updated 10/12/2011 11:45:07 AM ET
A labor leader in Chicago is expected to receive pension payments of nearly $500,000 a year, while another could get about $438,000 a year, according to reports Wednesday.
The Chicago Tribune and WGN-TV, which obtained information about union pension benefits during a joint investigation, said at least eight union officials in Chicago were eligible for what were described as inflated city pensions on top of union pensions for the same period of employment.
The news organizations said this was due to “a charitable interpretation” of Illinois law by officials representing two city pension funds.
“Can you name any place in the world where someone can get two pensions for the same job?” state Rep. Tom Cross, a Republican, told the paper. “Even by our standards here in Illinois, it’s beyond belief. It’s insane.”
Chicago and Illinois are facing financial trouble, in part due to pension shortfalls.
On Tuesday, state Sen. Mark Kirk released a report on Illinois’ debt that said it had the worst credit rating of any state and that its debt was rising, NBC Chicago reported.
Kirk said the state was nearly insolvent and said he doubted there would be any help from Washington.
“It’s highly unlikely that the federal government would ever bail out a spend-thrift state. Therefore, Illinois needs to fix this on its own,” he said.
Amid the city’s financial woes, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has reportedly proposed a budget that would see three of Chicago’s oldest police stations closed. The budget was due to be unveiled Wednesday.
$9 million over lifetime?
The Tribune said the official who was expected to get about $438,000 a year would do so from three pensions covering the same work period: a city laborers fund, a union district council fund and a national union fund.
It said an analysis showed that this 59-year-old union official, Liberato “Al” Naimoli, would get a total of about $9 million if he lived to his expected lifespan.
Another official, Charles LoVerde III, a former trustee of the city laborers’ pension fund, stood to receive three pensions for the same time period totaling nearly $500,000 a year, the investigation found.
The Tribune said he took leave of absence in 1998 from a job with the city’s water management department, which paid $44,000 a year, to work full time for the local.
The paper said the law states that union leaders with city pensions cannot “receive credit in any pension plan established by the local labor organization based on his employment by the organization.”
But pension fund officials say a union district council is not a local labor organization, the paper said.
“The Legislature never told us how to administer this thing,” the city pension fund directors’ attorney, Fredrick Heiss, told the paper. “They could have said ‘no second pension at all,’ but they didn’t say that.”
The Tribune said the joint investigation with WGN-TV found that Naimoli, president of Cement Workers Local 76, was receiving a city pension of about $158,000 a year. It said his city pension was based on his union salary.
Naimoli, who retired in 2010 from the $15,000-a-year city job, is also now eligible to receive a pension of about $60,000 a year, the paper said, from the Laborers’ Pension Fund for Chicago and Vicinity.
He also will become eligible for payments of about $220,000 a year from a third pension, provided by the national union, LIUNA, on his 60th birthday next year.
The Tribune said he had not worked his $15,000-a-year job with the city for a quarter of a century.