or under consideration that would do away with the windfall penalties discussed here.
You should look them up on the Blotter and contact your legislators and discuss their syance on these issues.--
Duke

Article at OBKCG

Legal Insights for Pension Boards (Fall 2012)

by Laura A. Weizeorick

State and local government employees, who are members of a public retirement system, are not typically subject to mandatory Social Security withholdings.  Many public employees, however, are eligible for Social Security benefits due to employment contributions made before or after their public service, or because of their survivor/dependent status.  In such cases, their Social Security benefits may be reduced under two provisions of the Social Security Act, the Windfall Elimination Provision (“WEP”) (41 U.S.C. § 415(a)(7)) and the Government Pension Offset (“GPO”) (42 U.S.C. § 401 et seq.; 20 CFR § 404.408a).  

WEP reduces a public pensioner’s earned benefit from Social Security using a sliding scale based on the number of years in which the pensioner made contributions to Social Security.  It applies to individuals who became eligible for a public retirement or disability pension after 1985, and who worked in other jobs long enough to qualify for a Social Security benefit.  WEP may only reduce an individual’s Social Security benefit by up to one-half of the amount of the government pension to which he or she is entitled.  Thus, a relatively small pension limits the amount of reduction permissible.  

Social Security benefits are based on each worker’s average monthly earnings, which are multiplied by three different factors.  For example, for a worker who turns 62 in 2012, and does not receive a public pension, the first $767 of average monthly earnings is multiplied by 90%; the next $3,857 by 32%; and the remainder by 15%.  The sum of the three amounts equals the total monthly payment amount.  For individuals eligible for a public pension, the 90% factor used to determine average monthly earning calculations is reduced to 40% for individuals who work fewer than 21 years in a job that pays Social Security taxes.  For each year of “substantial earnings” that an individual obtains above 20 years, the factor applied is increased by 5%.  Accordingly, an individual’s average monthly earnings is calculated with a factor of 45% if he or she has 21 years of “substantial earnings,” and by 50% if he or she has 22 years of “substantial earnings,” and so forth, up to 85% for 29 years of “substantial earnings.”  “Substantial earnings” are determined by law.  

The Social Security Administration maintains a website with information on WEP, which includes the dollar amounts considered to be “substantial earnings” for each year from 1937 to the present, available at http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/10045.pdf  For 2012, “substantial earnings” were defined as $20,475.  Individuals who receive “substantial earnings” for 30 years or more, at a job that pays Social Security taxes, do not have their benefits reduced under WEP.

To avoid reductions to Social Security benefits under WEP, individuals need to obtain new employment that contributes to Social Security and withdraw their contributions and interest from their government pension before they are eligible to receive such a pension.  If they withdraw their contribution and interest after they are eligible to receive such a pension, the Social Security Administration will treat the withdrawal as a lump-sum pension, and their Social Security benefit will be subject to WEP.  

In contrast, the GPO reduces or eliminates a public pensioner’s dependent or survivor benefit from Social Security based on the size of the pension he is receiving.  The GPO applies to individuals who receive: 1) a pension from a public retirement system in which they did not pay Social Security taxes; and 2) a survivor or dependent Social Security benefit as the spouse of a deceased, retired, or disabled worker.  Under GPO, dependent benefits are reduced by 2/3 of the amount received from the individual’s government pension.  For example, an individual with a government monthly pension of $600, would have 2/3 or $400, deducted from his Social Security survivor/dependent benefits.  Thus, if he was eligible for a $500 monthly dependent/survivor benefit from Social Security, his benefit would be reduced to $100 per month ($500-$400=$100). 

Under GPO, a relatively high pension can completely wipe out an individual’s dependent/survivor benefit.  Individuals cannot prevent a GPO by taking a lump sum payment, as the Social Security Administration still calculates these distributions as if monthly benefit payments were taken.  In contrast, pension proceeds from someone else’s earnings, i.e., a survivor annuity from a spouse’s government pension, are not used to offset survivor or dependent benefits from Social Security.  

