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posted: 7/23/2012 5:56 AM

Editorial: Restrict public pensions to retirees

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Daily Herald Editorial Board

What a sweet deal. If you can get it.

Daily Herald Staff Writer Jake Griffin reported last week that longtime Addison Police Chief Timothy Hayden is retiring. The mayor and village board have approved immediately rehiring him as their director of police. Hayden will make about $5,000 less than he did as chief at $136,000. And then, oh yes, there's also the more than $100,000 annual pension he'll collect while he continues to run the police department. And that doesn't include the automatic, 3 percent compounded pension boost he'll get every year.

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Yes, Hayden's pension will be growing and growing and growing.

Addison Mayor Larry Hartwig and village trustees can do what they want, as they have. Hartwig said he was worried about losing Hayden to another town, so this deal was consummated. That clearly is their prerogative, and voters can let them know what they think at the next election.

But the laws that allow this gaming of the system must change.

This particular pension abuse is not a new one. We've seen it several times before.

Schaumburg officials worked a similar situation several years ago, allowing the community's chief to quit. Richard Casler then was rehired as police director, holding that post and salary for 10 years until it was eliminated in restructuring last year. Lake in the Hills followed the same model with its police chief. Like the revolving door for school superintendents, other police chiefs retire from one department, start collecting their pension, and then take another chief's job. That kind of move worked lucratively for a former Des Plaines chief a few years ago.

In Naperville, officials did something similar when Assistant City Manager Bob Marshall became police chief. Marshall was a longtime police officer and police administrator, then was tapped to be Naperville's assistant city manager in 2005 where he collected a six-figure salary and began pulling his police pension. When he was named chief recently, he continued receiving his police pension, kept contributing to a municipal pension, and received a $151,000 salary.

Here's a novel concept: Public pensions are meant to be used when you've quit working full time. If you move from one public job to another public job, you shouldn't collect a pension.

Some smart state legislator ought to grab that concept and push to fix the law so public pensions only can be collected when someone truly retires from full-time, public work.

We agree with Paul Kersey of the Illinois Policy Institute. "It's a clear example of government bending itself over backward to take care of one of its own and pushing the concerns of taxpayers aside," he said. "It was intended as a stable source of income for retired people, not to boost the income for people who are still working."

We have long railed against double dippers, public employees who work two taxpayer-funded jobs. What's worse is a system that allows people to collect two lucrative incomes while working one job. Sweet deal for a few. Sour deal for all of us taxpayers.

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