For the Good of Illinois

Director’s Big raises Sweeten his Pension

June 29, 2013 04:19 PM


Editor’s Note:  Following up our "Big Dogs Report" 2013, Jim Dey, columnist at Champaign News-Gazette, uses our Open The Books Portal data and digs into the gory details.  Exposing extreme pension padding at taxpayer cost, Dey writes 1,100 words regarding the excesses in the local Champaign area government.  Please pay particular note to the employee and board justification of their salary and pension decisions.  This is the mentality crushing a once great state of Illinois.

Sat, 06/29/2013 – 7:00am | Jim Dey

Please read full column here:

William "Bill" Volk, the longtime managing director of the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District, is scheduled to retire on June 30, 2014, but he won’t be walking out the door empty-handed.

In his 40-1/2 years with the district, Volk has managed to stuff his personal bus with a pension that will pay him roughly $210,000 a year, or $17,500 per month.

The final figure remains undetermined because Volk’s salaries for 2013 and 2014 have not been entered into the formula. But according to the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund formula, Volk’s pension will be 75 percent of the last four years of his salary, $280,075 for 2011, $286,734 for 2012 and the same or higher figures for 2013 and 2014. He was identified as among the "big dogs" in municipal pay and pensions in a report issued this week by If Volk collects his pension for 15 years, he will receive more than $3 million in payments.

"Are they public servants or an elite bureaucracy? You decide," stated.

A generous pension?

"It is," Volk responded.

But the 64-year-old noted that he started at the C-U MTD when he was 25 and built a small district into a large one.

"We were operating 13 buses at peak hours (when I started). Now, we’re operating about 90," he said.

"The district has performed at a much higher level than other comparable districts," Volk said.

MTD board members announced this week that Volk will be succeeded on July 1, 2014, by longtime MTD employee Karl Gnadt, the current director of market development.

Ron Peters, the past chairman of the MTD board, said the district is still "fine-tuning" its contract arrangements with the 46-year-old Gnadt and that his compensation will be "announced" when negotiations are complete. But he said board members have already decided one issue related to Gnadt’s salary.

"It will not be near what Bill Volk is making, I’ll tell you that," Peters said.

Volk said, and past MTD board member George Friedman confirmed, that his generous compensation was driven by board members’ desire to retain Volk rather than see him leave to take another job. That’s why his contracts included retention bonuses that drove his salary ever higher.

"If I stayed, I got the money. If I didn’t stay, I didn’t get the money," Volk said, characterizing the retention payments as a quid pro quo. In the business world, those arrangements are called "golden handcuffs."

Friedman, who served two separate stints on the MTD board, said he can’t recall all the details of the Volk contract negotiations.

"I’m getting to be an old man. I don’t have that good of a memory any more," he said.

But Friedman characterized Volk as an outstanding manager he felt must be retained.

"I think Bill Volk was a godsend. When I was on the board, I felt like we had to work very hard to keep Bill Volk in Champaign-Urbana," he said.

The board’s effort to retain Volk is reflected in the steady series of raises and retention bonuses he’s received just since 2000.

In that year, Volk was paid $103,269. By 2012, it had nearly tripled to $286,734.

His movement upward included giant increases that Volk said were simple pay raises — from $107,813 in 2002 to $145,901 in 2003 — and retention bonuses — from $216,501 in 2010 to $280,075 in 2011.

Those pay hikes dramatically increased Volk’s pension, which is based on the average salary of his final 48 months of employment, and Volk said that was part of his plan for retirement.

"I obviously knew what I was doing in attempting to maximize my pension," he said.

But Volk distinguished the raises he negotiated to increase his pension from "salary spiking," the practice of many government agencies to increase employee compensation in their final years to increase their pensions.

"I don’t believe that it rises to the level of the padding of pensions that you see in other places," he said.

READ THE REST OF THE COLUMN HERE:​es-sweeten-his-pension.html







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Scott Tapley
Savoy, IL
4/5/2018 03:01 PM

  The Volk compensation and pension saga is actually much worse than portrayed here. I tried to expose his impending pension boondoggle before I left the state in 2007 (eventually returned in 2014), but none of the local media wanted to write about it (for example, one of the News-Gazette editors attends church with Volk--didn't want to offend him/get his hands dirty). One reporter told me his editors forbade him to write about the subject. Volk's contracts allowed him to stockpile stipends in accounts and withdraw them at the end of his final years to jack up his pension. The scheme could have been stopped, and he could have retired with a healthy, but much less obscene, pension, but no one was listening. Volk was a master bureaucrat and played the taxpayers and his board like musical instruments. Each contract he got was longer than the board members' terms, giving Volk time to "educate" (co-opt) them in sequence. Volk bilked taxpayers for tens of thousands of dollars for junkets all over the globe. Volk convinced his board to jack up the property tax levy to the maximum allowable by statute to flout a property tax cap referendum before it took effect. He convinced the board to rapaciously annex territory in a process so undemocratic that it infuriated enough people that they tried to form a competing bus district just to stop the process, passing 2 referendums by 70%+ margins and taxing themselves to go to the Supreme Court (they lost out to Volk's high-powered, expensive Chicago attorneys). Volk is a disgusting example of a pig at the trough of a public entity. By "performed at a higher level" Volk means his empire--and the tax revenues he/it spent--grew faster than any of his peers. On that, and little else, Mr. Volk is 100% correct.

T2jj5JHCvh2, TX
8/7/2013 09:03 PM

  When I lived in north Urbana and worked at Parkland, my route was full of cocehis. I had to start my day on the 10W Gold, which I would take to Lincoln Square. One option (which the Trip Planner always gave) was transferring to the 7W Grey at Lincoln Square, since transfers in the campus area from the Gold to a Champaign-bound bus were tricky. My normal route, though, was to get off the Gold at Goodwin/Ceramics Bldg, then walk west across the Bardeen Quad from Goodwin to Wright. At Wright Street, I'd catch whatever the first northbound bus was, having to keep a sharp eye out to see if I needed the Yellow/Teal stop or the main Green/Wright NE Far Side stop. From there, I'd ride to Illinois Terminal and transfer again, either to a 7W or a 9B.Every regular rider should have some idea of the service map, what routes can be used, and where the transfers are. I'd never try the 3S-to-9B Bradley/Harris or 3S-to-7W Vine Street transfers if I didn't know the routes. It makes riding the bus less mundane, and sometimes you find there's a better way to get there that you've overlooked.