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Appeal may be in the works on pension ruling

Friday, Jul 28, 2017

* AP

A former lobbyist for an Illinois teachers union has lost his battle to retain an enhanced pension benefit obtained through a 2007 law that allowed him to count past years as a union employee toward a teacher pension.

Sangamon County Judge Ryan Cadagin this week determined the provision in the law that benefited retired Illinois Federation of Teachers lobbyist David Piccioli represented “unconstitutional special legislation.”

The legislation allowed union officials to get into the teacher pension fund and count previous years as union workers if they obtained teaching certificates. They had to do classroom work before the legislation was signed into law. Piccioli substitute taught for one day.

Cadagin noted the law contained a cutoff date that only allowed the benefit window to union employees who had become certified and done teaching service before the 2007 law took effect.

* Bernie

A retired Springfield lobbyist for the Illinois Federation of Teachers said Thursday he may appeal a Sangamon County Circuit Court ruling that struck down a 2007 law that allowed him to purchase back credit in the teachers’ pension system for his union work if he was a substitute teacher for at least a day.

“I joined the system legally,” said David Piccioli, 67, who retired at the end of 2012. “I obeyed all the laws. I had no hand in passing any of these laws. … I paid all the contributions.”

Circuit Judge Ryan Cadagin ruled this week that the 2007 law was unconstitutional special legislation, because it contained a cut-off date that only allowed the benefit window to union employees who had become certified and done teaching service before the 2007 law took effect. Piccioli said he did get certified and taught for a day, probably in early 2007. […]

“It’s unconstitutional for the General Assembly to take away vested pension benefits,” said Springfield attorney Carl Draper, who represents Piccioli. “What we are disappointed in,” he said, is that Cadagin “never even ruled on the underlying claim” about taking away a benefit that had been granted. […]

Draper said legal options are to ask Cadagin to reconsider his ruling, or appeal directly to the Illinois Supreme Court because the case involves a law being found unconstitutional.

More background on this case is here.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

55 Comments
  1. - Precinct Captain - Friday, Jul 28, 17 @ 11:05 am:

    Bad law and policy making, but bad legislating ain’t unconstitutional. And according to the Tribune’s story on this the judge made some factual errors.


  2. - Anonymous - Friday, Jul 28, 17 @ 11:09 am:

    But it ain’t the pensions that are the problem /s

    Why are the taxpayers even paying for a lobbyist’s pension to begin with?


  3. - City Zen - Friday, Jul 28, 17 @ 11:10 am:

    In Piccioli’s defense, he did work through lunch and was a recess monitor that one day as a sub.


  4. - Sue - Friday, Jul 28, 17 @ 11:12 am:

    Easy fix to this abuse is change definition of teacher in pension code so employees of IEA or IFT are no longer eligible to participate. Last time I looked they are not public employees


  5. - Arthur Andersen - Friday, Jul 28, 17 @ 11:13 am:

    The taxpayers, for the most part, are not paying for Pitch’s pension. He and/or IFT paid the employee and employer shares of the cost calculated retroactively.


  6. - City Zen - Friday, Jul 28, 17 @ 11:14 am:

    ==Why are the taxpayers even paying for a lobbyist’s pension to begin with?==

    The better question is why time spent as a union employee qualifies as teaching time when those union employees are no where near a classroom teaching.

    Wonder what organizations helped author that little giveaway, Mr Piccioli?


  7. - Anonymous - Friday, Jul 28, 17 @ 11:14 am:

    ==Easy fix to this abuse is change definition of teacher in pension code so employees of IEA or IFT are no longer eligible to participate. Last time I looked they are not public employees==

    http://ilga.gov/legislation/billstatus.asp?DocNum=4259&GAID=13&GA=99&DocTypeID=HB&LegID=92018&SessionID=88


  8. - Texas Red - Friday, Jul 28, 17 @ 11:16 am:

    I say let it go to appeal; this is hardly a sympathetic case for state pension supporters. The legal technicalities aside, this one does not pass the smell test, and the GOP will gladly use this as election year fodder.


