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Mayor Baldermann Responds to Disability and Pension Report

In response to a Sept. 18 Sun-Times Media investigative story, New Lenox Mayor Tim Baldermann, the former Chief of Police for Chicago Ridge, set the record straight on the details that led to his disability and the pension that he received.

Frustrated, disappointed and angry over personal attacks stemming from media coverage about the details that led to his disability and the pension he received in 2010 after serving 22 years on the Chicago Ridge Police Department, New Lenox Mayor Tim Baldermann shared his story.

Sitting in a meeting room at Village Hall, Baldermann explained his purpose for setting the record straight. "I think it's important that the community has confidence in their leaders."

Sun-Times Media reported that Baldermann gets $129,192 a year in disability pay, the highest found in the newspaper's investigation into police and fire pensions, according to the newspaper.

Read the Sun-Times story here 

Elected officials expect to "take shots, fair or not, but what you should never have to accept are personal attacks that are untrue. It undermines the community."

He added, "I appreciated the overwhelming support I've gotten from the community. What I don't like are the people who don't take time to learn the truth. I don't appreciate anonymous comments coming from people who are angry and have their own agenda."  

Having joined the Chicago Ridge Police Department at the age of 21, Baldermann said he worked his way up from patrolman. He became chief of police in 2001. It wasn't an office job for him. A graduate of the FBI School in Quantico, VA, he regularly went into the field and was always present for serious crime investigation and incidents involving a death. "I led by example," he said.

Remembering the day in June 2008 that he was called to an investigation of the death of a 17-year-old girl who died of unknown causes, Baldermann said he joined the officers present and helped to process the scene. Because the Medical Examiner's Office in Cook County does not send staff to the scene of a death, police departments are tasked with the job of transporting bodies to the office in Chicago.

How he injured his back and the resulting surgery

"This body was on the second floor of a home, and the only way to bring the body down" was through a narrow, outdoor staircase that featured a 90-degree turn half-way down. Having laid the body on a backboard, Baldermann said he and another officer prepared to carry it down the narrow stairway. "I took the head of the backboard," and stepped backwards down the stairs, while another officer descended the stairs facing front and holding onto the other half of the backboard.

Demonstrating the descent, Baldermann held his arms up to his shoulders and even higher in the way that he moved the body down the stairs. In order to turn in such tight quarters, he said, he was forced to lift the backboard high, while turning his head to navigate the stairs around the turn.

"As I go to make the turn, that's when it popped," he said about his back.

The two stopped, and Baldermann told the other officer, "I hurt my back." After pausing a few moments, his back was sore but he had to finish the decline. There was no room for anyone else to get around.

As was practice, the sergeant on shift was supposed to write a report about every injury suffered by a police officer. And he did, said Baldermann, except that shift didn't end until about 5 a.m. the next morning. So technically, the report wasn't filed until the next day, he said.

Meanwhile, "I thought I probably just pulled a muscle in my back." After a few weeks, the soreness refused to fade. "Then I started getting a tingling feeling down my (right) leg." He went to the doctor and was told to see a specialist. "The MRI showed a herniated disc," which was attributed to the incident.

Several months of therapy to manipulate the back failed to produce any favorable results, said Baldermann, who then underwent months of injections directly into the back. That failed too to correct the problem. In the fall of 2009, he had "back fusion" surgery. With titanium brackets and screws, the surgeon put a cadaver bone in the disc.

However, because the disc had "completely broken off," there was permanent nerve damage, he said. Today, he limps and suffers still from numbness and a tingling sensation in his leg.  

Placed on disability

Baldermann said he hadn't intended on going on disability. "I talked to the (Chicago Ridge Police) Pension Board" and asked them "if I could stay on if I adjusted (the style of on-the-scene leadership.) They said, 'no.'"

"I asked the mayor if I could stay on as a civilian" in the role of employee liaison, a role that he served in combination with his job as a police chief. As an employee liaison, Baldermann worked with village staff at large. The mayor denied his request.

The pension and disability agreement

Baldermann filed a Worker's Compensation claim and was awarded a lump sum of $101,000. The pension amounted to $129,000. However, he was required to forfeit any post-retirement health care benefits.

According to the Public Safety Employee Benefit Act, Baldermann said he would have received free health insurance benefits for him and his family for the rest of his life. The forfeiture of those benefits saved the Village of Chicago Ridge a significant amount.

He explained that the health insurance package in Chicago Ridge at the time costs employees about $20,000 a year for family coverage. Those costs rise at least 5 percent annually. When compounded and calculated to age 75, the savings to Chicago Ridge comes in "about $1.4 million," he said.