A special exemption from WEP and GPO has been made for individuals receiving a government pension from active or inactive duty in the uniformed services.  In addition, GPO does not apply if for five years before you retire, you are in a position that is covered under Social Security, and the position is also covered by the same government pension plan as your non-Social Security covered position.  In some instances, an individual’s Social Security benefit can be reduced by both WEP and GOP.  For this to occur, an individual must: 1) have worked for a number of years at a job that paid Social Security taxes, and at a job that did not pay Social Security taxes and for which he was eligible for a public employee pension; and 2) be married.  Because the individual is entitled to both a public employee pension and Social Security benefits, his or her Social Security benefits based on his or her own earnings are reduced by WEP.  In addition, if he or she receives dependent benefits from Social Security because his or her spouse is retired or disabled, then those benefits would be reduced by GPO, and may even be eliminated. 

To prevent reductions under WEP and GPO, a public retirement system may obtain Social Security and Medicare Hospital Insurance through a voluntary agreement between the State and the Social Security Administration (SSA).  These agreements, called "Section 218 Agreements," are authorized by Section 218 of the Social Security Act.  A Section 218 Agreement for retirement systems of public safety employees requires a referendum authorized by the Governor, or by the board of trustees of such systems.  (40 ILCS 5/21-105)  Other retirement systems can obtain authorization for a referendum by the Governor, the board of trustees, the governing body or political subdivision that established the system, or by a petition signed by at least 10% of the members. The list of Illinois municipalities who have entered into Section 218 agreements is available on the IMRF’s website, www.imrf.org.  

A state or local government employee who contributes to a pension, and is also contributing to Social Security for the same position under a Section 218 Agreement, will receive the full benefits of the pension and Social Security that are applicable upon retirement.  As his or her public employment contributes to Social Security, he or she will not be subject to reductions of his or her Social Security benefits under WEP or GPO.  

NEWS: (Suburban) Paradox City

--This article by the BGA shows exactly what I was talking about in my comments in this post:

 PENSION: (Suburban) Suburban mayors might have to wait for pension relief

If these village leaders want to start reforming something, they should start in their own offices.--
Duke

Story at Better Government Association

Calumet City is struggling economically, but the elected leaders in town sure aren’t. The mayor and aldermen get generous salaries, and perks that include free health insurance for life.

November 23, 2012 12:56 PM
By Andrew Schroedter/BGA

In Calumet City, the unemployment rate tops 11 percent, well above the state average.

Nearly 20 percent of local families live below the poverty line.

And taxes are rising to meet soaring pension costs for municipal workers.

The picture is relatively bleak – unless you’re an elected leader in town.

An analysis by the Better Government Association found the full-time mayor and seven part-time aldermen in Calumet City are the beneficiaries of unusually generous compensation, courtesy of the south suburb’s struggling tax base.

Among the BGA’s findings:

**    Mayor Michelle Markiewicz Qualkinbush’s pay and benefits top $180,000 annually, according to documents obtained under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act, and interviews.

Last year, the mayor’s compensation included a salary of $74,194; a "longevity" bonus of nearly $20,000; a $500,000 life insurance policy with an annual premium of more than $20,000; an expense account of $19,500; about $16,660 in pension fund contributions; $11,000 for attending "special" meetings; a vehicle allowance of $7,740; $6,000 to handle liquor licenses; and at least $6,000 for health care coverage.

Qualkinbush’s pay and perks are expected to stay roughly the same this year.

    Aldermanic pay and benefits last year topped $56,000, roughly double the median earnings for working residents in town, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Aldermanic compensation varies based on the length of time an alderman has been in office, among other factors, but in 2011 included an annual salary of nearly $16,000; up to $12,000 for "special meetings"; an $8,400 expense account; $6,000 to chair a committee; at least $6,000 for health care coverage; pension fund contributions of about $5,000; up to $4,000 in longevity bonuses; and $3,000 to cover life insurance.

In addition, each alderman is allowed to hire a personal secretary of his or her choice – and it’s often a relative. Each secretary receives pay of $7,200 a year, but no benefits.

**    Health care coverage for elected leaders is overly generous by most standards in the private and public sectors, according to experts interviewed by the BGA.

