Lobbyists Drawing Lucrative Pensions Partially Paid By Taxpayers

CHICAGO (CBS) — They aren’t government employees. They are in effect lobbyists, but their salaries and pensions are funded in part by your tax dollars.

As CBS 2 Investigator Pam Zekman reports, one of those groups is Township Officials of Illinois (TOI), which lobbies extensively to preserve township government and to oppose reforms that critics say could cut wasteful spending.

For example, it costs northwest suburban Avon Township taxpayers about $800,000 a year to maintain 11 miles of roads in unincorporated areas, “when the county could more cost effectively handle those roads,” according to Township Supervisor Sam Yingling.

But Yingling says legislative efforts to reform township government are thwarted by TOI, which is funded in part by taxpayers through membership fees paid by township officials.

“The conflict that I see,” said Yingling, “is the fact that you have a private organization that is using public funds to lobby against the best interests of the people.”

TOI has four full time staff members, including two registered lobbyists in line to receive pensions from the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (IMRF), pensions that are partly paid for by taxpayers.

“No lobbyist should be eligible to collect a public pension,” says Yingling.

TOI’s Executive Director, Bryan E. Smith, declined to disclose his salary or the salaries of other TOI staffers, but federal records show TOI paid Smith $101,720 last year.

Based on the formula used by the IMRF to calculate pensions, Smith could collect an annual pension of more than $75,000 if he worked the maximum number of years, even if his salary remained the same.

“This is the ultimate irony,” Andy Shaw, Executive director of the Better Government Association, said about the publicly funded pension benefits to be paid to “a group of non-government employees with no accountability, no freedom of information, no open meetings fighting for a branch of government we probably don’t need.”

There are other examples. The Illinois Municipal League lobbies to give municipalities “a powerful resource and voice in Springfield,” its website says. It also has backed public pension reforms.

But, ironically, the IML gave its former Executive Director, Kenneth Alderson, cash for his unused sick and vacation time and Alderson confirmed that boosted his pension by $20,000 a year. He now collects $185,892 a year pension from IMRF.

There are now 12 IML employees in the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund.

And then there’s the Illinois Association of Park Districts, which represents park districts and forest preserves and currently has nine employees paying in to the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund.

Before he retired, the Association of Park Districts allowed its Past President and CEO, Ted Flickinger, to cash out his unused sick and vacation time, built up over 30 years. That boosted Flickinger’s salary from $199,523 in fiscal year 2008 to $311,874 in 2009, the year before he retired.

Under the IMRF formula for calculating pensions, that helped boost Flickinger’s pension to $226,572, the BGA found.

“These individuals,” said Shaw, “will end up costing taxpayers potentially millions of dollars in pensions for nongovernmental work.”

Flickinger and Alderson told the BGA that what happened with their pensions is fair, reasonable and allowed by the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund.

A retirement fund spokeswoman says that under current state laws all three organization can participate in its pension fund because they are funded in part with tax dollars and public officials are on their boards.

Spokesmen for the organizations say they provide both lobbying and educational services that directly serve the public.

More from Pam Zekman
  • http://inalienablewrights.wordpress.com inalienablewrights

    There is a time for reason.
    There is a time to send people to jail.

    And then there is the time when the only thing that makes any sense
    is chopping off their heads and asking questions later.

    Jail would be too kind for the likes of these.
    When are the tax payers going to take their arms and march down to city

    Oh I forgot this is not Switzerland or New Mexico. This is communist slave town.

    • http://inalienablewrights.wordpress.com inalienablewrights

      Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin to slit throats. — H. L. Mencken

  • lalo

    I like that she gets the dirt but in another week we will have forgotten all about this I wish she would carry on with this till we get change Pam please find out why these same politicians wont touch their pensions but want to come after mine Ill work 30 yrs and work come close to what they will get for working far less time and doing even less Its the old way where the rich get richer and the working still gets poorer paying for it time to get rid of everyone of them and start new because until we get the old business as always out of therethere will be no change will be no change

  • http://inalienablewrights.wordpress.com inalienablewrights

    Lalo getting rid of all of them will change nothing. The biggest problem are the voters. Most of the morons actually think that government is there to solve all their problems and be their mommy and daddy.

    We need to get rid of government schools so that we have some people with brains that do the voting.

    As soon as you had new elections a new crop of psychopaths will line up to be our masters again.

    The whole system needs to be recreated with government having much less power over us and many more controls by the people.

    Personally I am an anarcho-capitalist but you are not ready for that arguement yet. :-)

  • Centurion

    Realistically, who is monitoring the SICK TIME AND VACATION TIME. These fat cats take as much time off as they possibly can, and then BAM…all of a sudden they get MASSIVE CHECKS for UNUSED SICK TIME. I say BS. Unused vacation time…MORE BS.

  • Cliff

    If I was one of these lobbyists, I would certainly want my pension as well!!

    • http://inalienablewrights.wordpress.com inalienablewrights

      So did the guards at Auschwitz Cliff. Tough cookies.

  • http://www.district116.org/2012/01/19/sam-yingling-to-sandy-cole-stop-unfunded-legislative-scholarship-program/ Yingling to Cole: Stop Unfunded Legislative Scholarship Program | District 116 News & Events

    […] The Better Government Association and CBS did a story about pension abuse from private organizations that are collecting public pensions, titled “Lobbyists Drawing Lucrative Pensions Partially Paid By Taxpayers“.  Candidate Sam Yingling was asked for an interview which can be viewed HERE […]

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