CHICAGO (CBS) — A longtime CTA employee has sued his former bosses, accusing the transit agency of retaliation after he blew the whistle on pension spiking – padding salaries right before retirement to boost pensions.
Gino Gerbasi spent 30 years at the CTA as an emergency services worker.
He was among the CTA workers who rushed to help stranded drivers during the blizzard of 2011, when Lake Shore Drive was shut down, leaving hundreds of cars stuck in heavy drifting snow.
“I just kept running back and forth with the bus, taking people to hospitals,” Gerbasi said. “It was great helping people. I loved it.”
Gerbasi said “it hurt a lot” when he retired in 2016. He stepped down not because he wanted to, but because he blew the whistle on management, accusing supervisors of pension spiking.
“Just because you believed that something was wrong, and you reported it … you could lose everything,” he said.
Gerbasi complained about three of his bosses, including senior coordinator Tim Carduff, for “moving himself out of a salaried management position and into the hourly job of an electrician,” where he got paid for overtime.
“What they did was unethical,” Gerbasi said.
According to court documents, Carduff’s salary was $75,000 before he joined the union, and $91,000 when he retired a few years later.
“I feel like they’re cheating the taxpayers,” Gerbasi said.
Gerbasi might think Carduff’s job change was unethical, but the CTA’s electrical workers’ union approved it; and, according to Carduff, there were more than 100 employees who benefited from the switch from a salaried post to an hourly union job.
Gerbasi’s union brothers weren’t happy about his complaint.
“My union rep called me a rat,” he said.
When he was suspended one day for insubordination, he told CTA management he was a victim of trumped-up charges. When he was demoted, he filed a complaint with the CTA inspector general, claiming retaliation.
“There was too much stress,” he said.
Gerbasi said what really pushed him out the door was the CTA equal employment opportunity unit concluding his demotion was in violation of CTA’s anti-retaliation policy, but “they didn’t do anything to remedy the situation.”
He is suing the CTA for lost back pay and wages he would have earned had he not been forced into early retirement.
“It wasn’t what I wanted, but I had to do it, because I feared further retaliation,” he said.
In a statement, a CTA spokesman said Gerbasi “resigned voluntarily, of his own free will and not because of any improper conduct by CTA.”
The union did not respond to requests for comment.
The trial for Gerbasi’s lawsuit has been scheduled for July 29, according to court records.