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Alvarez says Preckwinkle pension bill is unconstitutional

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

* Probably expected

Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez has torn a gaping hole in pension reform legislation being pushed in Springfield by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.

In a move loaded with political implications, Alvarez’s office wrote a legal opinion declaring that the bill “is unconstitutional” because it would reduce benefits in the county’s current pension system without bargaining those changes with employee labor groups.

The bill represents “a unilateral imposition of changed terms, many of which diminish and impair existing retirement annuity benefits,” states the letter, which is signed by Daniel Gallagher, deputy state’s attorney and chief of the Civil Actions Bureau. Preckwinkle’s proposal cannot stand after a recent Illinois Supreme Court decision tossing out pension changes that reduced benefits for state employees, the opinion says.

Preckwinkle’s office had no immediate reaction to the May 21 letter, which is labeled a “confidential attorney client communication.” Crain’s obtained a copy from a source who declined to be named.

The opinion is potentially very bad news for Preckwinkle, whose bill already faced heavy head winds in Springfield, where legislators are caught up in a wider budget war.


- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Lil squeezy - Tuesday, May 26, 15 @ 2:52 pm:

    Water is wet.

  2. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, May 26, 15 @ 2:55 pm:

    Boy, “Sigh” is right.

    At some point, all the shrubbery is on fire and there’s no other fire to start…

  3. - Precinct Captain - Tuesday, May 26, 15 @ 2:57 pm:

    Alvarez knows a lot about unconstitutional actions, prosecuting people without due process based on torture and corruption.

  4. - Amalia - Tuesday, May 26, 15 @ 3:00 pm:

    Is Preckwinkle running again?

  5. - JS Mill - Tuesday, May 26, 15 @ 3:01 pm:

    Seems like this was obvious given the ILSC decision.

    Might be different if it was bargained and agreed to by the various impacted bargaining units.

  6. - 47th Ward - Tuesday, May 26, 15 @ 3:01 pm:

    That’s the problem with getting a legal opinion, you might not like the answer.

    It would be pretty dumb (and needlessly expensive) for Preckwinkle to try to take this to a court now. Therefore, I figure there is a 50-50 chance that she will.

  7. - AnonymousOne - Tuesday, May 26, 15 @ 3:01 pm:

    At what point will everyone stop knocking on the door of those in the pension systems to pay for what was taken from them and pony up and pay the bills? How many more attempts, how many more years, how much more interest on the debt?

  8. - Juvenal - Tuesday, May 26, 15 @ 3:02 pm:

    Probably expected?

    Understatement of the day.

  9. - A guy - Tuesday, May 26, 15 @ 3:04 pm:

    If you put a ball on a tee, you can’t act surprised when someone with a “Big Bertha” comes along and swings hard.

  10. - D.P.Gumby - Tuesday, May 26, 15 @ 3:04 pm:

    May be correct, but Cook SA has not been the fount of legal wisdom.

  11. - facts are stubborn things - Tuesday, May 26, 15 @ 3:06 pm:

    The fact that this even needed an opinions is stunning. A fifth grader could read the supreme court ruling on pensions (at least the key parts of it)and have told you this.

  12. - anon - Tuesday, May 26, 15 @ 3:08 pm:

    In the brief moment before the paywall kicked in, it looked like the legal opinion was requested by Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin, not Preckwinkle. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day. Even the less than legal giants at the SA can shoot a fish in a barrel.

  13. - Amalia - Tuesday, May 26, 15 @ 3:16 pm:

    what’s most interesting about this is the Suffredin comment that “this is not a monarchy.” that is a pretty big dig at Preckwinkle coming from Larry.

  14. - Enviro - Tuesday, May 26, 15 @ 3:21 pm:

    The Preckwinkle Pension Bill is another example of kicking the can down the road. The bill is unconstitutional and will not solve a problem that can only be solved with new revenue budget cuts.

    “If you kick the can down the road, you delay a decision in hopes that the problem or issue will go away or somebody else will make the decision later.”

  15. - John Parnell - Tuesday, May 26, 15 @ 3:22 pm:

    Preckwinkle just wants to have an issue for her reelection campaign. I hope the circuit court throws the case out for being frivolous.

