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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

Monday, April 29, 2013

PENSION: Pension Reform Success Stories

--It seems the success comes from working together, unlike in Illinois where employees are simply being ignored by the politicians.--
Duke

Article at Governing

Most states and many municipalities have passed some kind of pension reform in recent years, but only a few did so in a way that addresses the immediate unfunded liability of their plans.

BY: Liz Farmer
April 2013

For Chris Bartley, the turning point in Lexington, Ky.’s pension deal came when the city finally budged. The longtime firefighter and union chief was slow to trust politicians. So he stood his ground and well into fall 2012, Bartley and other representatives returned again and again to the negotiating table. Tasked with fixing the city’s looming pension debt created by slow revenue growth and soaring entitlement costs, they had made no progress.

Then it happened, Bartley recalls. The city said it had come up with a way to increase its pension funding -- and could guarantee those payments. It was the first step in a compromise deal that city officials today believe will make the fund solvent.

“Somebody had to step first,” Bartley remembers. “They moved, and it allowed us to make some movement.”

As in Lexington, many state and local pension plans are in crisis. Thanks to the recession’s toll on pension portfolio returns and its pressure on budgets, many public pension plans at both the state and local level have become woefully underfunded -- threatening future benefits. Meanwhile, the tight budget climate has strained relations between employee unions and employers, making it difficult to pass meaningful changes that would assure employees of their full retirement benefits and keep pension systems current with state and local revenue.

Most states and many municipalities have passed some kind of pension reform in recent years, but a smaller number have been able to do so in a way that addresses the immediate unfunded liability of their plans. Both sides have shirked responsibility, says Elizabeth Kellar, president and CEO of the Center for State and Local Government Excellence. “Neither the management side nor the labor side has owned up to reality.”

Now there will be new factors. The Governmental Accounting Standards Board rules set to kick in this summer will change the way public pension plans account for their portfolio gains and losses. That will likely have the effect of making a plan’s unfunded liability appear higher than it did in prior years. Coupled with announcements from credit ratings agencies that they will downgrade states with high unfunded liabilities, the pressure on public pension reform is mounting.

Some pension plans, however, have tackled those pressures successfully. While the processes vary, the themes for progress are consistent: education, reciprocity and trust. While it may seem essentially a public relations campaign to engage employees and inform the public, it is by no means a simple road to meaningful reform. It can, however, be worth the effort.

One person who took the education component seriously is San Jose, Calif., Councilman Pete Constant. A former cop, Constant was elected to the council in 2006 and by 2012, pension costs had grown to 27 percent of the city’s general fund budget. Constant made it his mission to understand exactly how pensions work or don’t work and took courses at the University of Pennsylvania, University of Chicago and Stanford Law School. (He’s now on his way to finishing his doctorate in public pension governance.) He’s used his expertise to launch a pension education crusade of sorts, making the case to voters and his colleagues that San Jose’s system was broken.

“What I took on as a personal challenge is, how can I learn these complex concepts and present them in ways simple enough to make people understand?” says Constant. In coordination with Mayor Chuck Reed and others, officials spent nearly three years discussing the city’s pension problem in public forums before proposing changes to the system that targeted retirement age and restructured employee contributions. “Once people start to connect the dots, you see the light go [on],” Constant says of the forums. Last June, voters overwhelmingly approved changes that included raising the retirement age to 65 for most employees; requiring current employees to contribute an additional 4 percent of their salaries or switch to a lower-cost plan; and allowing the city to suspend cost-of-living adjustments (COLA).

But San Jose’s method largely bypassed the unions, and now the city is embroiled in a costly -- albeit expected -- lawsuit.

Educating the voters and public employees on what’s wrong with the current system would seem to be key. It’s also extremely difficult.

“People’s eyes glaze over,” says Fitchburg, Mass., Mayor Lisa Wong. After redesigning health-care coverage for current and future employees and retirees, which reduced other post-employment benefits costs and addressed roughly 40 percent of the city’s unfunded liability, she has now made changing the pension plan itself a top priority this term. Accordingly, she has assembled a public employee committee with representatives from each of the city’s 16 unions. “One of the solutions [I’ve used] in terms of discussing it publicly is talking about this issue of trade-off,” she says. “People want to know why, if their taxes are going up and services going down, this is happening. And I had to say because we trade off current services to pay for past bills. That’s a very difficult conversation to have.”

It’s a conversation that Rhode Island Treasurer Gina Raimondo had dozens of times with taxpayers and state employees as she launched her tour around the state to advocate for pension reform in 2011. “Often these meetings would last for hours,” Raimondo says, adding, “Public employees did nothing wrong. They did what they were told -- it was the system that was poorly designed.”

At the meetings, Raimondo would talk to employees, telling them, “I’m sorry, I have a tough message. But I’m here to work with you.” Raimondo says attendees would often start off angry but by the end, thanked her. “They said I was the first person to lay it out like that for them.”

That year, she persuaded the Democrat-controlled legislature to pass pension changes that she projects will save up to $4 billion by delaying retirement, suspending COLAs and changing existing and new workers’ plans to a hybrid pension/401(k)-style plan. Still, Rhode Island’s legislation never won union support and now faces a legal battle.

