Our Pledge To You

City Hall

Daley demands that Emanuel dismantle ‘golden parachutes’ for agency chiefs

william bill daley 2019 mayor election candidate office rich hein

Mayoral candidate Bill Daley | Sun-Times file photo

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s successor should not be saddled with his appointees, nor should beleaguered Chicago taxpayers be “forced to pay” nearly $1 million to get rid of them, Bill Daley said Tuesday.

Daley branded contracts awarded to heads of the Chicago Park District, the Chicago Housing Authority, the Chicago Public Schools and the City Colleges of Chicago a “blatant abuse of taxpayers’ money.”

“Rich Daley never said to Rahm Emanuel, ‘If you don’t want these people that I had, you’re gonna have to pay ’em off to get ’em outta here.’ That’s not right,” Bill Daley, whose father and brother reigned over Chicago for a combined 43 years, told the Sun-Times.

“There were no big payouts or golden parachutes. That’s something you get in business. That’s shareholders’ money. This is taxpayers’ money. Big difference.”

When a new mayor takes office, city department heads and agency chiefs who serve at the pleasure of the mayor traditionally submit their resignations as a courtesy. That gives the new chief executive carte blanche to assemble his or her own team of loyalists.

Emanuel should follow that same courtesy and tradition, Daley said.

“This is not Hollywood here. This is not a baseball team giving golden parachutes. This is public service,” Daley said Tuesday.

“What this presents to the next mayor is, ‘If I change this person, I’ve got to give ’em all of this money. So, maybe I won’t fire ’em because it’s gonna cost the taxpayers even more. That’s putting the new mayor at a disadvantage.”

Without explaining how, Daley demanded that Emanuel “immediately suspend any employment contracts extending into the new administration.”

Instead, those contracts should terminate on May 20, the day the new mayor is sworn in, with “month-to-month extensions” during the transition, Daley said.

If Emanuel’s successor ultimately decides to retain his appointees, new contracts could then be negotiated, Daley said.

“The City Council oughta take a look at this and try to undo it. This is ridiculous not to run this by the public and talk about it,” Daley said.

“This isn’t Amazon. This isn’t J.P. Morgan. This isn’t some bank or company. This is Chicago. You don’t give people golden parachutes. Who the hell do these people think they are? I don’t care how good of a job they’re doing. It’s not like they don’t get paid well. Over a third of the people at City Hall make over $100,000. Not too many companies have that ratio.”

Emanuel is in London and Paris this week on city business. The mayor’s office had no immediate comment on Daley’s demand.

Mayoral candidate Susana Mendoza agreed with Daley that golden parachutes are an “abuse of power” and a “waste of taxpayer dollars.”

“Locking the next mayor into long-term contracts, some of which last through most of the first term, essentially guarantees a Shadow Mayor. That’s unacceptable,” Mendoza said in a statement.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported this week that Emanuel has tied the new mayor’s hands with contracts for the heads of the park district, City Colleges, CPS and CHA that would cost $820,000 plus benefits to undo. That’s in addition to the annual salaries for their replacements.

The most egregious example is Park District Supt. Mike Kelly, who had served without a contract since 2011.

Kelly’s contract was rushed through in December — nearly four months after Emanuel’s surprise exit from the mayor’s race — at the last park board meeting before now-former Park Board President Jesse Ruiz joined the administration of newly elected Gov. J.B. Pritzker. Kelly’s contract could roll over into 2025.

If at least four board members vote to get rid of Kelly — as his contract requires, if he’s done nothing wrong — taxpayers would owe Kelly eight months of his salary, plus health insurance for his family; currently, he makes $222,003 a year, but that would rise to $230,000 in 2020.

Ruiz has said he offered Kelly a written deal like other agency heads to make sure Kelly wasn’t replaced “cavalierly” by a mere “political supporter” of the new mayor.

The move was an apparent attempt to make certain that the $500 million Obama Presidential Center and a companion plan to merge the Jackson Park and South Shore golf courses goes smoothly long after Emanuel, the project’s No. 1 cheerleader, leaves office.

Kelly’s buyback clause is hardly the most generous among Emanuel’s agency chiefs, according to contracts obtained and analyzed by the Sun-Times:

• City Colleges Chancellor Juan Salgado would be entitled to a full year’s salary of at least $256,250, plus health insurance for himself and his family for the duration of the contract ending June 30, 2020 — until he finds a new job with similar benefits.

• Also guaranteed a full year’s pay — $291,500 — is Chicago Housing Authority CEO Eugene Jones Jr., who’d also get six months of health insurance for himself and his family, if he’s fired without cause. Jones’ contract lasts until Dec. 31, 2020.

• Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson is entitled to six months of pay on her $260,000-a-year salary if she’s terminated without cause, plus six months of health insurance for herself and her family.

Contributing: Lauren Fitzpatrick