  16. - Anonymous - Tuesday, May 26, 15 @ 3:23 pm:

    === In a move loaded with political implications, Alvarez’s office wrote a legal opinion declaring that the bill “is unconstitutional” because it would reduce benefits in the county’s current pension system without bargaining those changes with employee labor groups. ===

    And what about the employees that do not belong to a bargaining unit? The opinion may be correct that the propsoed legislation is unconstitutional, but its reasoning seems flawed.

  17. - No Raise - Tuesday, May 26, 15 @ 3:26 pm:

    Classy move by Alvarez. Too bad Lisa Madigan didn’t do the same after last year’s health insurance ruling.

  18. - Norseman - Tuesday, May 26, 15 @ 3:32 pm:

    Alvarez can read. Preckwinkle, not so much,

  19. - Garland - Tuesday, May 26, 15 @ 3:33 pm:

    How long will it take for Moody’s to downgrade the County’s credit rating?

  20. - Wake Up! - Tuesday, May 26, 15 @ 3:40 pm:

    Anonymous at 3:23.

    You should read the opinion and not rely on the Crain’s article.

    The opinion says nothing about bargaining with labor groups. It talks about the contractual relationship established at the onset of an employee’s entry into a retirement system. That’s different than the terms of a collective bargaining agreement.

  21. - anon - Tuesday, May 26, 15 @ 3:41 pm:

    All’s Well That Ends Well. SA Alvarez is no profile in political courage, but if she was motivated to do the right thing by payback for Queen Antonia’s backing of a rival candidate for SA, so be it.

  22. - jimbo2 - Tuesday, May 26, 15 @ 3:44 pm:

    Correct me if my old brain is acting up. But, isn’t Preckwinkle supporting one of her staff to run against Alvarez?
    I know the bill is questionable but this must have been a satisfying decision to deliver.

  23. - crazybleedingheart - Tuesday, May 26, 15 @ 3:46 pm:

    Sounds like “60 Minutes Alvarez” is mad she’s being challenged.

  24. - anon - Tuesday, May 26, 15 @ 3:49 pm:

    A satisfying decision to leak?

  25. - Frank Ambrose - Tuesday, May 26, 15 @ 4:15 pm:

    I worked with Alvarez well before she was the elected Cook Co. SA. She was a good lawyer, reviewed the facts and a decision and didn’t cut you loose when the press didn’t like to decision. Wish AG Lisa would have issued a review like this and saved the State a lot of time and money

  26. - Cold - Tuesday, May 26, 15 @ 4:31 pm:

    If the bill passes, will AG madigan defend or will she pass it off to SA Alvarez?

  27. - Cheryl44 - Tuesday, May 26, 15 @ 6:08 pm:

    Anita Alverez ought to be in jail

  28. - Truthteller - Tuesday, May 26, 15 @ 6:31 pm:

    Preckwinkle is a fraud. Kudos to Alvarez for standing up to Joe Berrios’s dear friend

  29. - Amalia - Tuesday, May 26, 15 @ 6:37 pm:

    Truthteller is spot on. what happened to the Toni we all knew way back when? The Berrios (and his fellow travelers) thing is totally puzzling. And is she running again?

  30. - chanclagirlee - Tuesday, May 26, 15 @ 9:28 pm:

    This is a very insightful development given the ridiculous political overtures coming from the Preckwinkle camp. If Toni had her “hand picked” candidate for State’s Attorney in office this opinion would have been written according to HER order. Chilling political power grab. The media should wake up and smell the real wanna be political boss here.

  31. - zonz - Wednesday, May 27, 15 @ 7:58 am:

    Are you talking about Daniel Gallagher, deputy state’s attorney, and if so can you disclose what your experience with him has been?
    In any case pls back up your slam.
    - D.P.Gumby - Tuesday, May 26, 15 @ 3:04 pm:

    May be correct, but Cook SA has not been the fount of legal wisdom.

  32. - FatVegan - Wednesday, May 27, 15 @ 11:25 am:

    Alvarez is an excellent lawyer who cares deeply about the victims of crime. Preckwinkle is a criminal rights activist who cares more about the rights of criminals than their victims. Her “so called” pension reform plan is unconstitutional too.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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