Part of unions’ stiff opposition to pension changes can be traced to a lack of trust in the numbers pension sponsors’ report. Indeed, for every state chart that shows a less-than-expected rate of return on pension investments over the last decade, pro-union groups have their own or independent studies that show better rates of return over 20 or 30 years. “It’s disingenuous at best to say they’re on an education campaign,” says Jordan Marks, executive director of the National Public Pension Coalition. He rejects the picture that politicians present of reduced services versus pension cuts. “It’s a false choice,” he says. “Smaller class sizes or teacher pensions? It’s not one or the other -- budgets are made up of thousands of decisions.”

Marks says the lack of fairness has created distrust among workers. It runs deeper than disputes over rates of return on portfolios. Many states and localities have not paid in their required contributions in recent years as budgets have become strapped. (Rhode Island, Raimondo notes, has made its payments.) And employees -- who have also dealt with salary freezes -- have no control over how much they contribute to their pensions. The system has left a sour taste in the mouths of current public employees who now view pension reform as a bailout to states using their hard-earned money.

Melissa Turner, 34, is one such employee who feels she was given a “bait-and-switch” after 12 years at the University of California at Davis. Several years ago, her retirement benefits changed. That means she will have to work for the university 15 years longer -- until she is 65 years old -- to receive what was originally laid out for her. Meanwhile, budget cuts have allotted her just three raises in 12 years averaging less than 2 percent while her pension contribution percentage has more than doubled. The changes have disabused her of the notion that her job as a construction project coordinator will provide retirement security. “Let’s face it, the system our parents grew up on is not going to be the same system that’s there for us,” she says.

Overcoming that broken trust can mean that pension reform doesn’t have to be mandated from on high, but reciprocity is an absolute requirement. Lexington Mayor Jim Gray believes he’s done just that with reform the city passed in January and has since been approved by the state legislature. Put together by a pension task force made up of city officials, union representatives like Bartley and the aid of an outside financial consulting firm, the measure guarantees that Lexington will increase its annual contribution to the pension fund to $20 million from $11 million. At the same time, employees have agreed to an older retirement age and increased contributions.

Both sides say hiring a financial consultant with no ties to the city helped keep everyone in line and bring about compromise after months of standstill. “We just laid everything on the table -- nothing would be held against each other,” Bartley says, “and before long, we were making progress.”

Gray adds that the environment created a sense of common purpose and shared sacrifice. “That language can sort of sound artificial, cliché, sanitized and all sugar and spice,” he says. “But getting to that level of trust was hard work. Patience and persistence were required and a willingness to just stay at the table.”

Employees can be an asset and resource when it comes to redesigning pensions, says Ken Parker, former city manager of Port Orange, Fla. Including them in the redesign is likely to take longer than officials probably prefer. But after five years of efforts from city officials, Parker says Port Orange now has a sustainable pension plan. The city was able to reduce the benefits for current firefighters while the union got its wish for more money in the budget for new hires.

“Sometimes we assume that they don’t want … to be a part of the solution, which, in fact, I think they do,” Parker says. “By engaging the employees, you come up with better solutions than you do if you’re trying to mandate them.”

Launching a PR push on pension reform doesn’t guarantee success; only time will tell whether the changes enacted today will work for the years ahead. Nearly two years after Atlanta became the first city to pass major pension reform upping employee contributions and reducing COLAs, Mayor Kasim Reed says the city is saving at least $25 million a year.

The wave of reforms following Atlanta and Rhode Island’s changes signals a growing acceptance that, in many cases, the current system can’t last. In some places that has created a blame game that’s inhibiting compromise. In Illinois, employees point out that their state has been woefully derelict in paying into the plan, which is roughly 40 percent funded. Illinois’ inability to address its unfunded liability was a major factor in its recent downgrade by Standard and Poor’s. Last month the Securities and Exchange Commission charged Illinois with securities fraud for misleading investors about the health of its pension program.

But after all the finger-pointing is over, some places are finding their way to balanced solutions. Pensacola, Fla., for example, this year closed off its pension program and began enrolling all new hires in the state plan. Current employees remaining in the city plan must increase their contributions. In return, Mayor Ashton Hayward agreed to pay raises for city employees over the next few years. “There was melodrama in the city for about five months out of the nine that we were doing this -- it was ugly,” says Hayward. “But I had good support and they were telling me, ‘Ashton, you’re not going to please everybody. Get over it.’”

PENSION: Has Pension Reform Gone Too Far?

Knee-jerk reactions to problems that were caused by the employers to begin with will result in bigger problems in a few years.
We are seeing just the beginning.--
Duke

Article at Governing

Posted By Liz Farmer

Nearly every state in the union and scores of localities have reacted in recent years to their growing unfunded public pension liabilities with reforms that aim to soften that financial burden in the coming decades. The changes have ranged from reducing benefits for current retirees to raising the retirement age to establishing new (read: cheaper) plans for incoming public employees.

But have some of these reforms gone too far? Might governments now be putting themselves in a position where they can no longer attract the best person for the job?

“Plans have actually done a lot,” Alicia Munnell, director of the Center for Retirement Research, said at the Future of Retirement Summit this week in Washington, D.C. “And in some cases, in my view, they’ve done too much.”

Munnell and others noted that, if the cuts states and localities made to their pension plans hold, the cost to governments will certainly be less in the future. But those cuts are “not a costless thing to do,” Munnell said. The center’s research has consistently shown that compensation in the public sector and compensation in the private sector have been roughly comparable because more generous benefits packages for public workers tend to make up for lower pay. But when governments start cutting benefits, private-sector jobs gain the edge.