The mayor and aldermen, and qualifying family members, aren’t required to pay premiums for health or dental coverage, though they pay deductibles or co-pays for prescriptions.

Even after they leave office, the mayor and aldermen, if they served at least two terms, can receive health care coverage with no premiums until they are eligible for Medicare; at that point, they and eligible family members can receive free "supplemental" insurance from the city.

Some of those benefiting from this largess acknowledge it’s been over the top, and city officials are scaling back certain perks.

For instance, in September Calumet City leaders changed the rules so city council members who take office after May 1, 2013, will no longer receive health insurance – but the current board won’t lose its coverage.

"It had to stop somewhere and it did," Ald. Thaddeus Jones says.

City spokesman Tom Mannix said Calumet City is self-insured and doesn’t buy health insurance from a third party, and therefore is unable to disclose how much the city pays each year to insure the mayor and aldermen and their families.

However, one city official estimated the annual cost is $6,000 to $19,500 per elected official.

Meanwhile, the city council also eliminated Qualkinbush’s vehicle stipend and slashed her expense allowance by about half. But those changes also won’t go into effect until next May.

Spared the chopping block were payments that Qualkinbush and aldermen receive for special meetings, held in addition to the regular bi-monthly city council meetings. Officials are paid $660 a meeting for the first 12 special meetings they attend in a year, then $330 for each special meeting thereafter.

Not only is that an apparent conflict of interest – after all, the special meetings are called by the people who get paid to attend them – it’s also costly. The mayor and aldermen were paid a total of $95,394 for special meetings last year and $66,677 in the first eight months of 2012, according to public records.

Qualkinbush, the mayor since 2003, declined an interview request. But in an email to the BGA she defends her pay and perks, noting she also handles some purchasing and administrative tasks, thus eliminating the need for additional full-time employees.

"I serve on a full-time basis unlike many other communities where the mayor is part-time and there is a full time city manager," she writes. "It is my understanding that south suburban municipalities with part-time mayors and full-time managers expend similar amounts of monies roughly equaling my compensation."

In other words, her "salary is high but she’s saving the city money, too," says Burt Odelson, a Calumet City attorney.

A survey of Calumet City’s municipal neighbors reveals that they’re far less generous to their leaders when it comes to salaries and benefits.

In nearby Lansing, Norman Abbott also is a full-time mayor, but his total compensation last year was just over $107,000, which included a salary of nearly $97,000, a pension contribution of just over $10,000 and a $30,000 life insurance policy that carried an annual premium of about $100, officials said. Abbott qualifies for village-subsidized health insurance but says he doesn’t accept it because he doesn’t need it. He says he doesn’t accept other perks, including a vehicle stipend, because he considers them excessive.

Meanwhile, Don De Graff is the part-time mayor of South Holland, and qualifies for a $2,200-a-year salary and an expense account of $2,400. De Graff accepts neither, according to Village Administrator Jason Huisman, because he already gets paid for sitting on the Metra board.

Homewood Mayor Rich Hofeld is also part-time, and for his duties is paid $3,700 a year, plus an annual pension contribution of about $60, officials said. Hofeld says he donates his pay each year to charity. "It’s not my money, I feel it’s important to return it," he says.

On the other hand, aldermen in Calumet City, with a population of roughly 37,000, say it’s important for the public to know they’re not overpaid. To qualify for a pension through the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund, each alderman must perform at least 600 hours of Calumet City-related service a year, but some officials say they work much more.

"It’s labeled a part-time job but it’s not a part-time job," says Ald. Antoine Collins, who also makes $41,314 a year as a manager in Thornton Township’s food assistance center. "For the hours I put, [the compensation] is fair."

But Jones, who also is a Democratic state representative, said another perk, personal secretaries for aldermen, should remain intact.

secretaries are vital but suggested other perks such as special meeting pay and free life insurance could be axed.

"That money could be better spent on other programs," he says.

