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BGA Probe: Ex-City Colleges Boss Got Sweetheart Retirement Deal

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Better Government Association logo. (Credit: BGA)

Better Government Association logo. (Credit: BGA)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – He could be the king of double-dipping in Chicago.

The Better Government Association says what’s happening with Chicago State University President Wayne Watson proves the public pension system is broken.

CBS 2′s Kristyn Hartman reports, after drawing a retirement package worth nearly $800,000 when he left the City Colleges, plus a $140,000 annual pension, he’s also drawing a $250,000 salary at Chicago State University — all of it on the taxpayers’ dime.

The BGA discovered Watson walked away from his post as chancellor of the City Colleges of Chicago with a huge taxpayer funded compensation package.

“It’s an insult to the taxpayers of Chicago to be stuck with a bill like this, for someone who left a system in ruin,” BGA Executive Director Andy Shaw said.

During the ten years of Watson’s tenure, the graduation rate at City Colleges slid from 13 percent to 7 percent. And, yet, a BGA investigation showed Watson left those hallowed halls with a golden parachute worth nearly $800,000.

The breakdown includes:

-about $500,000 in unused sick days and vacation time;
-a bonus of $124,615;
-and a $112,602 dollar life insurance policy.

It is not clear if Watson has cashed in that life insurance policy.

Plus, Watson is pulling in a taxpayer-funded $140,000 annual pension.

“This would be like giving a performance bonus to the captain of the Titanic for running into the iceberg,” Shaw said.

Ty Fahner, President of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago, studies issues such as these. He said pension double-dipping on the public rolls happens too often.

“The fundamental problem is it’s too much of a sweetheart deal,” he said. “If it sounds wrong, it feels wrong, it is wrong. … but not illegal.”

It’s not illegal, and after leaving City Colleges with all that money, Watson parachuted into another publicly-funded job – running Chicago State University.

He’s earning a $250,000 salary there as well, and living in a house on the hill in Beverly, rent-free, paid for by the university.

“It’s like no one in these education institutions has any respect for taxpayers,” Shaw said

A representative for Watson said, “He’s not going to talk to you. He’s not done anything illegal. Dr. Watson is not going on TV to defend his morality.”

The BGA also said Watson is getting a sweet lifetime health plan from the City Colleges.

A spokesperson there said that won’t happen again. It has ended lifetime retiree healthcare for current and future City Colleges leaders.

The City Colleges are also reviewing the sick day policy; and future bonuses will be performance based.

The City Colleges have a new board of trustees than when Watson left in 2009.

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