  9. - Anonymous - Friday, Jul 28, 17 @ 11:17 am:

    Weasels will weasel if the environment is conducive to weaseling.


  10. - Arthur Andersen - Friday, Jul 28, 17 @ 11:17 am:

    Sue, as usual, your pension knowledge is lacking. Why deny people who spend a career in education, like Cinda Klickna, the chance for service credit earned post-public career?


  11. - G'Kar - Friday, Jul 28, 17 @ 11:19 am:

    I have a friend who is a IFT field rep. A good job, but certainly not a super well paying job. Early in his career he did do a little work for his local grade school. He was contacted by TRS and asked if he wanted to join. Of course he said yes, and he and the IFT pay his contributions regularly. He didn’t try to scam the system and probably wouldn’t have known about the opportunity to join if the TRS did not contact him.


  12. - 47th Ward - Friday, Jul 28, 17 @ 11:20 am:

    Why wouldn’t he appeal? He’s already the poster child for public pension excess, so it’s not like his reputation can get any worse. He really has nothing to lose at this point and who knows, maybe the Supreme Court will see it his way. Without knowing the facts of the case, I’d say he’s got a 50-50 shot on appeal and almost no downside.

    The worst is over for Piccioli. It can only get better from here.


  13. - Sue - Friday, Jul 28, 17 @ 11:20 am:

    Anon- read the language and don’t see either state wide teacher union as one of the exclusions. IEA has its own pension but historically the IFT was getting TRS participation for its staff?


  14. - Colin O'Scopey - Friday, Jul 28, 17 @ 11:22 am:

    Dave’s a good guy, but unfortunately, he is wrong on this issue. Becoming certified and teaching for one day should not entitle you to reap the benefits equivalent to that of a lifelong teacher.


  15. - Sue - Friday, Jul 28, 17 @ 11:26 am:

    AA- my guess is Klickna is still on her district payroll with IEA forwarding a reimbursement. Anytime you want to do a pension code challenge I am ready. It’s the IFT which has no staff pension which historically was the issue


  16. - Jake From Elwood - Friday, Jul 28, 17 @ 11:26 am:

    This one just feels wrong. I am sure that the legislation was followed, but it smells like special legislation to me.
    I don’t care how great a lobbyist the man is or was, he is not a teacher and therefore does not merit a teacher’s pension or a pension spike. I have done some work for units of local governments, but I don’t feel I have any right to IMRF pension credits.
    This is a whopping plate of red meat to the “taxeater militants” who post on this blog, no?


  17. - DuPage Bard - Friday, Jul 28, 17 @ 11:27 am:

    That should help instill public trust again. One day teaching and you qualify for a teacher’s pension? BTW Mr. Piccioli while your only thinking of yourself this hurts the teacher’s you used to represent being looked at badly. Just saying. One bad apple reflects poorly on the whole tree.


  18. - City Zen - Friday, Jul 28, 17 @ 11:28 am:

    ==Why deny people who spend a career in education, like Cinda Klickna, the chance for service credit earned post-public career?==

    …Because Cinda Klickna only taught for 25 years at a much lower salary than her union salary, which topped $200,000. Taxpayers should only be responsible for a pension based on 25 years of teaching and the salary that was earned while teaching.

    …Because the union only contributes the normal cost of Klickna’s pension based on the entire system’s average salaries, not the hugely spiked salaries of union employees. That’s not nearly enough to cover the actual cost of Klickna’s pension.

    …Because the teacher unions should cover their own employees’ retirements and not shift that burden onto taxpayers.


  19. - NeverPoliticallyCorrect - Friday, Jul 28, 17 @ 11:29 am:

    Boo Hoo for Picioli. He gamed the system (even if it was legal) and someone finally said enough is enough. this has been going on for sometime with many people and it’s the rest of us poor schmucks who have to pay. Roger Eddy was another game player with the system. He got his time as the Ex. Dir. of the IASB to count towards his pension. Honestly, the greed of leaders in Illinois has been astonshing over the years. And I am talking about both Republican and Democrat. “Ubi Est Mea” certainly defines too many of our leaders. I certainly hope this court ruling stands.