The BGA has previously reported on other questionable conduct within Calumet City’s municipal government. For instance, the BGA found a contract that went to an accounting firm owned by the suburb’s finance director. Separately, the BGA discovered a city attorney with ties to Qualkinbush stands to collect a six-figure pension through IMRF, even though he has his own private law practice and doesn’t work for the city full-time.

This all comes against a dreary financial backdrop.

The suburb’s tax levy shot up nearly 5 percent last year in part because of rising costs, and Calumet City’s unfunded pension liability now stands at $111.6 million, according to the Cook County treasurer’s office.

More than 18 percent of families in Calumet City live below the poverty line, or $23,021 a year for a family of four, according to the Census Bureau.

Though unemployment in Calumet City has fallen since last year, it still tops the statewide rate, 11.2 percent versus 8.1 percent, according to the Illinois Department of Employment Security.

And the median single-family home sales price declined by more than two-thirds to $28,000 in September, from $86,900 in the same period in 2009, according to interviews and public records.

Given the community’s troubles, the perks for elected officials are particularly jarring, says Brian Enright, a partner at 3C, a Chicago-based compensation consulting firm that isn’t involved with Calumet City.

"That local government is performing terribly," Enright says, adding: "No one, nowhere is getting health care in a part-time job."

This story was written and reported by the Better Government Association’s Andrew Schroedter. He can be reached at (312) 821-9035 or aschroedter@bettergov.org.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Around the water cooler.....

It's been a little while since we gathered around the water cooler. I will take it as things have been quiet lately and that is always a good thing.

I hope everyone had an enjoyable Thanksgiving.

I hope the upcoming holidays find all of you in good times.

Please be careful if you are working. This is the time of the year when the real crazies start coming out of the woodwork.

I want to apologize if any of you may have noticed a few spam messages getting posted as replies to posts. I guess as more and more folks start finding Duke's these things are bound to happen. I keep the settings open so people can post their comments and see them immediately so the spam messages get through sometimes and I have to find and delete them. This is also true of some of the, shall we say, comments that make no sense. I tend to let things fly, the only real way I can keep some of this from happening is if I make it where I have to review all comments before they are seen on the Blotter. I tend to stay away from this because I don't want people crying that I did not allow their post be seen.

I also want to apologize to any readers that may ask me questions on other web sites (i.e. Topix). I may not see the questions because I really don't read there often, unless something is brought to my attention. I really don't care what a bunch of keyboard cowboys have to say about me anyways.

As for the questions I get asked, I really prefer not to get involved in the politics of any town (not even the one I live in). I am not here to tell a mayor how to run his town or a police chief how to run their department (although if they want my advice I will gladly give it).

I simply supply reliable information and it is up to the reader to use that information as they see fit. If it means voting for a change then so be it.

Unfortunately, as good as it is that things are quiet is also as bad as it is because that means I have no good news to report on the investigation of the murder of Ron Susek. At this point and time I do not see any resolution to this case in the foreseeable future.

Ron's case along with Tom Wood's will be watched by Duke's Daily Blotter and any new information that is learned will be posted.

Please understand, I am not out to solve these cases, that is the job of the investigating agencies.

I am here to insure that these men are not forgotten.

Until our next gathering........................


PENSION: (Suburban) Suburban mayors might have to wait for pension relief

--Downstate Pension Systems (Suburban) will have to wait for the state legislature to screw up the state pension systems before they get to screwing up the suburban systems.
If the mayors are so concerned about pension reform for their communities why don't they look at themselves and their local city/village boards.
Instead of whining and crying about having to pay the full-time employees who work 40 hours a week, contribute to their pensions (every pay check), pay a portion of their health insurance, work holidays and all types of screwy hours;
Why don't they:
Reform their Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (IMRF) contributions (or at least start making some out of your paychecks) and percentages, increase their retirement age, do away with all the free health insurance they give themselves.
If tax payers were to do just a little asking and looking instead of taking their elected officials word for it they would see the mismanagement for themselves.
Mayors getting free health care after leaving office. Police chiefs getting getting full family health care for free when they leave. Board members getting free family health care for a part time position that most times pays less than $10,000 a year. Not to mention outrageous pensions because they play the loopholes put into the systems by politicians for politicians.--
Duke

Story at Daily Herald

By Mike Riopell

SPRINGFIELD — If history is a guide, suburban mayors looking for relief from their rising police and firefighter pension costs might have to wait in line.

