Adam Andrzejewski, Contributor
Let us introduce you to the Illinois $100,000 Club that cost taxpayers $12 billion. It's comprised of 93,798 public employees and retirees who earned a new "minimum wage" of $100,000 or more.
While Illinois is broke and it continues to flirt with junk bond status, the public employee class is living the good life. Our auditors at OpenTheBooks.com found three doctors at the University of Illinois at Chicago with incomes between $1 million and $1.6 million; 633 educators out-earned every governor of the 50 states ($190,000 to $407,000); and 130 small town or government administrators made between $190,000 and $324,000.
Overall, 71,000 public employees at every level of Illinois government received six-figure paychecks. Additionally, 23,000 retirees pulled down more than $100,000 in annual pensions.
Using our interactive mapping tool, quickly review
(by employer ZIP code) the 93,798 public employees and retirees across Illinois making more than $100,000. Just click
a pin and scroll down to see the results in your neighborhood rendered in the chart beneath the map.
Here are just a few examples of what you’ll uncover:
- 30,000 teachers and school administrators – Last year, nearly 19,000 current educators earned a six-figure salary while more than 11,600 retired educators received six-figure pensions. Six retired superintendents pocketed $300,000 pensions, including Lawrence Wyllie (Lincoln-Way CHSD 210 – $331,086); Henry Bangser (New Trier Township HSD 203 – $321,834); Gary Catalani (Wheaton-Warrenville Unit SD 200 – $320,403); Laura Murray (Homewood-Flossmoor CHSD 233 – $315,221); and Mary Curley (Hinsdale CCSD 181 – $306,151).
- 20,000 rank-and-file workers and managers in Chicago – Retiring Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) received $216,210 while Ginger Evans, commissioner of aviation, pulled down $400,000 in total cash compensation, including a $100,000 bonus. Clarence Wisnar, a filtration engineer at the Chicago Police Department, received $228,845 in ‘supplementary pay’ (overtime pay, duty and availability time, vacation payments, etc.) on top of his salary, reaching $344,046 in total compensation.
- 17,150 municipal government workers – Small town managers rake in the pay, perks, and pension benefits. These administrators include Michael Ellis (Village of Grayslake – $273,289); Robert Kiely (City of Lake Forest – $263,287); Richard Nahrstadt (Village of Northbrook – $261,582); William Wiet (City of Aurora – $255,256); and Reid Ottesen (Village of Palatine – $253,137). The Wheaton Park District conferred a $261,667 pension on retired administrator Elizabeth Kutska.
- 14,700 college and university employees and retirees – Junior college power couple Dale Chapman ($466,840) and Linda Chapman ($223,809) combined for a $690,000 income at Lewis and Clark Community College last year. Fady Toufic Charbel ($1.7 million); Dean Michael Toriumi ($1.1 million); and Konstantin Slavin ($1 million) are million-dollar doctors at University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). Dr. Leslie Heffez, a dentist who retired from UIC but still operates a practice in Highland Park, pulled down nearly $600,000 in retirement payouts last year – the largest pension in state history.
- 11,400 State of Illinois employees and retirees – In total, $1.5 billion in cash compensation flowed to six-figure state government employees and retirees. At the Department of Corrections, a barber made $105,300 while nurses made up to $219,900. A court-ordered monitor, Dr. Stewart Pablo, cost taxpayers $269,000 to report on the lack of mental healthcare availability within the prison system.
Who are the biggest culprits guilty of conferring the $100,000 salaries and pensions? We ranked the top 20 largest pay and pension systems:
Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Chicago minted more six-figure public employees than the Illinois state government. More than 20,000 employees and retirees received six-figure compensation, including the cash compensation of a "filtration engineer" ($344,045) and a "police lieutenant" ($300,657). Twenty-one truck drivers hauled in over $100,000 each. Three "tree trimmers" clipped off up to $107,806 last year.
However, it’s not just big salaries. Nearly 3,000 city employees pocketed at least $40,000 in supplementary pay. The city doled out $481 million in ‘supplementary pay,’ – this includes overtime, duty and availability time, vacation payments, and more. In the previous year, the city paid out $283 million in overtime alone.
