The BGA and Crain’s Chicago Business recently published the findings of an investigation into Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s top aide, Theresa Mintle, who stands to gain from a pension perk that she had a hand in crafting while at her last job, at the CTA.
Here’s an excerpt from the article:
“Mayoral Chief of Staff Theresa Mintle helped enact a special early-retirement plan at her former employer—the Chicago Transit Authority—that entitled her to a $65,000 annual pension she wouldn’t have qualified for otherwise.”
“Official records obtained in a joint probe by Crain’s and the Better Government Assn. indicate Ms. Mintle . . . is eligible for a pension of $64,908.53 at age 65, based on just eight years of service at the agency. The early-retirement sweetener passed in 2008, when she was chief of staff to then-CTA board Chairman Carole Brown. Ms. Mintle resigned from that job last spring to assume similar duties for Mayor Rahm Emanuel.”
The mayor’s office ultimately told us that Mintle won’t be taking this pension perk after all. We hope she puts that in writing.
But there’s another angle that was lost in the shuffle, something we figured still was worth mentioning: Mintle’s CTA pay hike.
While serving as the CTA board chairman’s chief of staff, Mintle somehow ended up with a pay raise—even though there was supposed to be a pay freeze at the time for all CTA employees.
What’s more, that pay hike increases the amount of her pension payout, at least on paper.
A CTA spokeswoman, via email, explains and justifies Mintle’s salary hike this way:
“She joined CTA in 2003 as GM, Gov’t Community Relations at salary of $105,000. At the time of promotion to Chief of Staff in 2007, she was making $126,000. Her new salary as COS was $145,673. In 2008 there was an across the board pay increase which brought her to $154,544. As you and I have previously discussed, the 2008 raise was to balance a new 6% payroll deduction (3% increase in pension deductions and a new 3% deduction for retiree healthcare fund) so actual take home pay did not increase.”
“She received her last increase in July 2009. As I previously told you, when she was hired she was paid significantly less than her predecessor ($17,426 to be exact.) She received a raise after being in the job two years because she was given additional responsibilities. After the Chief Financial Officer (Dennis Anosike) left in February 2009, Theresa was asked to assume his place on key boards and committees. She served as the Vice Chair of the Retirement Allowance Committee, a trustee for the Retiree Healthcare Trust and Chairman of the Deferred Compensation Committee. At the same time, the Deputy Chief of Staff in the Chairman’s office left and the position wasn’t filled due to a hiring freeze so she had to handle those responsibilities as well. The raise she received brought her to $175,000 (a 13% increase) but she wasn’t actually paid that amount since she was also subject to 18 unpaid days this year and last. Her actual pay this year would have been $162,884.”
It’s worth noting that lots of people got additional work thrown at them at the CTA as the ranks shrank, and lots of employees there were subject to furlough days. Why was Mintle so special as to be compensated for it?
Meanwhile, we also learned through well-placed sources that, as word spread that Mintle might get her final CTA pay raise, some agency executives were so aghast they actually signed and circulated an internal petition opposing the move.
Some rare dissent—which ultimately proved unsuccessful.
We wondered if the current mayor—who has advocated for a more business-like approach to government and an end to “business as usual” favoring the insiders over everyone else—knew about all this, and if so, when he found out?
According to an Emanuel spokeswoman, the mayor “found out when I told him about the press story that you were running” with Crain’s.
This blog entry was reported and written by Robert Herguth, the BGA’s editor of investigations. Contact us with tips, suggestions and complaints at (312) 821-9030, or at email@example.com.