“So when you start cutting back on pension benefits, without thinking of them in terms of total compensation package, you risk ending up with a compensation system that falls short of what’s happening in the private sector,” Munnell said. "It has to be recognized that these [pensions] are just one part of compensation and when you do this you have to think of the whole package.”

Indeed, the notion is on governments' radar as employee retention is one of the top concerns for public employers, according to a recent survey by the Center for State and Local Government Excellence (SLGE), which hosted the retirement summit. Among the governments surveyed by SLGE, 70 percent said that staff retention and development were important issues looking ahead.

What's exacerbating that retention issue is a poor opinion of government workers, said Joshua Franzel, SLGE’s vice president of research. “What often comes up as being a persistent problem is the public perception of workers,” he said, “and how that impacts those that otherwise might stay in public service but instead choose to retire.”

Franzel noted that as localities have rebounded from the Recession, his research has shown an uptick in the number of retirements in the state and local sector. The public worker perception has been a contributing factor to that, as has the notion from workers that they should retire before their employer changes their benefits on them, Franzel said.

That environment can make it difficult to attract the best talent for those positions as they open. Munnell noted one of her center’s studies looked at how cutbacks could affect the quality of teachers that school systems were able to attract. The study used the average SAT score at teachers’ undergraduate institutions as a measurement for teacher quality and related that to wages and benefits paid at their respective school districts. The result? “You just got teachers from higher quality schools if you paid more,” Munnell said, adding that the example can be extrapolated across most government jobs.

“All the teacher slots, all the public employee slots will be filled,” she said. “But they will be filled with less competent people than you would have had otherwise if you keep compensation equal between two sectors.”

Certainly, municipalities are working on ways to attract the best and brightest by offering other perks. In Montgomery County, Maryland, Human Resources Director Joseph Adler said the county offers a highly competitive management development program in coordination with Johns Hopkins University and a deferred retirement option (DROP) program as recruitment tools. The county is also “looking at” flexible work hours and teleworking for some employees, but those perks can bring challenges.

“There’s a tremendous amount of resistance to telework from middle level managers who believe that the employees who want to telework are going to be goofing off, running around in their pajamas and flip flops and they’re not going to be working," Adler said. A second “path of resistance” he added, is jealousy from employees like bus drivers or receptionists who, by nature of their jobs, can’t telework.

Still, he said, the brain drain that some managers worried about hasn’t come to fruition, he said, and it’s giving the county time to thoughtfully approach recruitment and retention.

“Several years ago, it was every single baby boomer, the minute they hit 62, they’re going to walk out on you. That has not happened,” said Adler, a veteran of state and local human resources. “They’re still there – I’m still there.”

PENSION: HB3411

Illinois Lawmakers, please don't steal my pension. I've worked very hard for it and I've never missed a payment. Stealing my pension just because you stole all the funds from what would have been your promised contribution is morally corrupt and indefensible.

I'll remember in November...and every election after that.


Sunday, April 28, 2013

Got a job.

Got me a part time gig on the weekends. Going to have to work on my timing for weekend updates.
Be patient with me, please.
Thanks

Friday, April 26, 2013

NEWS UPDATE: Search for body of 1-year-old Bryeon Hunter continues

--I understand that people are upset by this tragic incident. I am just as outraged.
But, you cannot blame the police for lack of interest or for not doing anything.
And, you can not blame people for not showing an interest and coming out to help search for the body of dead one year old child (who wants to be the one to find that?)
Organizing a dive to search a body of water is not an easy task.
Unless it is a life saving operation where all care for your own personal safety is thrown out the window you do not just show up and jump in.
Dive units searched the Des Plaines River until the weather became really dangerous.
Anyone that knows anything about the Des Plaines River knows that it is an extremely dangerous river. While the surface may look calm, the under tow and currents are known to be extremely strong and dangerous.
No good comes from rushing and doing things wrong and turning one tragic incident into several.
The fact that we are just now recovering from record setting flood waters does not help with this situation at all nor does it do anything to make it any safer for divers.
I can promise you this much, everyone wants to find that poor little guy's body to insure that his soul may rest in peace properly.--
Duke

Story and Video at My FOX Chicago

By Anita Padilla, FOX 32 News reporter

CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

The search resumes Friday for the body of a one-year-old boy who has been missing for more than a week.

Police originally issued an AMBER Alert after his mother reported Bryeon Hunter was kidnapped.

Lakesha Baker and her boyfriend face murder charges in the death of her child.

The search will continue over the weekend, which is encouraging for the community. With tragic events like the Boston Marathon bombings, the Texas fertilizer plant explosion and the devastating floods here in the Chicago area, some thought the focus shifted away from finding this little boy.

The Des Plaines River reached record high levels after last week's flood. This hindered the search for Bryeon's body, since it would not have been safe for crews to get into the water. Pinpointing his location in the fast-moving water was also complicated due to the swollen river's condition. Visibility was less than a foot - sonar technology needs to be employed in the search to circumvent that issue.

A canine search specialist has brought a cadaver dog into the search, which identified three targets Friday morning. That means there is a decomposing body in the Des Plaines River, but it still has to be located. One of the targets was over the bridge, another was further down the river.

Youth outreach organizer Sandra Harrison coordinated the candlelight vigil for Bryeon.

She is frustrated to see the lack of progress and more importantly, lack of community involvement in the search for the 1-year-old boy.

