Darlene Senger trying to strip public workers of pension rights... Naperville Legislator Involved in Move to put Chicago Public Pensions under the Control of Rahm Emanuel

In what looks like a fiction novel of corruption and influence peddling a suburban Naperville Illinois State Representative is the Chief Co-Sponsor of Pension legislation that aims to turn back the clock one hundred years to the time when gangsters and politicians controlled public pensions and union dues in Chicago.

State Rep. Darlene Senger (above) took part in the secret meetings held in the offices of House Speaker Michael Madigan during September 2011, as part of the attack on public worker pension funds in Illinois. Above, Senger is shown speaking during the September 16 hearing. Madigan's aide told Substance that the hearings were not "hearings" — but only "working groups" — and therefore didn't come under the Open Meetings Act. There were at least six such meetings held, with at least four elected officials sitting around the table with corporate groups like the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club and the Civic Federation. Both groups are trying to destroy public worker pensions in Illinois in the name of "pension reform". Substance was also told by one of Madigan's aides that no legislation was to come out of the meetings. That claim that has been proved to be a lie following the October 5 introduction of legislation (HB 3827) co-sponsored by Rep. Tom Cross and Senger. HB 3827 would strip Chicago pensioners and workers of the right to elect trustees and give Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel control of the pension funds by allowing him to appoint four of the seven trustees of the "reformed" pension funds under the Senger Cross legislation. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.In a controversial legislative move, Republican Naperville Representative Darlene J. Senger joined Rep. Tom Cross (Republican minroity leader in the Illinois House) to put language in House Bill 3827 to strip the public pension boards of a majority vote for those affected by the pension funds to protect and control their own pensions. For as long as anyone has researched, the public pension funds have been run by elected trustees. In the case of the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund (CTPF), the majority of the trustees are elected by active duty teachers and the retirees (teachers and principals) who are drawing pensions.

During September 2011, Senger was one of more than a dozen elected officials who took their cues from two private corporate groups, the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club and the Civic Federation, during secret "working group" meetings about the supposed crisis in public pensions. Although legislative leaders at the time told Substance that the hearings were not technically "hearings" (and therefore not subject to the Open Meetings Act), they took place at Madigan's Chicago conference room in the Bilandic State of Illinois building. No public notification of the sessions was published, and when Substance reporter George Schmidt arrived to cover the meeting, he was first told that it wasn't a public meetings, then asked not to tape record what was being said.

Not only was there no public announcement of the events, but there is no official record of who attended them and what was said or presented. But the impact of the sessions has now become clear, as one of the participants — Senger — has joined in the legislative attack. But Darlene Sanger and those who are supporting her effort to dismantle the pensions believe the best thing is to give the pensions over to mayoral control. What the few lines in the legislation do is give full mayor control of all the public pensions for Chicago workers. Here is the language:

A rerun of SB7? Above, State Rep. Darlene Senger (left) and Roger Eddy during the September 16, 2011, meeting of the semi-secret "working group" on Illinois "pension reform." Eddy was the co-chair of the 2010 "school reform" committee of the Illinois House. Appointed with his Democratic Party counterpart Linda Chapa La Via, Eddy was responsible for helping to ensure that the controversial SB7 "school reform" legislation became law. On December 16, 2011, Eddy told Substance that several Chicago school reform groups with more than 20 years local activism were "not known to us" in Springfield, after Eddy ruled that Stand for Children Illinois was a legitimate "school reform" group but that PURE and the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO) were not. Observers now fear the House Speaker Michael Madigan, who created the "school reform" special committee in 2010, is now doing the same end run behind the backs of the public with the "working group" on "pension reform." Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. "...Amends the Chicago Police, Chicago Firefighter, Chicago Municipal, Chicago Laborers, Chicago Park District, and Chicago Teacher Articles of the Illinois Pension Code to terminate the existing pension boards 90 days after the effective date of the amendatory Act and to provide for a new board comprised of 4 members appointed by the Mayor of the City of Chicago and 3 elected members representing active members and annuitant members of the fund...."

The current Board of Trustees of the CTPF consists of 12 members. Six of those are elected by active-duty teachers, three are elected from retired teachers, and one is elected by Chicago principals. Only two members of the current 12-member Trustees are in effect appointed by the mayor, since both of them (Rodrigo Sierra and Andrea Zopp) are members of the Board of Education that was appointed in May 2011 by Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The structure of the fund goes back more than 100 years and was established to ensure that those who are most affected by the CTPF are represented by a majority of the trustees, in part so that the investment decisions of the fund are not in the hands of politicians, according to informed sources and available histories of the CTPF.

The legislator has not returned calls from Substance as to her motives to be part of Chicago politics.

Chief Co-Sponsor Rep. Darlene J. Senger (R)

96th District

Springfield Office:

205A-N Stratton Office Building

Springfield, IL 62706

(217) 782-6507

(217) 782-1275 FAX

District Office:

125 Water Street

Naperville, IL 60540

(630) 219-3090

(630) 219-3091 FAX

DuPage County



October 10, 2011 at 7:59 AM

By: Rod Estvan

Pension funding

I do not agree with the statement "the supposed crisis in public pensions." The crisis is very real and was in fact driven by Democrats the CTU and other unions historically gave PAC money to. We should all recall that it was the Democrat Mayor Daley that took the direct property tax funding line that went to the Chicago Teachers pension fund and put it into the CPS budget with a promise to provide funding when necessary to the pension system, which it has not.

With a majority of the pension trustees under the control of the Mayor we can be sure bad things will happen. The real question is if the Speaker of the House is really behind this effort and is using the Republicans for cover. That is totally unclear. The Civic Federation has been calling for dramatic increases in employee contributions and reductions in benefits so this move is not a surprise.

Rod Estvan

October 10, 2011 at 10:37 AM

By: glen brown

Rep. Darlene Senger

Representative Darlene Senger is also a "licensed financial advisory and investment advisor."

We have witnessed legislators who pass corporate-sponsored reform bills that support privatization and deregulation (the destruction of unions, public jobs and pensions) in order to garner money for their re-election bids.

We should ask: might there be a conflict of interest when it comes to some policy changes for politicians who have moved from the corporate world into public office and whose motive for service is market-based profit and/or self-interest?

October 10, 2011 at 3:22 PM

By: Jay Rehak

It is the contributors' money — not the politicians'

We need to remind everyone that the pension money is ours, and not the politicians'. It is literally the contributors' money! Remind anyone and everyone when our pensions are being discussed. Mayoral control is paternalistic. We can and should control our money. Period.

October 10, 2011 at 7:56 PM

By: Harold Matuszak

Pension Funding.

That is our money you are trying it mess with not yours. How about we add all politicians including the last thief and the current thief mayor of Chicago as well as all present and past legislaters to this bill. How about we infact eliminate your pensions all together since you all double and triple dip and make behind closed door deals for contract kick backs to pad your own bank accounts while selling working people down the road. If you think the current civil disrest going on downtown is something you just try turning control of the police and fire pensions to that socialist Emanuel and see what happens to you in the next election.

October 11, 2011 at 8:48 AM

By: William R. Kushner Sr

Senger pension 'Reform'

I have to echo what the previous poster has said; the pension funds are NOT the domain or property of the politicians; they have been paid for by the members of the funds, with minimal contributions from the municipalities. Political interference in the public pension funds in the 1990s by then Mayor Daley and his cronies resulted in huge shortfalls, as the pols "borrowed" huge sums of money that were never repaid. I would suggest that Ms. Senger tend to matters in HER district, and leave the Chicago Public Pension funds alone.

October 11, 2011 at 12:20 PM

By: Donna Kniaz

teacher pension fund / Msall financial research

When my husband retired, he was reported by Lawrence Msall, to be the highest paid substitute teacher in Chicago, with a salary over $100,000. If Mr. Msall had been a better researcher and taken a closer look, he would have seen that my husband was paid for 30 years of unpaid sick days, 6 months of substitute teaching, and a large portion of his last year of his teaching salary that had not previously been paid. If he can be this wrong, to me the rest of his financial research is very suspect. Teachers have made a large financial investment (their own money paid into the pension fund) and they are the best able to see that they put in place a pension board who will look over their money and see that they get the best returns available for themselves. Teachers don't want to end up finding that their pension funds have been "loaned" to a nephew (Vanecko) of the mayor (Daley), who subsequently lost all of their money, as was the case of the Chicago Police pension funds. Leave all of the pension boards alone.