  20. - Sue - Friday, Jul 28, 17 @ 11:29 am:

    Jake- you hit the nail- problem is that teacher is a defined term in the pension code and includes folks whom lobbyists have been able to get legislators to include


  21. - Robert the 1st - Friday, Jul 28, 17 @ 11:29 am:

    =Dave’s a good guy=

    I about spit my coffee when I read that. Good one.


  22. - RNUG - Friday, Jul 28, 17 @ 11:31 am:

    It’s one of those “abuses” of the pension system, but it appears it was legal although a questionable special carve-out.

    While not a sympathetic position, the appeal does raise some valid points. Could go either way on appeal, might win on the technicalities.


  23. - Smitty Irving - Friday, Jul 28, 17 @ 11:36 am:

    401k - That’s been tried elsewhere in the Western World and it didn’t work. Except for the financial advisors.


  24. - Anonymous - Friday, Jul 28, 17 @ 11:38 am:

    Sue - Both the IFT and IEA have staff pension plans. IEA also has a “radically evil” 401k plan, if I may continue the rhetoric themes today.


  25. - Whatever - Friday, Jul 28, 17 @ 11:38 am:

    I’m curious about what standards the judge used to determine this was “special legislation,” which is legislation aimed at one person or a few people rather than to the state in general. There are an awful lot of laws out there with provisions that say they apply only to cities or counties with more than 1 million inhabitants or that have other provisions that read like they are applicable to a class of persons, but which really and intentionally apply only to one or a few very specific persons. If looking past the wording of the legislation to its actual effect is proper, there are going to be consequences.


  26. - Baloneymous - Friday, Jul 28, 17 @ 11:47 am:

    If Dave had an “s” before his last name I would support his appeal 110% cause that means he followed in the footsteps of legendary teacher Mr. Hand.


  27. - Anonymous - Friday, Jul 28, 17 @ 11:48 am:

    401K: hope no one close to you lost everything in 2008. If you are a financial advisor, put all you got with Lehman Brothers….no, wait..


  28. - DuPage - Friday, Jul 28, 17 @ 11:49 am:

    @- Anonymous - Friday, Jul 28, 17 @ 11:09

    ===Why are the taxpayers even paying for a lobbyist’s pension to begin with?===

    This law was enacted so that teachers that accepted positions REPRESENTING teachers would not lose their pensions. Otherwise teachers would not want to accept positions in their unions to represent the teachers. The employer portion of the contributions had to be paid by someone other then the state, which in this case was paid by Piccioli, so it is not costing the state like a regular teacher would. If the state had bothered to pay it’s share of TRS normal costs, (like Piccioli did with his own money) there wouldn’t be a pension funding problem. Instead the state used the money that was supposed to go into the pension funds to keep taxes artificially low.


  29. - 401K - Friday, Jul 28, 17 @ 11:52 am:

    ==401K: hope no one close to you lost everything in 2008. If you are a financial advisor, put all you got with Lehman Brothers….no, wait..==

    Because TRS isn’t on the verge of insolvency with a funded ratio of 38%…

    The state funds TRS more than it does toward the education fund…


  30. - Anonymous - Friday, Jul 28, 17 @ 11:55 am:

    To be repeated ad nauseum, years and years of repeating but some don’t get it or will not accept it:

    Instead the state used the money that was supposed to go into the pension funds to keep taxes (for everyone) artifically low.

    Who has been the winner here? The taxpayer. I read that the public pension funds have never had a correct (as in complete, total supposed to be) payment made in 75 years. That’s a lot of cheating employees……………….


  31. - City Zen - Friday, Jul 28, 17 @ 12:03 pm:

    ==This law was enacted so that teachers that accepted positions REPRESENTING teachers would not lose their pensions. Otherwise teachers would not want to accept positions in their unions to represent the teachers.==

    They would not lose their pensions, they would simply cease earning teaching credit towards a pension. If that’s their concern, teachers are more that welcome to take a position in the union AFTER they’re fully vested. What, no takers?!