"It's frustrating because I know that community has had so many other things they felt were important," Harrison said. "There was the bombing and just the floods that made everything very personal for people in the community as they started to realize their homes were under attack. But in all of that, as a parent, I just feel like the waters were rising and we were getting further away from the location of this child."

She and the member of her organization want to mobilize the community.

"We want to get the community back into the process of thinking about it and moving the investigation forward," Harrison said. "Just be here. Just be here tomorrow morning. Just being here would help - if the community were here for support."

If you have any information that could help authorities recover Bryeon's body, please call the designated tip line: 1-800-883-5587.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

NEWS: Charges: Woman stole $2.1 million from chemical company

 --I find it mind bending trying to understand how someone can steal over 2 million dollars from a company and no one notices for years.
Just like the lady that stole 26 million from Dixmoor. No one sees this going on?--
Duke

Story at Chicago Tribune

By Ellen Jean Hirst and Jason Meisner
Tribune reporters
8:54 PM CDT, April 25, 2013

A longtime former general manager of a west suburban chemical company has been charged with embezzling more than $2 million, in part to pay off credit card bills and remodel her kitchen, Cook County prosecutors said Thursday.

Kathleen Barth was fired as general manager at Kraft Chemical Co. after the thefts were discovered a year ago, according to a Circuit Court lawsuit filed by the company to recover the losses.

According to the lawsuit and prosecutors, Barth was paid $65,000 a year but secretly inflated her compensation to as much as $286,000, disguising the additional money as bonuses and commissions.

She also electronically transferred about $990,000 from the company's checking account to pay off her personal credit cards, prosecutors alleged. According to the lawsuit, those payments to her American Express card totaled as much as $40,000 in a single month.

Prosecutors charged that Barth also stole from Kraft by issuing unauthorized company checks directly to herself and having the company issue checks to contractors to pay for work at her Chicago home. She spent as much as $91,000 in company funds to remodel the kitchen, according to the lawsuit.

Barth, 56, was arrested Wednesday night on a warrant that set her bail at $200,000. She is being held in Cook County Jail until a hearing Friday at which prosecutors intend to seek an increase in the bail amount.

Rick Kraft, third-generation president of the family-run company, said he was distraught over the alleged theft but could not comment further because of the pending litigation.

While arresting Barth at home, police found numerous pieces of jewelry, watches and figurines, according to David Harris, who succeeded Barth as general manager.

Harris said a prosecutor told him that the place looked like a museum.

Barth, who joined the company in April 2005, grew bolder with each year she got away with the thefts, according to the lawsuit. She allegedly inflated her salary to $101,500 in 2006 with the phony bonuses and commissions. By 2011, her salary had soared to $286,000 as part of the scheme, the lawsuit alleged. In that way, Barth stole more than $840,000, prosecutors charged.

She also used company money to pay her personal Citi Card and American Express credit cards, sometimes tens of thousands of dollars at a time. The lawsuit alleged that Barth disguised electronic transfers on company paperwork by referring to them as "profit sharing" and "miscellaneous" expenses.

In another lawsuit filed this month, the Federal National Mortgage Association is seeking to foreclose on Barth's Chicago home in the 1700 block of North Rutherford Avenue.

NEWS: Mississippi pawnshop sued in Chicago cop's death

--More suits like this need to take place.
More steps need to be taken to prevent straw purchases and out of state transfers to gang bangers and drug dealers.
It can be done without infringing upon the 2nd Amendment if people would just talk about it instead of just insulting each other.--
Duke

Story at Chicago Tribune

Scheme that brought guns north used straw purchasers; dealer was negligent, suit alleges

By Annie Sweeney
Chicago Tribune reporter
6:45 AM CDT, April 25, 2013

Mississippi attorney Don Barrett knows well the worries of gun owners. After all, he's one himself.

"We don't want anybody messing with our guns," he said.

But what happened to Thomas Wortham IV is different, says Barrett, who joined with the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence to sue a Mississippi pawnshop that sold a handgun used to kill the off-duty Chicago police officer three years ago.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Oxford, Miss., on behalf of Wortham's parents and sister, accused the pawnshop of negligence for failing to recognize clues that the gun's buyer was making an illegal purchase and then blocking the sale.

As proposed new gun legislation roils the country, the lawsuit takes aim instead at current laws that prohibit straw purchasing. In Chicago, these illegal transactions are among the most common ways for convicted felons to get their hands on guns, experts say.

Neither Barrett nor his son, Richard, also an attorney, has any concerns about bringing a case against a gun seller in the heart of the South.

"When I read about this, it made my stomach turn that this shop owner was so lax," said Richard Barrett, like his father a gun owner. "If he had taken care of business, it would not have happened. … Everybody paints us as a red state, (that) everybody is a hunter and has Hank Williams Jr. playing on all the radios.

"Just because people like guns around here and enjoy hunting doesn't make them devoid of common sense," he said. "We're not bringing this case to change laws. We are bringing this case because Thomas Wortham IV is no longer with us. His family lost him because a pawnshop here in Mississippi put profits over people."

The probe into Wortham's slaying in May 2010 led investigators to a small pawnshop on a corner in Byhalia, Miss.

It was there, at Ed's Pawn Shop and Salvage Yard, that the Smith & Wesson pistol used to kill Wortham was purchased. Quawi Gates, a Rust College student in Holly Springs, Miss., who had a gunrunning operation on the side, had asked an acquaintance, Michael Elliott, if he wanted to make some quick cash.

