June 1, 2014. Chicago. Two facts recently brought to light intersect at the downtown campus of the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). And neither of them are good for students or the community. The first is a scandalous report detailing a broken-down security system at the university. And the second is a separate report showing that the nine highest-compensated government retirees in the entire state of Illinois are all former employees of UIC.
The intersection near where a UIC student was raped in 2011 just outside of the school’s campus. Image courtesy of CBS Chicago.
Jim Tobin and Taxpayers United of America compiled the list of Illinois government retirees based on the amount of their pensions. “Illinois leaders - Gov. Patrick Quinn (D), Michael Madigan (D-Chicago), and John Cullerton (D-Chicago) - insist that we have a revenue problem,” Tobin said via a press release accompanying the data, “It has never been clearer that the job-killing policies of raising taxes to prop up the gold-plated government pensions, and the union votes that follow, are more important to these tax villains than the future of Illinois itself.”
Illinois government employee pension amounts
When our good friends and fellow Illinois corruption-busters Open The Books completed their multi-year fight to force all levels of government to open their accounting books for the first time ever, reformers across Chicago and Illinois were shocked to learn just how rich government employees are making themselves with gold-plated lifetime pensions. Some million-dollar pension recipients only worked one day for the state in their life, but that was enough to qualify them for a lifetime pension. Other recipients have been exposed for receiving two or three separate taxpayer-funded government pensions simultaneously.
Below are the (9) highest dollar value pensions out of all the government employee pensioners in Illinois. The chart includes the name of the payee, their former employer, total pension paid to date, lifetime pension estimate, and the percent of their payout each employee contributed to their own pension (from Taxpayers United of America):
Name – Employer – Pension paid – Estimated lifetime pension - % contributed by employee
Das Gupta, Tapas - University of Illinois - Chicago - $3,876,691 - $5,276,384 - 9.0%
Abraham, Edward - University of Illinois - Chicago - $2,829,593 - $9,073,587 - 5.9%
Mafee, Mahmood - University of Illinois - Chicago - $2,708,810 - $8,841,639 - 6.4%
Abcarian, Herand - University of Illinois - Chicago - $1,791,316 - $6,891,360 - 9.1%
Albrecht, Ronald - University of Illinois - Chicago - $2,254,661 - $5,438,136 - 8.5%
Ausman, James - University of Illinois - Chicago - $1,868,250 - $5,208,225 - 8.0%
Wilensky, Jacob - University of Illinois - Chicago - $2,565,764 - $7,351,922 - 5.6%
Forman, Phillip - University of Illinois - Chicago - $2,987,430 - $4,919,800 - 7.7%
Sugar, Joel - University of Illinois - Chicago - $2,488,810 - $8,350,201 - 5.3%
Not gold-plated, but diamond-plated
Notice anything unusual about the above list of the nine highest paid Illinois government retirees? Every single one of them is from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Another eye-opening statistic is the fact that Illinois government employee pensions truly are taxpayer-funded. Not one of the highest compensated former government employees contributed as much as 10% of their own pension.
If one looks at the top 100 Illinois government employee pensions, they’re almost all former public school bureaucrats. Most are from Chicago and suburban high schools. But others are from the state’s other public universities like the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. The yearly pension check that each of the top 100 brings in annually ranges from $452,000 per year at the high end, to $217,000 per year on the low end.
Broken security system at UIC
With UIC retirees occupying the top nine highest paid spots on the list of government retirees in Illinois, it’s probably no wonder the Chicago inner-city university can’t afford to pay for its own broken-down student security system. It’s also not a reassuring thought considering UIC is located in the inner city of the murder capital of the nation.
A recent scathing report by Darryl Holliday and DNAInfo.com exposed a slew of horrifying security failures at the downtown UIC campus. The account reads, ‘Broken door locks. Dark walkways. Ineffective ID checks at student dorms. Those are some of the problems that have contributed to a growing fear on the University of Illinois at Chicago’s sprawling Near West Side campus, staff, students and community members said.’
The report goes on to say that even after a recent sexual assault on campus, school administrators are still ignoring the security problems, ‘They've documented security concerns at the school for years and begged administrators to address them - often with little or no response.’ UIC Professor William O’Neill, a teacher at UIC for 50 years, didn’t hold back his criticism. “The lights have been a problem for many, many years, and it just seems to be a general disregard for safety that goes back since the campus started," he said, "It's the kind of stuff where you're asking for trouble."
The author quotes Professor O’Neill giving specific examples, “The response has been fairly inadequate. I can guarantee, you go out there tonight and you'll find ten lights out in critical places. [The administration] just ignores it."
UIC can’t afford light bulbs
The special report from DNA Info went to UIC administrators for their side of the story. What they found was almost as shocking as the security lapses and multi-million-dollar pensions. The reporter discovered that current UIC administrators are aware of and confirm both shocking revelations - lack of money and a broken student security system.
UIC spokesman Bill Burton was quoted insisting that the security problems were, “more of an appearance issue than a security issue." Suggesting the billion-dollar university system can’t even afford light bulbs or an employee to replace them, Burton explained, “This is a large campus and it's a challenge to keep exterior lights working. We do our best. Given our limited resources, we triage it. We focus on the lights that are of greatest importance to security."
According to Burton, the school spent $450,000 replacing 650 lights in dangerous, dark, school parking garages recently. For those readers that are as curious as we were, that comes to $692 per light. Burton also denied that broken door locks are a problem on campus even though a student was raped in her dorm as recently in March when the assailant apparently just walked right in. Fortunately, he was caught and is currently charged with five felonies including attempted murder.
With the recent high-profile sexual assault, the outcry for better security at UIC has grown to include the local neighbors as well. “There's no doubt in my mind that lighting is a huge deterrent in reducing crime, and that is not new information," the report quoted a neighborhood resident for 30 years saying, "I've warned them many times that they're playing with fire."
Thanks to an FOIA request, recently obtained UIC security records prove the school is well aware of the problem. The university’s own bi-weekly security reports consistently detail dozens of broken lights on campus. Maybe the nine UIC retirees that have already pocketed $29 million in pension payments could contribute a few dollars so their alma mater can buy some light bulbs.
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