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2 Investigators, BGA: Pension-Collecting Cops Rehired By City One Day After Retirement

(CBS) -- They retire as Chicago police officers and get rehired by the city, doubling up on two taxpayer subsidized paychecks, one for a civilian job and the other for a police pension.

The Better Government Association and CBS 2 Investigators found that some even get hired back in a day to jobs at the top of the police department, all at a time when the police pension fund is only about 30 percent funded.

BGA Logo
Better Government Association logo. (Credit: BGA)

For example, Commander Donald J. O'Neill retired on October 15, 2014 as the police department's director of management and labor affairs with an annual salary of $154,932. The next day, O'Neill began collecting his pension, currently $117,241, and was appointed as the police department's $150,396 a year civilian director of human resources. O'Neill's current salary and pension total $267,637.

O'Neill could not be reached for comment.

Commander James Roussell was earning $154,932 when he retired in March 2014. The next day he began collecting his pension, currently $117,704. The next month, he was appointed Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy's chief of staff, making $162,012 a year. Roussell's salary and pension now total $279,716. That's more than the $260,004 that Supt. McCarthy makes.

Roussell told BGA investigator Pat Rehkamp that when he reached the mandatory retirement age of 63 for police officers, he was not ready to quit working and was asked by the department to come back as chief of staff.

"They called me up and asked me to do this," Roussell said. "It's all pretty straightforward."

Another example: Lieutenant James K. Hickey, who retired in September 1999 and started collecting a pension currently at $67,500 a year. Hickey was rehired as a civilian in October 1999 and is now the police department's assistant director of research and development with an annual salary of $104,232. His salary and pension total $171,732.
Hickey could not be reached for comment.

Retired Deputy Chief Marvin J. Shear currently collects a $61,493 pension. And he's currently employed with the police department as deputy chief of administration with a salary of $148,404. Shear's pension and salary total $209,897 a year. He could not be reached for comment.

An analysis of city records showed other officers working for at least six city agencies in a variety of positions from process servers to security specialists and assistants to aldermen.

"Up to 23 officers that are now collecting a police pension on top of a paycheck as a regular city employee," said BGA Investigator Patrick Rehkamp. "That amounts to 'double dipping,' and at least in most cases the total income is substantially higher than their police salary ever was."

The total combined cost of salaries and pensions comes to $3 million a year. It's not illegal but…

"Double dipping is unfair to taxpayers," said BGA director Andy Shaw. "You want your pension, take it. You want to stay on a government payroll? Do that. But not both at the same time."

David Kugler, the attorney for the Retirement Board of the Policemen's Annuity and Benefit Fund says currently, "When an officer retires from service there is no provision in the pension fund which provides any restriction on what the officer can do in his retirement. As long as he observes the laws he continues to get his pension."

"Given the financial condition of the pension fund should this kind of thing be allowed," Zekman asked.

"That's not for me to answer. I'm not going to answer a question like that."
"Why?" Zekman asked. "You have to have an opinion."

"And I'll keep it to myself," Kugler responded.

He says any change would require action by the state legislature which has placed limits on some government agencies on double dipping practices like this. Now a suburban state senator active in pension reform efforts is pushing for a law that would prohibit this for retired cops throughout Illinois.

"No one is saying a police officer that retires shouldn't have a second job," said Shaw. "All we're saying is that second job probably ought to be in the private sector so it doesn't hit taxpayers with a double whammy."

In a written statement, police spokesman Martin Maloney there is no taxpayer waste involved here because, "these are all existing budgeted positions that could be filled with any individual, regardless of whether they are receiving a police pension or not. In some instances, these retired officers agreed to accept a lower salary then their non-retired predecessors - something that saves taxpayer money. Our goal is to provide residents with the best service possible by hiring the most qualified person into a given position. The knowledge offered by some former sworn members is a benefit to the department and a benefit to residents."

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