Gates' criminal record prevented him from buying guns, so he had lined up several college students to make the purchases for him for $50 to $100 a weapon. Elliott was stressed out over his hospitalized infant daughter and agreed to buy three guns for Gates in return for $100.

Wednesday's lawsuit accuses the pawnshop and its owner, Bruce Edward Archer, of failing to follow guidelines established by the gun industry's trade association, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, about how to detect a straw purchaser.

According to the guidelines, gun sellers should fire a battery of questions at buyers who come off as suspicious. Among the red flags are buyers who purchase multiple guns at the same time and pay with cash, the suit says.

Elliott, for instance, paid $1,500 in cash for three guns as a first-time purchaser at Ed's Pawn Shop, according to the suit.

Gun sellers are not under any obligation to complete a sale if they are concerned, said Thomas Ahern, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives spokesman in Chicago.

"They do not have to make a sale if they feel that it's a straw purchase taking place," Ahern said. "I equate it to a bartender. If a person comes in a bar and he is obviously intoxicated and he has a fistful of money, you could make that sale of a drink. But you have an obligation to refuse service to him to protect your business and the public."

According to the lawsuit, Ed's Pawn Shop sold an a total of eight guns to buyers recruited by Gates for the trafficking scheme.

"Ed's Pawn Shop took no reasonable steps to implement … reasonable precautions or to otherwise alter their business sales practices to minimize the risk that they would supply the criminal racket," the lawsuit alleges.

Archer could not be reached Wednesday for comment on the lawsuit's allegations.

Also sued were Elliott, who was convicted in Mississippi for making the straw purchase, and Gates, who is serving a 10-year sentence for his role in the gun-trafficking scheme.

Wortham, 30, was shot less than a week after he gave an interview to the Tribune about the rising tide of violence in his Chatham community on Chicago's South Side. He stood in a light rain in Cole Park, where the basketball hoops had been closed because of a spate of shootings, and promised that the historic neighborhood would rise above it.

"It's starting to feel like it's expected in this community," Wortham said then. "When people think of the South Side of Chicago, they think violence. In Chatham, that's not what we see. … We're going to fix it, so it doesn't happen again."

Six days later that very violence caught him as he left his parents' house.

Two reputed gang members displayed Smith & Wesson guns and demanded Wortham's motorcycle, Cook County prosecutors have said. Wortham pulled his gun and identified himself as an officer, according to police. In seconds, gunfire erupted on the quiet street. Wortham and one offender were fatally wounded.

The Smith & Wesson .45 semi-automatic pistol was recovered at the scene.

Three suspects were later arrested and still await trial.

On Wednesday, Wortham's parents offered heartbreaking memories about their only son, referring to him as "Tommy."

"He was everything we could have hoped for in a son," said his father, Thomas Wortham III. "He was shot and killed right outside my door by criminals who should have never gotten hold of lethal weapons."

The Brady Center has been filing lawsuits against the gun industry for nearly 25 years, calling it a necessary step given the struggle to stop the flow of guns into the hands of criminals, said Jonathan Lowy, its director.

"Our purpose in bringing these cases is to place a price on irresponsible conduct that supplies criminals," Lowy said.

In addition, the city of Chicago filed a sweeping $433 million lawsuit against the firearms industry in 1998 in a bid to recover the costs of gun violence. That same year, relatives of gunshot victims in Chicago also sued the industry. But in 2004 the Illinois Supreme Court dismissed the litigation.

Still, Lowy pointed to recent decisions in Milwaukee in which judges have allowed two lawsuits against Badger Guns to go forward on behalf of four police officers wounded by guns sold in a straw purchase. The company that manufactured the rifle used in the Washington sniper shootings settled with victims for $2.5 million, he said.

PENSION: State appeals Naperville chief's pension ruling

--Just another example of an administrator trying to take advantage of the system.
But if his officers try to get a new contract, watch he screams and yells about how greedy they are.--
Duke

Story at Chicago Tribune



Chief collects salary, pension from days as officer; Department of Insurance objects

By Melissa Jenco
Chicago Tribune reporter
7:47 PM CDT, April 24, 2013
 
Naperville police Chief Robert Marshall assumed his current office in May 2012. (City of Naperville, Handout / May 22, 2012)
State officials are continuing their fight to keep Naperville police Chief Robert Marshall from collecting his police pension while earning a chief's salary.

The Illinois Department of Insurance has filed a request for a DuPage County judge to review the Naperville Police Pension Board's ruling that Marshall has not re-entered active service in the police force by becoming chief.

The local board's ruling allows Marshall to continue collecting his pension of $101,100 this year on top of his $151,000 salary.

In its appeal to DuPage officials, the Department of Insurance calls the board's findings "arbitrary and capricious, clearly erroneous, and against the manifest weight of the evidence."

"Our position remains unchanged from last year, in that Chief Marshall has re-entered active service for the purposes of the pension fund, and that he therefore may not continue to receive his police pension while simultaneously in active service as a member of the Naperville police," spokeswoman Kimberly Parker said in an email to the Tribune.

She added the department is "stepping up efforts to enforce compliance."

Thomas Radja, an attorney for Marshall, said he believes the pension board "made the appropriate decision."

"We thought the pension board did a very thorough job and the law is clearly in favor of Chief Marshall retaining his pension so I'm a little surprised they're appealing," he said. "I thought our tax dollars could be spent in a better way."

