* I told subscribers about this earlier today. But since Greg Hinz has done a piece on it now, I’ll share this statement given by Chicago Teachers Pension Fund board of trustees President Jeffery Blackwell back in August…
I had the honor of being elected by my peers in 2010 and have taken my role as a trustee very seriously. As the first African-American male President of the Chicago Teachers’ Pension Fund it has been my honor to serve as a fiduciary in a leadership capacity. After heavy reflection and much consideration I am making an announcement that cannot be delayed any longer. I ask my fellow trustees for their indulgence as what I am about to say will not be easy.
For the last year and a half I have been witness to some of the most abhorrent, disturbing and despicable actions by former and current trustees on this board. There is a culture of intimidation, intentional misinformation, discrimination, slander, misogyny, fear-mongering, blatant racism, sexism and retaliatory actions from trustees towards staff and vendors. I cannot and will not be silent anymore. My silence will no longer be used as complicity to enable unethical and terrible behavior from Trustees. I have reviewed audio of verbal abuse from trustees to staff during board and committee meetings. I have been on the receiving end of sabotage, intimidation, and racist comments from individuals that I believed were my colleagues and friends. I have witnessed former trustees slander, harass and defame vendors simply because they can. This behavior stops today. There are at least 12 active complaints that have been filed on behalf of staff against several current trustees. I am aware of documented harassment and targeted bullying from one former trustee and one current trustee to a vendor who represents us in Springfield. I am also aware of trustees being approached by members of the Chicago Teachers Union who want us as trustees to hire former Madigan staffers who are now contract lobbyists. Let me be clear. We are not in the business as fiduciaries of hiding Madigan lobbyists at the fund under the guise of an RFP.
To add insult to injury, several executive board members of this fund have received notice that trustees are deliberately and viciously targeting women of color. I have witnessed a Trustee who refuses to engage or legitimize a Director in her area of expertise without first corroborating her claims with her white subordinate. African American staff, particularly women, are subjected to inappropriate comments, insensitive behavior, and mental intimidation ON A DAILY BASIS. This is the type of behavior that we as teachers would never tolerate and fight against in our own grievances, mediations and arbitrations. As an African-American President, I have even been on the receiving end of gamesmanship that has stalled, delayed, and disrupted our meetings. According to Board policy, the Trustees establish the dates and times for meetings during our Annual Meeting in November. Regular Board of Trustees’ meetings are held on the 3rd Thursday of January, March, May, August, September, November and December. This year, the published meeting schedule called for special meetings in February, April, June, and October. These meetings were to be primarily used for committee business. NO board meeting was scheduled for July at the Trustees’ request in recognition of summer schedules, and the difficulty of achieving a quorum due to vacations and holidays. According to Fund policy, special meetings maybe called by the President or by three Trustees provided public notice of the meeting is given in accordance with the Open Meetings Act. There were two special meetings called for in July by groups of three or more trustees. These special meetings were not included on the published schedule for the year, and they failed to achieve a quorum. Not all members will be able to attend every meeting, especially those scheduled on short notice. A lack of attendance by trustees at unplanned meetings is not a breach of fiduciary responsibility or fund policy. In fact, it was a direct act to protect our mental health from the barrage of inexcusable behavior at our participant’s expense. Systemic racism is a form of racism that is embedded as normal practice within society or an organization. Systemic racism is not always as blatant as using a racial slur or refusing service based on a person’s race, sexual orientation, or religion. Instead it can reveal itself as comments against African emerging managers as an unfounded suspicion that they will steal money. Systemic racism is a repeated coordinated effort by a former trustee to end a vendor’s contract WITHOUT CAUSE by pushing for an unnecessary RFP. It can rear its ugly head by abusing staff and intentionally blocking consequences for unethical and morally wrong behavior. Lastly, systemic racism can be perpetuated by the Chicago Teachers’ Union who has been made aware of the despicable discriminatory practices of trustees and who choose to remain silent. As I stated before I can no longer sit idly by while the morale of staff and vendors are destroyed. Ultimately it is the participants who suffer.
In a move that is unprecedented, but ultimately necessary I will be instructing the Executive Director, Deputy Executive Director and Chief Legal Officer to compile all grievances, complaints, harassment claims, audio clips of verbal abuse, and recommended consequences from external counsel and submit them to the Public Access Bureau of the Attorney General’s Office, the Illinois Labor Relations Board, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Illinois Legislative Inspector General and the Office of the Mayor for what I believe are violations of the Illinois Human Rights Act, the City of Chicago Human Rights Act, the City of Chicago Human Rights Ordinance, the State Official and Employer Ethics Act, and the Illinois Whistleblower Act. As trustees we cannot condone racism, harassment or targeted discrimination. We will no longer allow former trustees and active trustees to terrorize our fund with unethical behavior and acts. If we are not a part of the solution then we are part of the problem.
A link to the above was posted by a commenter on late Friday afternoon.
* On to Greg…
The political woes facing Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan expanded to a new front today with the disclosure of a gripe from the president of the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund that his board was asked to hire lobbyists close to the speaker. […]
Blackwell has not been available for comment today. Chuck Burbridge, the executive director of the $12.3 billion retirement system, said in an email only that, “The board will be looking into the governance issues Mr. Blackwell raised” and that day-to-day fund operations continue. […]
CTU had no comment, and Madigan’s office has not responded to a request for comment.
In a statement, House GOP Leader Jim Durkin said: “Once again, we see a pattern of Speaker Madigan trying to intimidate and abuse his vast power to award his allies with jobs. His reach and corruption know no bounds.”
* The ILGOP also issued a press release today…
JB Pritzker has a big problem. He hasn’t taken a position on whether Democrats should subpoena Mike Madigan to testify before a House probe investigating his corruption. He hasn’t called on Democrats to vote to issue that subpoena. He’s hoping this will all go away so he can stay friends with Madigan, his biggest political booster.
Predictably, however, the probe of Madigan’s corruption is about to widen beyond ComEd. It stands to reason (in line with longstanding Springfield rumors) that if Madigan pressured ComEd to hire his cronies in exchange for legislative considerations, he did this to others. We already knew that the US Attorney had issued subpoenas to other companies in Illinois. Now comes another bombshell.
From Chicago Teachers’ Pension Fund Board of Trustees President Jeffery Blackwell:
I am also aware of trustees being approached by members of the Chicago Teachers Union who want us as trustees to hire former Madigan staffers who are now contract lobbyists.
To say that CTU and Madigan have played hardball in Springfield for years is an understatement. So it was a great surprise to read in the spring of 2019 that Madigan allowed a CTU-backed bill out of the House that repealed a 1995 law that had narrowed collective bargaining topics for Chicago public schools. During the Rauner years, Democrats had floated expanding the 1995 law statewide to help school districts save money and lower property taxes; now Madigan was giving the green light in the opposite, pro-CTU direction. Madigan followed with support for a CTU-backed school board election bill.
First ComEd. Now CTU. No doubt the list is endless if people ever came forward. It has always been a wonder that Madigan could operate a Capone-style machine without ever getting caught. But until now, he was considered unchallengeable, all-powerful, invincible. As Madigan’s power wanes, the drip-drip will continue.
The question for Pritzker: a smart politician would be running away at light speed and calling for Madigan to resign. What does Madigan have over Pritzker that the governor can’t even call for a subpoena?