Taxpayer expensive educators
You can’t educate children in the classroom when you’re funding an expensive education administration. While 18,393 active educators pulled down $100,000 salaries, another 11,766 retired educators received six-figure pensions in Illinois. Collectively, these 30,000 educators cost taxpayers $3.7 billion last year.
Consider our recent co-investigation
with FOX 32 News Chicago reporter Dane Placko: Calumet City Superintendent Troy Paraday ($407,145) was the most highly compensated K-12 educator in state history. Paraday was one-week away from retirement and ready to cash in 567 days of unused vacation and sick time for an estimated $762,000 cash payout. After exposure, the school attorney found allegedly "suspicious activity." Paraday was placed on paid administrative leave pending a forensic investigation
Superintendent Gregory Jackson in Ford Heights made
$340,000 last year and has already banked 501 unused vacation and sick days. Our auditors valued
Jackson’s five-year contract at $2.8 million in lifetime benefits. Ford Heights is one of the smallest and poorest districts: 97 percent of the 437 students come from low-income homes.
In many districts, the six-figure pensions will soon outnumber the six-figure salaries. In Township HSD in Arlington Heights, 617 working educators received a six-figure paycheck while 578 retirees collected six-figure pensions. In Palatine Township High School, 594 educators made six-figure salaries while another 533 retirees received six-figure pensions.
Private associations, nonprofits, and retired lawmakers
All kinds of entities have gamed the system for personal gain. While all of it is technically legal, it shouldn’t be.
- Former Illinois Governor Jim Edgar double dipped the Illinois General Assembly pension ($166,000 per year), the State University Retirement System pension ($83,000 per year), and was hired back ‘part time’ by the University of Illinois for another $62,769. In total, Edgar pulled down more than $311,000 last year – in addition to the $2.4 million in compensation from the University of Illinois (2000-2013) and another $2 million in pension payments already paid-out from his 20-year career as legislator, secretary of state and governor.
- Retired Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley (D) double dipped the pension system for nearly $222,000. Daley made $140,455 per year in state lawmaker pension payouts after a short eight-year career as a state senator plus another $81,355 per year in city pension payouts for his 22 years as the mayor of Chicago.
- Two of the highest earners within the municipal pension system work for private associations – not government. Peter Murphy, executive director of Illinois Association of Park Districts, made $325,313, while Brett Davis, executive director of the Park District Risk Management Agency, brought in $320,684. These private nonprofits muscled their way into the government system, and their huge salaries will guarantee lavish taxpayer-funded pensions.
Highly compensated locals
DuPage County employees have a history of living large and retiring well. This year, DuPage County "Chief of Staff" Tom Cuculich made $209,526, up from $98,350 in 2003. In his final year as chief deputy, Dewey Hartman received $324,431 – a $159,574 bump on his way out the door. Chief Sheriff Steven Flanagan’s compensation skyrocketed by nearly $100,000 in his final year. Flanagan retired with a $258,774 pensionable salary, up from $159,506 the year before.
Park District bosses raked in huge salaries including James Pilmer ($239,396) at Fox Valley; Dean Bostrom ($217,446) at Hoffman Estates; and Liza McElroy ($217,075) at Highland Park.
Airport, mass transit, library, forest preserve and even water district employees tapped into the largess. Brian Dorn pulled down $238,610 at North Shore Water Reclamation while Alex Kovach made $215,429 at Lake County Forest Preserve. Thomas Kern made $149,412 at the small Wauconda Area Public Library and nearly out-earned Brian Bannon, CEO of the Chicago Public Library ($167,004).
The examples seem endless – and they are.
Public employees and retirees are sucking the pay and pension systems dry while lining their pockets with taxpayer money. Taxpayers must raise their voices. But will politicians like Bruce Rauner, J.B. Pritzker, Michael Madigan, Susana Mendoza, and Toni Preckwinkle demonstrate the political toughness to crackdown on excessive public-sector pay, perquisites, and pensions?
It’s time to slap a pay cap on the highly compensated public employees at every level of Illinois government.