Marshall spent 27 years with the Naperville Police Department before retiring in 2005, when he became Naperville's assistant city manager. At that time, he was able to begin collecting his police pension while also contributing to the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund.

On May 18, 2012, he was sworn in as Naperville's police chief. In addition to his $151,000 salary, Marshall has continued to receive his police pension that currently stands at $8,425 per month and, until early September, contribute to IMRF.

Last summer, the Department of Insurance filed a position statement arguing Marshall should not continue to receive his police pension while working as chief. The Naperville Police Pension Board then held two hearings on the matter in the fall, giving the Department of Insurance and the city a chance to weigh in. The city argued Marshall should continue to receive his pension.

In January, the board voted 4-1 in favor of Marshall continuing to collect his police pension.

Detective Don Bisch, president of the Naperville Police Pension Board, said Wednesday the board's attorney would be filing a response to the state's appeal.

"It will be resolved in court," he said. "It's up to a judge to decide who is in the right on this one."

The case is due before a judge Aug. 13.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

NEWS: MPA billboards warn to enter Memphis 'at your own risk'

--There comes a time when the truth must be told about communities and how they really feel about their public safety employees.
Best of luck Brothers and Sisters.--
Duke

Story and Video at FOX 19 News

video

MEMPHIS, TN -

(WMC-TV) – "Danger: enter at your own risk, this city does not support public safety."

That is the message on a number of new billboards placed around the City of Memphis by the Memphis Police Association.

"Fact of the matter is, it's simply not true," said Mayor A C Wharton.

Wharton said he has taken calls from people concerned about the signs.

"They are disturbed greatly," said Wharton.

Local tourism officials believe the signs send the wrong message to visitors and Memphians alike.

"Whoever came up with this strategy to try and get attention, I think it's very disrespectful," said Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau President Kevin Kane.

"This is how police officers, the ones actually out here protecting the city, feel," said Memphis Police Association President Michael Williams.

Williams said the signs went up to remind people of the battle employees continue to fight and the resulting impact on public safety.

"This has been listed as one of the most dangerous cities in the nation," said Williams. "We haven't hired police officers at the rate that we should have."

There are also unresolved issues concerning benefits and pay, including a pay cut Mayor Wharton said he's trying to restore.

"Here I am fighting to get the money back, but at the same time we get these billboards," said Wharton.

He said the message on the billboard may only damage an already strained relationship.

PENSION: Opposition growing to state pension reform, says Crain's poll

--Now that the elections are old news the people in Springfield will be very happy to see this problem get put back where they keep it, right under the rug.
As long as the polidiots get paid, get campaign contributions, and get money for their personal businesses they really do not care about the budget, employee pensions, or tax payers.--
Duke

Story at Crain's Chicago Business

April 22, 2013
Greg Hinz

Illinois lawmakers who are grappling with state pension reform do not appear to be getting much help from their constituents.

According to a new Crain's/Ipsos Illinois Poll, public support seems to be slipping for proposals to force government workers to pay more or accept less in the way of pensions and retiree health care just as the General Assembly enters the heart of its spring session.

A majority of the 618 voting-age residents surveyed still back big changes. But the size of the majority is down to a bare 52 percent despite frequent statements from Gov. Pat Quinn and others that the state faces a financial crisis that will hurt funding for education, public safety and other programs. And those surveyed gave a big thumbs down when asked about a proposal similar to one being pushed by Illinois Senate President John Cullerton to force workers to choose between paying more for their pension or losing their retiree health insurance.

Here are the details.

Asked whether government workers including police, teachers and state employees should have their pension plan altered "because (the state) does not have the money," 52 percent said yes. Thirty-two percent agreed that the current pension plans should be honored "even though it will mean continuing to overextend the budget."

That's still a majority in favor of change. But it's down from June, when an identical question found 57 percent favoring change and 26 percent opposing.

Some of the difference may be due to sampling error. The accuracy margin of the survey overall is plus or minus 4.5 percentage points, with greater variation for sub-regions such as Chicago or downstate. Still, the swing came after a period in which the pension issue has received enormous coverage in the media, with frequent stories about Illinois debt downgrades and the likelihood that the state's unfunded pension liability now has topped $100 billion.

Support dwindling for specific proposals

The same result — falling public support — came when those surveyed were asked about specific pension-reform proposals.

For instance, support for requiring workers to pay 3 percent more of their salary to keep their current pension benefits slipped from 57 percent in favor and 26 percent opposed in June to a 52 percent/30 percent split now.

Similarly, when asked about a plan to force workers to choose between paying more or losing their retiree health care — a variation of the proposal Mr. Cullerton as pushed through the Senate, views switched from a nearly even split in June — 40 percent approving and 42 percent opposed — to 37 percent in favor and 44 percent opposed.

Broken down by region, it appears that most of the shift in public opinion has occurred in the city of Chicago and, to a lesser degree, downstate.

Those surveyed were widely in agreement on one thing, though. Asked who they blame most for Illinois' pension woes, small, single-figure numbers cited only Mr. Quinn, lawmakers or unions. But 52 percent said "all of them."

The Crain's/Ipsos Illinois Poll is a representative survey of voting-age state residents conducted over the Internet. Ipsos validates the sample against offline data sources such as telephone surveys to ensure the accuracy of its weighting. This survey was conducted April 13-17.

NEWS: Former Chicago cop pleads guilty to extortion in towing scam, selling weapons to felon

'He is the 11th Chicago police officer to be charged since 2008 in the federal “Operation Tow Scam.” Charges are still pending against an additional three officers.'