    And it’s not the taxpayer responsibility to ensure the unions can attract talent. No one is preventing the union from offering a pension that blows away the state pension systems. Why don’t they?

    I believe UTLA’s president’s salary is based on the average teacher salary in the union. They have no issues getting their members to run. Ask you IEA/IFT rep what their stance is on that.


  32. - 401K - Friday, Jul 28, 17 @ 12:04 pm:

    ==To be repeated ad nauseum, years and years of repeating but some don’t get it or will not accept it:

    Instead the state used the money that was supposed to go into the pension funds to keep taxes (for everyone) artifically low.

    Who has been the winner here? The taxpayer. I read that the public pension funds have never had a correct (as in complete, total supposed to be) payment made in 75 years. That’s a lot of cheating employees……………….===

    What you’re describing is inter-generational theft. Which is why the pensions should be replaced. They’re ripe for corruption either it be Mr. Piccoli here, 3% compounded COLA, raiding the pension funds, or simply not funding them.

    Exactly why the state should have moved toward 401K plans years ago- pay as you go and none of the nonsense I described as above occurs.


  33. - ILGOV2018 - Friday, Jul 28, 17 @ 12:05 pm:

    Sue, are you really Jeanne Ives?


  34. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Jul 28, 17 @ 12:05 pm:

    ===Exactly why the state should have moved toward 401K plans years ago- pay as you go and… ===

    Pesky Constitution(?)


  35. - Texas Red - Friday, Jul 28, 17 @ 12:05 pm:

    =- Anonymous - @ 11:55 am:

    Arguing that something is unsustainable in all economic/political climates is hardly a ringing endorsement for the pension system.


  36. - City Zen - Friday, Jul 28, 17 @ 12:07 pm:

    ==Instead the state used the money that was supposed to go into the pension funds to keep taxes (for everyone) artificially low.==

    Instead the state used the money that was supposed to go into the pension funds to pay for salary increases and health benefits of those employees and to keep taxes (for everyone) artificially low.

    Who has been the winner here? The public sector employees whose take home pay would’ve been lower if pension payments were made and the taxpayer.


  37. - PublicServant - Friday, Jul 28, 17 @ 12:08 pm:

    I hope the appeal fails, and good on the judge for denying him the pension bennies for his little scam. This is one of the, if not thee, most egregious loopholes in the pension law, and it doesn’t reflect well on those of us who’ve actually put in the time to qualify for the pension.


  38. - 401K - Friday, Jul 28, 17 @ 12:09 pm:

    ======Exactly why the state should have moved toward 401K plans years ago- pay as you go and… ===

    I said years ago, the state should have closed the pension plan years ago and shifted new employees into 401K i.e. like what Michigan did in 1997.


  39. - Leslie K - Friday, Jul 28, 17 @ 12:13 pm:

    @- Whatever - Friday, Jul 28, 17 @ 11:38 am:

    ===There are an awful lot of laws out there with provisions that say they apply only to cities or counties with more than 1 million inhabitants===

    The constitutional provision against special legislation is that “The General Assembly shall pass no special or local law
    when a general law is or can be made applicable.” So there can be special legislation, but there has to be a sound basis–something that makes a particular individual or group uniquely in need of the law.

    Also, courts have become more bold about calling out legislation that pretends to be general (”in a county of 1 million or more, bordered by a county of…” etc). You’ll see them naming the entities more frequently these days, although it’s an uphill battle to get people out of old habits.


  40. - Todd - Friday, Jul 28, 17 @ 12:17 pm:

    Take it to the supremes, they could use the ruling to tighten up the definition of special legislation a knock down a whole bunch of stuff


  41. - Lobo - Friday, Jul 28, 17 @ 12:20 pm:

    If this is unconstitutional, those special liquor permit bills have gotta be, in the judge’s view, unconstitutional as well. Take a look at this Rep Stratton bill from this year.

    http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/fulltext.asp?DocName=&SessionId=91&GA=100&DocTypeId=HB&DocNum=3164&GAID=14&LegID=104814&SpecSess=&Session=

    This literally can/will help one individual only. Unconstitutional?