State lawmakers return to Springfield this week to perhaps start brokering a deal on cutting back teachers’ and state workers’ pensions.

But that yearlong debate has rarely included talks of solving local officials’ concerns at the same time.

“It would require more discussion, certainly, than we’ve had,” said state Rep. Elaine Nekritz, a Northbrook Democrat and key figure in the move to cut the state’s pension costs.

Local officials are looking to Springfield for relief because mayors and municipal trustees can’t set police and firefighter pension benefits, but they have to pay the growing bill.

A Daily Herald report last week showed that despite the recession, Chicago and suburban towns increased property taxes by nearly $800 million in 2010 compared to five years earlier.

Local officials blame that hike largely on increasing worker costs, including retirement payments.

Yet proponents of cutting municipal pensions face the same difficulties that state lawmakers have encountered in trying to pare teachers’ and state workers’ benefits.

Firefighters and police are often respected public servants who have contributed to their own retirements, so cutting their benefits can be politically difficult.

Suburban mayors have a strong ally in Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who wants lawmakers to address local pension costs before the new Illinois General Assembly is sworn in Jan. 9, the same time frame Gov. Pat Quinn has set for dealing with the state pensions.

“I do believe we’re going to work on pensions in the lame duck session, and get it done,” Emanuel said at a news conference last week.

Mayors waiting for relief seem less interested in when they’ll get help than in whether they will get help at all.

“I’m more concerned that it happens, period,” Buffalo Grove Mayor Jeff Braiman said.

Illinois Municipal League legislative director Joe McCoy points to 2010, when lawmakers cut retirement benefits for new state workers and public school teachers but left current employees alone.

Then, months later, Quinn and lawmakers approved similar cuts for local police and firefighters.

McCoy worries that if lawmakers agree on one batch of pension reforms for state systems, the momentum to work on local concerns could be lost.

Yet, the complexity of pension benefits makes it difficult to tackle all public employee groups at once, others say.

“Every system is a little bit different,” Nekritz said. “There is no one-size-fits-all solution.”

There’s no guarantee lawmakers will even find a solution for the state’s pension worries before Jan. 9.

If they don’t, the rising retirement payments are certain to hamper their budget once again, taking away money the state might otherwise spend on schools, health care and other services.

Even if lawmakers do agree on a fix, the fate of the plan will almost certainly be in the hands of the courts because a union lawsuit is expected.

R.I.P.: Trooper Kyle Deatherage

--It's always worse when it is close to home. God's speed brother.--
Duke

OFFICER DOWN MEMORIAL PAGE

 Trooper Kyle Deatherage
Illinois State Police, Illinois
End of Watch: Monday, November 26, 2012

Bio & Incident Details

Age: 32
Tour: 3 years
Badge # Not available
Cause: Struck by vehicle
Incident Date: 11/26/2012
Weapon: Automobile; Commercial
Suspect: Not available

Trooper Kyle Deatherage was struck and killed by a tractor trailer while making a traffic stop on I-55, at mile marker 62, near Litchfield.

He had parked his motorcycle on the shoulder and was speaking with the driver of the vehicle when he was struck.

Trooper Deatherage had served with the Illinois State Police for three years. He is survived by his wife, 4-year-old daughter, and 10-month-old son.

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

Director Hiram Grau
Illinois State Police
801 S 7th Street
P.O. Box 19461
Springfield, IL 62794
Phone: (217) 782-6637

