Adam Andrzejewski is the founder of OpenTheBooks.com a project of American Transparency 501(c)3.
In 2011, the Chicago Tribune exposed a pair of Illinois teacher union lobbyists, Stephen Preckwinkle and David Piccioli, who substitute taught for one day and stood to collect nearly $1 million in state teacher retirement pensions from a severely underfunded system. The five Illinois pension systems have a $100 billion liability and the teachers fund may run out of money as early as 2029. Newspaper editorials, elected officials, the governor and citizens cried foul. Legislation was quickly passed to stop the abuse.
When Gov. Pat Quinn signed the pension “reform” legislation into law on January 5, 2012, he said. “The pension abuses unearthed were flagrant. They needed to be stopped immediately and prevented from ever happening in the future.”
Mission accomplished, or so it seemed.
Even though all Illinois citizens were led to believe that the pension abusers had been stopped, within twenty-four months after the “reform” legislation passed, the union lobbyists retired and received their lifetime Illinois state teacher pensions.
Even in Illinois, how this could have happened? The governor and the entire statewide media and political class took credit for stopping these abuses in late 2011 through January 2012.
A couple of weeks ago, we spotted Preckwinkle and Piccioli within a long list of 30 state retirees from the Illinois Federation of Teachers (private sector teachers union). Sure enough, in 2014, Piccioli is receiving $30,564 and Preckwinkle $37,416 pensions (click here for their life expectancy pension payouts of nearly $1 million each). The experience was a bit overwhelming, even for our seasoned team of forensic investigators.
In order to understand this massive pension “reform misunderstanding,” we questioned the Public Relations Spokesman for the Teachers Retirement System (TRS) David Urbanek, who explained: