Ashford, Rehak seated, participate in first CTPF trustees meeting on November 17, 2009

Nearly three weeks after their upset victory over two incumbents endorsed by Chicago Teachers Union President Marilyn Stewart and following a recount which showed not only that they had won the October 30 election, but that their votes were actually slightly higher than previously announced, Chicago teachers Jay Rehak and Lois Ashford were seated as trustees of the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund (CTPF) and attended their first meeting on November 17, 2009.

Above, some of the Chicago Teacher Pension Fund trustees during their meeting of November 17, 2009. Left to right: Alberto Carrero, Lois Ashford, Jay Rehak, Linda Goff, Nancy Nelson. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. The pension trustees, which meet once a month throughout the day in what has been described as a “marathon of openness and transparency”, devoted the beginning of their November 17 meeting to organizing themselves. The trustees elected officers and established their committees for work during the upcoming year. They then went on to the major business that always dominates the business of the pension board — selecting investment advisors to help manage the roughly $10 billion in assets on behalf of the pension fund’s tens of thousands of members.

When the discussions and motions were over, the officers of the pension fund were:

President, John O’Brill (teacher)

Vice President, Linda Goff (teacher)

Recording Secretary, Maria Rodriguez (“teacher”)

Financial Secretary, Lois Nelson (teacher)

All but one were elected without opposition as the result of a slate prepared in advance and proposed by Chris Kotis, who represents principals on the trustees. There were two nominees for Financial Secretary. Lois Nelson received eight votes; Jay Rehak received four votes.

The CTPF Board of Trustees consists of 12 people, elected or (in the case of the two representatives of the Chicago Board of Education) selected by their constituent groups. Six of the trustees are elected by active duty Chicago teachers; three by retired teachers (a group which includes retired principals and other “teachers” whose pensions come through CTPF); and one by the principals. The two Board of Education trustees are again Alberto Carrero and Peggy Davis. Non-teachers working in Chicago's public schools are generally covered by a different pension fund (the municipal employees' fund) whose operations are far less transparent and open than the CTPF.

Last minute recount confirms original vote

The "final final" results of the election for teacher trustees of the $10 billion Chicago Teachers Pension Fund (CTPF) were announced by the Fund's representatives and Election Services Corporation after a recount held on November 16, 2009. As a result of the recount, the two winning candidates each had two votes above what the tally had been after the initial count on October 30, 2009. The recount had been requested by losing candidate Nancy Williams. As expected, the recount did not change the outcome of the October 30 vote. The signatures at the top of the page (above right) are the canvassing committee members and a watcher for candidate Lois Ashford. Graphic provided by Chicago Teachers Pension Fund, Substance News. Because one of the two defeated teacher candidates (Nancy Williams) had demanded a recount of the original vote, which took place on October 30, it was not until late in the day on November 16 that it was officially certain that Rehak and Ashford would both take their seats for the November 17 meeting. Williams, who had been one of two candidates supported by Chicago Teachers Union President Marilyn Stewart, had demanded the recount after the initial vote tallies showed she had lost to Ashford by fewer than 100 votes.

The recount conducted on November 16 reaffirmed the results that had been announced on October 30. The final totals are as follows:

Jay Rehak, 6,553 votes (23.73 percent)

Lois Ashford, 4,844 votes (17.54 percent)

Nancy Williams, 4,799 votes (17.38 percent)

Reina Otero, 4,113 votes (14.89 percent)

Rose Mary Finnegan, 30037 votes (11 percent)

Aspasia Demeros, 2,135 votes (6.19 percent)

The vote was to elect two teacher trustees. Each teacher trustee serves a three-year term and is eligible for run for re-election. The candidates with the highest number of votes are the winners under the CTPF election rules. Any candidate who is within three percent of another is allowed to ask for a recount, as Williams did.

According to the Election Summary provided to Substance by CTPF officials, a total of 28,954 teachers were eligible to vote in the October 30 voting. Of those, 13, 911 actually voted (not all voting for two candidates as the ballot required).

All teachers who are members of the pension fund were eligible to vote in their schools in the elections, which were supervised at the local school level by the local “pension representative” in each school. These included charter school teachers. (Several charter schools didn’t vote, apparently because they had not selected pension reps or because the charter holders, which are generally anti-union, are opposed to even having their teachers select pension reps, which look too much like union delegates).

John O'Brill (above left) was re-elected President of the Pension Trustees at the November 17, 2009, meeting. Others above are (left to right) attorney Joseph Burns (holding ballots for the one election contested), Maria Rodriguez, Peggy Davis, and Walter Pilditch. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Unlike the Chicago Teachers Union, which under Marilyn Stewart again conducts its elections and referendums under its own auspices, the CTPF elections are now held and supervised by an outside contractor, Election Services Corporation of New York. The company, which is from New York, does elections for unions and other entities across the USA. No one who had observed the vote count and verifications on October 30 thought there would be any major differences when the recount was announced. CTPF officials told Substance they actually welcomed the request for a recount so that everyone would be satisfied with the complete integrity of the voting.