NEWS: (Illinois) Lawmakers face gambling, prisons, weapons in veto session

--Someone needs to tell Governor Bumblin' Stumblin' Quinn that his moral standards are not those of the voters. His holier-than-tho attitude towards gambling and medical marijuana are antiquated and out of step with reality.
- People can choose for themselves if they wish to gamble or not. I just think the tax money made from gambling and the lottery should go towards education and fixing the pension funds.
- We do not need an assault weapons ban in Illinois. We need realistic gun laws that prescribe to the tenets of the U.S. Constitution. We will never have this as long as the current congressional leaders are in place and making money off the current laws.
- We don't need to close prisons. We are overcrowded in most facilities as it is. We need to re-examine some laws and change some sentencing standards to deal with the problems. We have way to many white collar criminals locked up for long durations and to many hard core criminals running loose.
- I think we can go with the medical marijuana proposition but we cannot, at this time, legalize recreational marijuana. The U.S. Constitution says that states can make laws that are not covered by federal statutes, or they can make laws more stringent but the states cannot make laws that over ride federal statutes. The federal government needs to deal the current laws on marijuana before the states can make it legal. 
- Pensions are an issue that should not be dealt with during this veto session. There are to many out going legislators whose votes can be bought on the promise of a job with high pay and benefits following their term. Remember the tax increase a few years ago?--
Duke

Story at Daily Herald

By Associated Press

Illinois lawmakers could tackle high-profile issues beginning Tuesday in their six-day fall session.

They will decide whether to reject vetoes by Gov. Pat Quinn on issues such as expanded gambling, money to keep prisons open and a Quinn-designed assault-rifle band.

The Democrat rejected a plan to add five casinos. Legislative leaders hope to avoid a veto override and negotiate a deal with Quinn.

The Senate plans a vote to restore funding for state facilities Quinn wants shuttered. That wouldn’t force Quinn to keep prisons like those at Tamms and Dwight running — but prevent him from using the money elsewhere.

Quinn rewrote a bill in August to ban assault weapons after a mass shooting in Colorado. His office has not said whether he will push that.

Lawmakers will be staring down some of the higher-profile issues in Illinois when they begin their fall session Tuesday. But resolution of gambling, state facility closures, immigration and medical marijuana proposals could come in the form of dramatic confrontation, negotiating-table settlements, anticlimactic if symbolic votes, or no decisions at all.

Expanded gambling, shaping up a few weeks ago as a veto-override clash, could be sidestepped during the six-day session in favor of a hoped-for agreement with Gov. Pat Quinn in January. Lawmakers meeting during the next two weeks might vote against Quinn’s efforts to close state facilities, likely with little practical effect. And the Democratic governor’s splashy call for an assault-weapons ban could disappear without fanfare.

Although scheduled annually for lawmakers to decide the fate of gubernatorial vetoes, the fall session is not limited to that. An emerging bipartisan proposal to equip illegal immigrants with driver’s licenses will be considered, along with a plan to allow the medical use of marijuana, narrowly defeated in recent years.

And the state comptroller warned last week that there isn’t enough money to cover operations for several agencies through the June 30 end of the fiscal year. One legislative aide said there have been preliminary talks with Quinn’s office about potential supplemental appropriations.

A few weeks ago, a massive expansion of legalized gambling — twice approved by the General Assembly but never given Quinn’s blessing — looked ripe for an override, at least in the House. Less certain would be an OK in the Senate — where a veto push would start because the legislation originated there.

Proponents of allowing five more casinos in the state — including one in Chicago — and slot machines at horse-racing tracks say it’s necessary to increase state revenue and compete with neighboring states luring away Illinois gamblers and their pocketbooks. Quinn has objected, saying the plan lacks regulatory oversight and fails to put money toward public education.

But Quinn told The Associated Press earlier this month he believes a compromise is in the offing. Of major assistance in that scenario, according to House sponsor Rep. Lou Lang, is newly offered assistance of House Speaker Michael Madigan.

For nearly 20 years, the Chicago Democrat has recused himself from negotiations about gambling to avoid a potential conflict of interest with his private law practice, which he said might serve clients interested in casino development. Lang said Madigan no longer has the conflict — something Madigan spokesman Steve Brown confirmed without elaborating — and has orchestrated discussions designed to lead to a deal.

“It’s a very big issue, and the speaker, with good reason, likes to involve himself in the big issues,” said Lang, D-Skokie, “so ... perhaps he can be helpful in the process of getting the governor to the table.”

