Monday, January 16, 2012

The City and State That Work (If You Know Somebody)

Those of us dependent on modest state pensions for our daily bread have watched with dismay as those pensions have been put at risk by outrageous mismanagement since the administration of James Thompson. Our elected officials used our pension funds for years to pay for state expenses, putting off an inevitable day of reckoning that even a child could see coming. That dismay grew as we learned that that our elected officials gave control of the vast sums in the pension funds to a bunch of politically connected hacks and misfits that used their power to illegally strong arm investors and enrich themselves. Now we are learning that our elected officials handed out pensions to politically connected pals to return favors, pals who weren't even state or city employees.

Now of course, since we do live in Illinois, those same elected officials are assuring us that they will fix the pension funds. Forgive me for my lack of faith in Mike Madigan and John Cullerton, who never saw a problem they created that they couldn't turn into an opportunity for themselves and their friends. Every time they have fixed things in the past, innocent bystanders like me, who diligently played by the rules for almost four decades of service to the system, get our wallets lightened.

Today another remarkable story is in the Chicago Suntimes, about the pension adventure of Richard Daley's brother in law (whose son, Daley's nephew, has been in the news for beating a man outside of a bar and, after the man died, getting a pass by the Chicago legal system). The brother in law, who never worked for the city, but did contract work, somehow ended up with a city pension that has already paid him almost $900,000. 

He is in the news because another political insider, a former state senator with connections galore, a man who was once charged with attempted extortion, a man who recently paid a large fine for insider trading irregularities, a man who already has a state pension for over $100,000 a year, a man who never worked for the city of Chicago - just applied for a city pension.

A few years ago, he would have gotten it, but, with so much attention on pension outrages, even the folks on the Chicago pension board knew better than to wink and give him a little sweetener. Friends are friends and favors are favors, but hey, they've sent some people to prison for this stuff lately.

"Get whatever you can get away with" is the motto in Illinois. People like me, who play by the rules and get hammered every time a show needs to be performed suggesting that reform is taking place, are viewed as saps by the boys in power.

"Two weeks after former state Sen. William Marovitz settled federal insider-trading allegations last summer over his sale of Playboy stock, he gave up his work as an outside lawyer for two Chicago city pension funds — and applied for a city pension even though he wasn’t a city employee.
Marovitz — a lawyer and longtime Democratic Party leader in Illinois who is separated from his wife, former Playboy chief executive officer Christie Hefner — already gets a government pension of $102,480 a year for the 20 years he served as a state legislator and member of the Illinois Pollution Control Board.
He was seeking a second government pension — which would have paid an estimated $50,000 a year — for the 27 years he did legal work for two City Hall pension funds.
One problem: He was never a city employee, just a lawyer in private practice whose clients included two city pension funds.
That was the view of city pension officials including Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s two top financial advisers. They unanimously rejected Marovitz’s application for a city pension.
Marovitz was seeking a pension deal similar to the one that was granted in 1998 to then-Mayor Richard M. Daley’s brother-in-law, Dr. Robert M. Vanecko, when Vanecko — then chief of staff at Northwestern Memorial Hospital — gave up his side job as the city pension fund’s medical adviser.
Vanecko, who still works at Northwestern, gets a $77,000 yearly government pension, which so far has paid him a total of $875,000."

Read more:     More Pension Outrage in Chicago   SunTimes