According to election Services Corporation, they have conducted more than 6,000 elections since 1988, including union and pension fund elections such as are taking place in Chicago.

The manner in which the CTPF election was conducted contrast starkly with the plans Chicago Teachers Union President Marilyn Stewart is making for the 2010 CTU general elections. Some of Stewart's plans will be on display on Friday, November 20, 2009. On that day the union’s 29,000 active-duty members get to vote in the city’s schools on three referendums that Stewart is asking the union members to approve.

[Disclosure: This reporter was secretary of the CTU Rule-Elections Committee in 2003, when the union conducted two referendums on the proposed 2003 contracts and then held two general elections – one a runoff – to determine who would run the union. The incumbent members of the Rules-Elections Committee were purged by Marilyn Stewart shortly after she took office in August 2004, and election procedures which guaranteed the integrity of the elections, which were conducted by the American Arbitration Association, we abolished. Since 2005, CTU elections have been conducted, once again, in a 19th Century fashion under the auspices of a union committee which is dominated by members of Marilyn Stewart’s United Progressive Caucus, UPC].

Meeting covers vast ground

The November 17 trustees meeting was the first for Ashford and Rehak, although they had been told that the meetings of the trustees were all-day affairs. Both said they were very satisfied with the experience and looked forward to their terms representing teachers.

Several of the trustees during the November 17, 2009 meeting. Left to right: Maria Rodriguez (teacher), Peggy Davis (Board of Education), Chris Kotis (partly obscured behind Reilly, principals), Mary Sharon Reilly (retired teachers) and James Ward (retired teachers). Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Rehak in particular was aggressive in asking questions of prospective investment groups that were bidding on the right to manage portions of the fund’s billions of dollars. The only trustee who asked more questions of the groups making the presentations than Rehak was long-time trustee James Ward. Ward was just re-elected to represent retired teachers, despite a campaign of slander against him by one of his opponents. The opponent lost.

The trustees are still working with Chicago Public Schools to straighten out problems that began in 2009 as a result of the CPS change in its payroll software. Last summer CTPF sued the Chicago Board of Education after the Board’s failure to solves the problems which had resulted in short pension checks for teachers and principals who retired beginning in 2007, the year the so-called “People Soft” programs went into effect.

Trustees heard from a CPS consultant and from Jerome Goudelock on the steps CPS is taking to try and solve the problem, which is now more than two-and-a-half years old. Goudelock is currently “Interim Acting Human Resources Chief Officer of Operations” at CPS. The trustees expressed hope that under Goudelock the problem would finally be solved, after noting frustration that during the final two years Arne Duncan served as Chief Executive Officer f CPS the problem had continued and in some ways had gotten worse. 

Final edited version of this article posted at November 28, 2009, 5:00 p.m. CDT. If you choose to reproduce this article in whole or in part, or any of the graphical material included with it, please give full credit to SubstanceNews as follows: Copyright © 2009 Substance, Inc., Please provide Substance with a copy of any reproductions of this material and we will let you know our terms — or you can take out a subscription to Substance (see red button to the right) and make a donation. We are asking all of our readers to either subscribe to the print edition of Substance (a bargain at $16 per year) or make a donation. Both options are available on the right side of our Home Page. For further information, feel free to call us at our office at 773-725-7502.


November 28, 2009 at 3:09 PM

By: Al Korach

retired (former VP teachers pension fund)

Thanks, George. I enjoyed the report regarding the pension fund meeting. I have waited for years as a delegate in the CTU's House of Delegates for John O'Brill to get up and give some report — either orally or in writing — regarding what is happening in our pension fund. Perhaps it's time for John — before the next Fund election — to join me on my bench in Florida and help me feed the pigeons.

November 28, 2009 at 10:57 PM

By: Danny


In case someone missed George's quotation marks around the word teacher (i.e., "teacher") as a designation for pension fund trustee Maria Rodriguez, it is because Rodriguez has not been teaching for several years.

Technically, she is a "teacher-on-leave" who works for the Chicago Teachers Union. A stalwart in the Stewart UPC, she was endorsed last year by Stewart to run for one of the six teacher seats. With the power of the Union behind her, she easily won.

Back around 2003-2004, Rodriguez was president of the pension fund's Board of Trustees. She abused that position to send two separate mailings to the membership saying that the Lynch administration (CTU) was trying to merge the CTPF with the downstate TRS.

It was a pack of lies, and Rodriguez was motivated by partisan politics, but some people believed the story, and many others were unnecessarily alarmed by it.

Maria Rodriguez. Dirty. Rotten. Scoundrel.

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