  42. - Keyser Soze - Friday, Jul 28, 17 @ 12:33 pm:

    I am embarrassed for the guy. And, I also feel a bit sorry for him. He probably has to don a disguise just to go to the grocery.


  43. - hisgirlfriday - Friday, Jul 28, 17 @ 12:43 pm:

    Amazing how this one person’s shameless greed may undermine the guarantee to undiminished pension benefits for every career public servant in Illinois.


  44. - Tom - Friday, Jul 28, 17 @ 12:44 pm:

    Picc is a great guy. Unfortunately, he isn’t on the side of the angels with this case, but he should appeal. He has nothing to lose and the reality of the situation is he paid into the fund to the tune of $198K according to the Trib. Go get them, Dave.


  45. - Anonymous - Friday, Jul 28, 17 @ 12:46 pm:

    Sounds like he found a bottom feeder attorney.


  46. - Freo - Friday, Jul 28, 17 @ 1:08 pm:

    Team JB seems fond of weighing in on Cap Fax items. Wonder why they haven’t on this one?


  47. - Anonymous - Friday, Jul 28, 17 @ 1:09 pm:

    Sure, City. Keep those teacher salaries stagnant with not raises. Attract decently educated/trained/experienced teachers so only the best would be there for your kids. Sure.

    Next thing is, you’ll say high school grads should be issued teaching certificates since anyone can do it. I’m sure those are the ones you’d like your kids to have.


  48. - Juice - Friday, Jul 28, 17 @ 1:11 pm:

    Sue, this is the bill you’re looking for.

    http://ilga.gov/legislation/billstatus.asp?DocNum=3813&GAID=11&GA=97&DocTypeID=HB&LegID=62071&SessionID=84&SpecSess=

    The reason why he is suing is because he was kicked out of the system. He was kicked out because a change was made in the law. Otherwise, what would he be suing over?


  49. - Spare me - Friday, Jul 28, 17 @ 1:58 pm:

    @Keyser. No need to feel embarrassed for him. He’s the one promoting this.


  50. - Yiddishcowboy - Friday, Jul 28, 17 @ 2:12 pm:

    @Anonymous 12:46. Carl Draper is anything but a “bottom feeding attorney.” Draper is well-respected among attorneys and judges…on both sides of the aisle. Draper used to be counsel to Jim Edgar, if memory serves me; he knows the ins and outs of the legislative process, drafting legislation and interpreting it, etc.


  51. - Lt Guv - Friday, Jul 28, 17 @ 2:49 pm:

    Free Piccioli.

    Granted, it’s lousy public policy, but it’s been cleaned up. Dave just utilized the system as it existed at the time.


  52. - City Zen - Friday, Jul 28, 17 @ 3:18 pm:

    Anonymous - I never said freeze wages, but your implying that was the only way to fund the pensions. Finally, I got someone to admit that.


  53. - Anonymous - Friday, Jul 28, 17 @ 3:40 pm:

    Actually Draper loses a lot of cases, so your praise may be exaggerated (assuming you are not him).


  54. - Arthur Andersen - Friday, Jul 28, 17 @ 3:43 pm:

    Sue, you want a “Pension Code Challenge?” Really?

    Done. RNUG would be a fine judge. Loser gives up anonymity.

    You’re already starting in the hole if you think school districts pass through TRS contributions for IEA officers. The IEA makes those payments, for their officer or employee, directly, as specified in the, yep, Pension Code.


  55. - Smitty Irving - Friday, Jul 28, 17 @ 4:04 pm:

    401k -
    The Constitution of 1970 guarantees pensions. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed this during the Walker Administration. 401ks were created in 1978. Exactly when could the pensions have been replaced by 401ks =in a constitutional manner= ??


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