What’s going on with state and city teacher pension funds?

Chicago Teacher Pension Fund board of trustees president Jeffrey Blackwell.

It’s unlikely the events are connected. Maybe it’s all a coincidence.

But there is a lot going on with the Illinois Teacher Retirement System and the Chicago Teacher Pension Fund all at the same, or almost the same time.

About a month ago the long-time executive director of TRS, Richard Ingram was terminated. TRS is the teacher pension system for all public school teachers outside of Chicago.

There was no explanation for the reason Ingram was canned.

In fact, at a recent appearance by zoom at our North Lakeshore Illinois Retired Teacher Association gathering, TRS board of trustee annuitant representative Doug Strand said he would take no questions about Ingram’s departure.

There appears to be no connection between Ingram’s departure from TRS and turmoil at CTPF except the timing.

At the August board of trustees meeting of the Chicago Teacher Pension Fund (according to the published minutes) board president Jeffery Blackwell opened the meeting with a blast at some unnamed former and current members of the CTPF board for racism and for pushing the board to hire Madigan lobbyists.

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.

……

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.

Then on Friday it was announced that the executive director of the CTPF, Charles Burbridge, has resigned.

One thought on “What’s going on with state and city teacher pension funds?

  1. I can smell the stench a thousand miles away.
    Where there is a scent of stench, there is stench.
    The full backstory may never be known.

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