Oak Brook president defends pensions

Oak Brook's village president Tuesday night indignantly defended the four public-sector pensions he and his wife collect as money “earned honestly and with a lot of effort and time put in.”

John Craig said his wife took the bus to her teaching job in tough inner-city neighborhoods because they could only afford one car, while he spent 20 years working amid some of Cook County Jail's most dangerous inmates with no gun and only “a button to push when it gets wild.”

And in a shot aimed squarely at village employees — including firefighters and police officers — Craig scolded, “Don't tell me or anyone what a terrible workload you have in Oak Brook and how dangerous it is.“

Craig took a few minutes at the end of Tuesday's village board meeting to comment on the Better Government Association/Daily Herald report that revealed he and his wife collect about $142,000 a year in public-sector pensions.

The 76-year-old village president has said Oak Brook “just can't afford” the salaries and pensions it pays village firefighters. Craig favors privatizing more of the fire department to save money.

He did not address those issues Tuesday night. Oak Brook's firefighters have been working for more than two years without a contract.

Craig receives two public-sector pensions — one for his years as a Chicago Public Schools teacher and a much smaller pension for his time as a Cook County sheriff's officer. Together, they pay him more than $92,000 a year.

His wife receives nearly $50,000 a year, pension records show, from her years as a schoolteacher in Chicago and River Forest.

“I am proud of my wife for working as she did,” Craig said.

Craig also stands to collect a third public pension when he retires from his current job, a $63,000-a-year position with the Illinois secretary of state's office. He is a “dealer rep” who visits auto dealers to inventory temporary license plates.

Craig said one reason he and his wife have collected so much money is simply that they've lived so long.

“May you all live as long as we have,” he told trustees and village residents at the meeting.