October 11, 2011 at 5:14 PM

By: Maureen Eichstaedt

Pension Language Reform - House Bill 3827

The language affects certain pension members but not others - most notably I noticed she doesn't mention her own pension or that of her politician buddies. Why don't they reform their own pension?

October 12, 2011 at 8:12 AM

By: John Dillon

Representative Senger's Defined Contribution

Well, it appears that Representative Senger is doing what she did so well in private life - selling financial instruments like 401(k)'s. Given today's economic roller coaster, I remain somewhat skeptical regarding her plan to move the public employees of the state of Illinois to a defined contribution, but for the corporatists who see no difference in a retirement and savings program, it works. Or does it?

After skipping or skimping on payments while the employees paid in, Illinois has a debt service of nearly $85 billion for all of its public employee systems - including teachers, judges, university educators, and first-responders. Will the implementation of a 401(k) defined contribution resolve that issue? The answer is no. That bill is still due.

Will the movement of teachers, etc., to a 401 (k) defined contribution lessen the state's necessary payments to the retirement programs? The answer, in the first decade, is a definite no. In fact, it may increase payments y the state as, for example, teachers migrate out of earlier pension programs or if many decide to stay.

And, by the way, the debt service is still there - remember it?

Ultimately, moving as many employees to defined contributions as quickly as possible would serve to undermine, cripple and finally destroy the funding structures for the public retirement systems in Illinois. Is that the aim?

Rather like running up a local bank's credit card until you can't bear the idea of paying it off, so you march down to the bank and set the institution on fire.

And you know what? You still owe $85 billion.

What we need are some long-term commitments to fix this problem the right way, not the usual, quick "we-have-to-something-now" attitude so prevalent Springfield.

October 12, 2011 at 10:01 PM

By: Chuck Holz

Politicians' pensions

Time to look into politicians pensions and benifits and stay away from police and fire pensions. How many pensions can a politician have, and do they have to work 30 years plus for it?

October 13, 2011 at 4:27 PM

By: Phil Haskett Retired CPD

HB 3827

HB 3827 would negate Chicago police officers, Firefighters, and Public School Teachers and others, the right to elect trustees on their respective boards. I could also see the lopsided boards being selected by the Mayor, possibly tapping into the pension funds for use other than for the pensioners in the future! PLEASE do not let this happen!

October 13, 2011 at 6:59 PM

By: Frank Pierczynski


Dan Rostenkowski when a Chicago representative in the U.S Congress significently reduced the amount those on public pensions could collect from Social Security even tho we may have contributed to it. I lost a significent amount. Now You and Rob Emmanuel, who took Rostenkowski's seat, wants to reduce our pension significently through your bill..

Would you do this to your pension and other politicians PENSIONS? From WHAT I SEE IN THE PAPERS MOST POLITICIANS GET A SWEET DEAL WHEN IT COMES TO PENSIONS or even collecting 2 or 3 pensions. Do something about this first. I worked for my pension and lost most of my social security. Time to vote republican.

October 14, 2011 at 4:41 AM

By: Valerie F. Leonard


The pension boards should not fall under Mayoral control. Nor should CPS be under Mayoral control, any more than the President of the United States controls education or pension funds of federal employees. We need checks and balances and better financial controls and enforcement thereof.

October 14, 2011 at 9:16 AM

By: Deb DeYoung

Pension legislation

Rahm Emanuel has no business trying to control what is not his. Please go to and on facebook and twitter. You will see many articles that talk about who is really behind the movement to destroy our retirement pensions.

October 28, 2011 at 1:56 PM

By: Daniel L. Alvarado

H.B. 3827

The Tribune has exposed alleged abuses of the public pension system by some union leaders. These union leaders have allegedly taken advantage of loopholes intentionally written into law by past legislation. Now legislators want to rectify this by giving the Mayor of Chicago control of the public pension funds. Legislators should not use anti-abuse legislation as an excuse to shirk their responsibilities of addressing the State's deep pension debt. This goes for the City of Chicago as well! First responders have religiosly paid their fare share into the pension, going into harms way on a daily basis. First responders have kept their end of the bargain. The city has not lived up to their end of the deal. Bottom line State of Illinois and City of Chicago, you still owe that money regardless of what changes are made.

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