--This case just does not want to go away.
By the time is done it will have cost at least 14 Chicago Police Officers their jobs and/or their freedom.
Please, end already.--
Duke

Story at Chicago Sun-Times

BY DIANA NOVAK
Staff Reporter/dnovak@suntimes.com

A former Chicago police officer working as an informant for federal investigators in a wide-ranging political corruption probe pleaded guilty Monday to charges he extorted a tow truck driver and sold firearms to a convicted felon.

Ali Haleem, 46, of Chicago, was charged with one count of extortion and two counts of selling a firearm to a felon in January following a federal investigation into allegations of bribery and extortion involving tow truck drivers hired to remove disabled cars.

He is the 11th Chicago police officer to be charged since 2008 in the federal “Operation Tow Scam.” Charges are still pending against an additional three officers.

Haleem entered his plea before Judge John Z. Lee in U.S. District Court in Chicago, admitting he sold three firearms to the same tow truck driver he accepted bribes from, knowing the driver was a convicted felon.

The Sun-Times previously reported that Haleem’s cooperation with federal investigators, which involved wearing a wire, lead to corruption charges for nine defendants, including a former campaign treasurer for state Sen. Rickey Hendon (D-Chicago). Seven of the defendants are charged with taking kickbacks in exchange for government grant funds, and two are charged with taking bribes to fix property-tax appeal cases. Haleem became an informant after he was approached by federal investigators in 2008 and was subsequently placed on desk duty for the Chicago Police until his resignation from the department in September.

Under the plea deal, Haleem faces up to 40 years in prison, a fine of up to $750,000, a period of supervision following release, fees related to his court costs and restitution for money he received during the investigation. He waived his right to appeal or withdraw the plea, and will forfeit the three firearms he sold to the driver.

Haleem agreed to delay his sentencing until he has completed his cooperation in the federal corruption investigations as part of his plea deal. He will be sentenced on Oct. 18.

Monday, April 22, 2013

NEWS: Arrested 396 times, woman knows how to work the system

--ARRESTED 396 TIMES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
You want to know what is wrong with the system? 
THIS is what is wrong with the system.--
Duke

Story at Chicago Sun-Times

By STEFANO ESPOSITO
Staff Reporter sesposito@suntimes.com
April 20, 2013

On a sweltering day last summer, traffic came to a standstill on a bustling stretch of Bryn Mawr Avenue in Edgewater, emergency crew sirens wailed and Chicago Police Officer Tom Rolon hurried to the scene.

The crackling voice in Rolon’s radio reported a woman foaming at the mouth and lying in the middle of the street; Rolon approached and instantly recognized her.

“She looked up at me and says, ‘Officer Rolon, I love you,’ ” recalled the now retired cop, who spent 17 years on foot patrol in Edgewater. “She got up, and all of a sudden she’s OK.”

Rolon recognized Shermain Miles because he’s seen her more times than he can count — drunk, half-naked, cursing and, on one occasion, lunging at another woman with a dinner fork.

Since 1978, Chicago Police alone have arrested Miles 396 times, mostly on the North Side — under at least 83 different aliases. Those arrests include 92 for theft, 65 for disorderly conduct, 59 for prostitution-related crimes and five for robbery or attempted robbery.

The frustrating truth: The system — strapped by overcrowded prisons and cuts to mental health funding — hasn’t been able to save Miles from herself or to help the communities she menaces. Nothing has worked. Not jail. Not prison. Not countless psychological exams for the woman described as being “acutely psychotic.”

Miles is a master at working the system, says Rolon. She fakes seizures that mean costly hospital visits. She gets judges to delay her cases. And then she returns to the streets to be arrested again and again — so many times that she ranks in the top 1 percent for all current CPD arrestees.

To the relief of many, Miles, 51, is currently in prison in downstate Lincoln. Police arrested her last August, when — after a day of allegedly slapping, punching and generally harassing folks on a stretch of Broadway in Uptown — she is accused of chasing after Ald. James Cappleman (46th). That arrest landed her back in prison for a possible parole violation of a 2010 conviction for robbing a 75-year-old Bosnian immigrant at knifepoint.

On Tuesday, the Illinois Prisoner Review Board is set to decide whether Miles violated the terms of her parole; if she did, it’s likely she’ll be held until April 2014, when her parole expires.

Mujo Cesic, Miles’ victim in the knife robbery, wants another option.

“She should never be released,” said Cesic, a firefighter in his native Bosnia who spoke through a translator.

♦♦♦

Miles spent her childhood dodging feet, fists and anything else her mother found to inflict pain.

“We were all abused by my mom, but Shermain was abused more than any of us,” said one of Miles’ two sisters, who lives in the Southwest suburbs. “It’s the root cause of all her problems.”

The sister — who didn’t want her name used — said the state ultimately plucked her and her sister from their home in the Cabrini-Green housing project. Their mother died in 1994, and the sister said she never knew their father.

Unlike her sister, Miles never adjusted to foster care. By the time she was 14, Miles’ life on the streets had begun. She got pregnant as a teenager, and has an adult daughter living in Minnesota, the sister said.

How did the sister succeed where Miles didn’t?

“I was put in a good foster home with people who loved me and cared for me,” the sister said.

At some point, Miles drifted to the North Side.