Senate President John Cullerton favors a negotiated pact, but hasn’t committed to action before January, when lawmakers are scheduled to meet next, spokeswoman Rikeesha Phelon said.

Quinn’s office did not respond to requests for comment. In earlier comments to the AP, Quinn sounded uncharacteristically upbeat about a casino plan.

“I’m optimistic we can put something together,” he said.

In crafting a state budget last winter, Quinn slashed spending with plans to close several correctional facilities and units for mental health treatment and care of the developmentally disabled.

Lawmakers objected, sending him a budget with money appropriated to keep open places like the Tamms high-security prison and the women’s lockup at Dwight. Quinn stood firm, reducing that allocation by $57 million and saying he wanted to use the money for other programs, such as child protective services.

Cullerton, a Chicago Democrat, is preparing an override of that budget-bill reduction, Phelon said. But it would only mean Quinn couldn’t spend the money as he pleased. It would not force the governor to keep prisons and other sites open.

Lawmakers believe the facilities are still needed and wanted to save jobs, particularly those employed at prisons in economically hard-hit southern Illinois areas.

Sen. David Leuchtefeld, R-Okawville, hopes he doesn’t lose gun-related legislation he sponsored to a Quinn assault-weapons ban. Leuchtefeld’s proposal would close a loophole that prevents Illinois residents from buying ammunition through the mail from Illinois suppliers.

It easily won legislative approval, but Quinn used his amendatory veto power to substitute language banning new assault-style weapons, large-capacity ammunition magazines and similar guns. His move, which some legislative experts believe exceeded his authority, came after a gunman killed 12 people in a suburban Denver movie theater.

Leuchtefeld’s got no qualms about debating gun control if the governor finds a friendly legislator to write a separate bill, not hijack what he sees as commonsense legislation.

“He has to know it’s going too far to do what he did,” Leuchtefeld said. “He has to know I wouldn’t allow it to happen.”

Among other issues, Quinn, Cullerton and Republicans announced support last week for legislation to allow illegal immigrants to get driver’s licenses, making roads safer with better-trained and more insured drivers. Discussions are under way about whether additional money might be necessary for human services and child protection.

Lang said he is close to the 60 votes he needs for House approval of a medical marijuana bill, allowing people with specific illnesses — who, for example, get pain relief from marijuana — to possess small amounts purchased from licensed dispensaries. Medical marijuana use is OK in 18 states and Washington, D.C.

“This is without any question the tightest and most highly regulated medical marijuana bill ever written in this country,” Lang said.

NEWS: (Chicago) Despite murder spike, McCarthy says overall crime is down

--I hate to be the one to break it to McCarthy and Emanuel but when you have innocent children being shot on a daily basis your crime reduction stats don't mean squat to your citizens.
The City of Chicago is unsafe and under-policed due to man power shortages in the most important division of any police department-PATROL.
Playing with numbers that the tax payers do not understand is only going to last so long. People will start to figure it out and you will find yourselves in the unemployment lines.--
Duke

Story at Chicago Sun-Times

By Stefano Esposito
Staff Reporter
Last Modified: Nov 26, 2012 01:28PM

Fighting back against what he sees as a media obsession with counting homicides this year, Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy Monday said the city is enjoying the lowest crime rate in decades and may be on course to lead the nation in crime reduction.

“There is almost a mania, if you will, to report aggregate incidents, which may or may not be better than last year,” McCarthy told reporters at a news briefing at Chicago Police Headquarters.

But as of Sunday, there were 470 homicides in the city in 2012, compared with 394 during the same time period last year.

Despite the spike in homicides and shootings in early 2012, those numbers have been coming down in recent months, McCarthy said, crediting strategies that include arresting at least 5,000 more gang members this year than in 2011 and working with the city Department of Buildings to tear down 220 vacant buildings, which tend to attract gang members.

McCarthy said overall reported crime is down around 10 percent this year over last year.

McCarthy said he has been talking to friends in other big-city police departments around the country, and “It looks like we might be in a position where we actually are leading the nation in crime reduction.”

He said Chicago is definitely doing better with overall crime reduction than Los Angeles, New York City, Houston, Philadelphia and New Orleans.