Phelps Holmes probably knows Miles as well as anyone in Uptown — the geographical center of Miles’ territory, which mostly ranges from Lake View to the south and Rogers Park to the North. Holmes is off the streets now, but for nine years he slept in parks and on loading docks — much of that time with Miles slumbering nearby, he said.

“She’s always been a sweet young lady to me,” said Holmes, 59, standing a stone’s throw from the corner store at Sheridan and Lawrence, where Miles likes to buy her liquor.

Miles was generous with her food and drink, but silent on her past, Holmes said.

“You don’t talk about where you come from . . . because sometimes what got you homeless is because of things you did with your family,” he said. “You might have got on drugs and stole from them. They can’t trust you no more.”

Miles rarely sleeps in one of Uptown’s estimated 500 shelter beds because she fights with other guests, Holmes said.

“Steve,” a man who sleeps on a square of cardboard beneath Lake Shore Drive at Wilson Avenue, doesn’t know Miles, but he understands why she might avoid shelters.

“The shelters have bugs in them and they’re overcrowded; otherwise, I’d be in one right now,” said Steve, who wouldn’t give his last name.

♦♦♦

Miles’ run-ins with police started decades ago. Her first arrest in the city came in 1978, for allegedly breaking into a car. Since then, police have detained her for assault, burglary, drug possession and public indecency — among many other crimes. Miles’ busiest year was 1988, when police made 25 arrests. In the majority of those cases, Miles is arrested, released and never convicted; Rolon says that’s partly because Miles knows how to work the system — getting judges to delay cases so that her victims get frustrated, stop coming to court and then the case is dismissed.

The Cook County state’s attorney’s office counts 73 convictions in all.

“We also need her to come to court,” said Fabio Valentini, chief of Cook County’s Criminal Prosecutions Bureau. “You can see that in a great many cases, she fails to appear in court.”

Valentini defends his office’s handling of Miles’ more recent cases, saying that whenever she’s been charged with a felony — 10 times, according to prosecutors — she is convicted. He also says that within the last year, Miles’ cases have been assigned to a single, community-based prosecutor available to talk over concerns with the public and police about Miles’ activities.

On the rare occasion when Miles has served prison time, she benefits from a state law that automatically cuts an inmate’s term in half for a range of crimes; that’s why she served only three years of a six-year term for robbing Cesic in 2008. But in 1993, Miles served about seven months of a two-year prison term — her first Illinois prison stay — stemming from an attempted robbery charge. In that case, Miles received about five months’ credit for good behavior, said Illinois Department of Corrections spokeswoman Stacey Solano.

After Miles’ most recent release from prison in April 2011, CPD arrested her six times before she was finally sent back to prison. Why?

“The Department [of Corrections] makes decisions on a case-by-case basis,” Solano said. “And when appropriate, will try to impose community-based sanctions for parolees before [an] automatic return to prison.”

♦♦♦

Miles has been in and out of mental health hospitals and participated in various programs in the communities she calls home, including Thresholds, a North Side agency that bills itself as the state’s oldest and largest organization helping people with severe mental health illness.

“Within one year of joining a Thresholds program, 90 percent of Thresholds’ members remain out of costly hospital care and nursing home care,” according to Thresholds’ web site.

How the agency has helped Miles remains unclear. Thresholds refused repeated requests to talk about Miles or their programs in general.

Miles has told court-appointed psychologists she believes people are trying to kill her and steal her money.

While signing some forms, “the defendant laughed so loudly and exuberantly that she almost fell out of her chair,” one psychologist wrote in a 2006 letter to the judge handling an attempted robbery case that involved Miles grabbing an Edgewater woman and telling her: “Give me your f---ing money or I will kill you.”

Cappleman, who said he witnessed Miles punch and slap two people last summer on North Broadway before she came after him, says his ward’s notorious resident can’t simply be released from prison without a “highly structured” plan in place.

“For the sake of Ms. Miles and the community, it’s time to take the next step to ensure the community is no longer terrorized by her behavior,” Cappleman wrote in a February letter to the state’s Prisoner Review Board, which will consider Miles’ case Tuesday.

♦♦♦

So what does Miles have to say for herself?

Earlier this year, she agreed in a hand-written note to an interview with a Chicago Sun-Times reporter: “Since I have gave my life over to the Lord, I have no problem with you coming out here. . . . It is very much appreciated that you are wanting to hear my side of the story.”

On the day of the interview, she sat quietly waiting on a bench in a hallway inside the red-brick complex at Logan Correctional Center in rural Lincoln. She wore lipstick and eyeliner, and her frequently unkempt hair was neatly styled. One correctional officer described Miles as well-behaved, requesting Gospel music when she is transported to Cook County for court appearances.

But when a reporter introduced himself, she said, “Am I getting paid?”

When she found out she wasn’t, Miles turned on her heels and walked away, saying: “Then I have nothing to say. Jesus already took care of it.”

Back in Edgewater, the business community in particular is dreading Miles’ possible return. Miles has been known to chase after pedestrians and pinch them. She sometimes walks out in the middle of traffic and holds out her hand like an unofficial crossing guard.

“There is always one case that rallies a community, and she was that case,” said Marko Zaric, a spokesman for The Business People for Bryn Mawr, a group that monitors crime in the area.

Edgewater florist Rick Flinn, who said he called police 25 times last summer about Miles, recalls one frustrated police officer’s approach to handling her.

“There used to be a person who’d pick her up and drop her off on the Far South Side,” Flinn said. “She always gets back here somehow.”