Before the economy tanked in late 2008, municipalities had generous pension packages, and Chicago Ridge was no different. Because the administrators were non-union employees, the village board would work out individual compensation plans. Baldermann recalled that upon retirement the former public works director was gifted with a car, and the former police chief "got several raises at the end of his career. He was paid a check for over $35,000 for unused vacation and sick days."

It was common practice for union police and firefighters to get a 20 percent pay increase on their last day, according to Baldermann. It was overly generous, and the village board recognized it.

The board changed its practices. Instead of a mountain of perks, the board adopted in February 2005 an "administrative work agreement" for retirement. It included a package that combined unused vacation together with the salary. The caveat here is that the previous practice of the village paying 75 percent of health care for the retiree, spouse and dependents for 10 years came to an end, Baldermann said.

The new work agreement, as implemented in 2005, provided two retiring deputy police officers with vacation added to a salary that was bumped up by 20 percent at the end of their career. "

At the time, it made sense because not paying for health insurance" was considered by the village as a significant savings, Baldermann said.

The Police Pension Board's response

The Police Pension Board told the village that pension spikes were costly. Instead of advising the village board to halt the practice all together, members suggested that the village board increase the amount paid into the pension fund.

The village's police pensions were funded by a 10 percent deduction from every check from every police officer, and the Pension Board made investments with the funds. The third source of pension funding comes from the taxpayers of Chicago Ridge. Baldermann pointed out that no state money or funds from anyone outside the community were part of the program.

"Zero money came from the state" or other sources, he said. "This means zero dollars" from the residents of New Lenox.

With the approval of the Pension Board, more than a dozen police officers in Chicago Ridge received that package, including salary enhancements at the end of their careers, according to Baldermann.

Baldermann acknowledges that the pension package was significant. It's a practice that municipalities and others are re-examining.

In April 2010, Baldermann went on disability and receives $129,000 a year. He anticipates a second surgery on another disc that's currently under pressure and perhaps even a third operation.  

The doctors tell him, "I should stay as active as I possibly can, because it's good for your health. I'm not disabled from life. I'm disabled from being a police officer."    

The Pension Board unanimously approved Baldermann's pension and the village clerk prepared the figures. "It was all done publically….I didn't ask for this. It was approved."

Pension Board objections

The Pension Board has 35 days to review pension payout plans. It took seven months to decide to review Baldermann's package. Meanwhile, Baldermann said, another police officer—Dennis Kapelinski, a former deputy police chief—retired a month after Baldermann with a hefty retirement package as well.

Current court action

Baldermann and Kapelinski have hired a lawyer to represent them against the Police Pension Board, which decided to review their work agreements when the economy took a turn for the worse. However, Baldermann said his attorney is challenging what he refers to as "an illegal hearing," because it was called nearly six months after the designated 35-day review period.

The challenge is floundering in Cook County Circuit Court. Baldermann doesn't anticipate action for in the spring. In the meantime, he's still receiving a monthly payment of $10,700.  

As mayor of New Lenox, Baldermann receives an annual salary of $18,000. In June he was also hired as superintendent of the Union School District 81, where he gets an annual salary of $127,000.

Raymond Stawick September 20, 2012 at 03:58 PM
I think most of the commenters did not read the article above. Many mis-statements which further supports the anger on the Mayor. He has done a good job as mayor and has helped the other government agencies i.e. school distric, library, park district with support.
cmc September 20, 2012 at 04:12 PM
i am from that area from years ago and know many people who know our mayor personally and a few that worked with him on the force. the girl was an issue when it happened... lots of "hush hush" on that one. the rest is all valid, too. i agree with you... you summed it up perfectly!
cmc September 20, 2012 at 04:29 PM
Thank you for pointing out my error...I stand corrected by you, "Concerned". His pension is not government money... Mayor Balderman paid $137,000 in to the police pension. He will collect almost $5 million. I guess instead of taking from the government he's just taking from the men and women in uniform who continued to work/contribute to the pension plan and didn't sue workmen's comp after being injured while carrying the body of a 17-year old girl out of an acquaintances residence. sincere apology for my inaccurate statement regarding government money.
Lsingersongs September 20, 2012 at 04:31 PM
I'm sorry but if I was injured on the job to the point of not being able to continue I would definately want disability and gladly accept what was offered to me. Because he has found a way to still be active does not make him a bad man. Would it have been better if he just given up? I have also suffered a back injury similar to Tims. For those who think is is not serious I hope it never happens to you.
Concerned (NL) September 20, 2012 at 04:37 PM
Hey no worse than all the people who are collecting SSI and never paid into it. The illiegals collecting welfare, medicare, and food stamps. But thats another topic for another day. Balderman worked for this money putting his life on the line in a bad area each and every day.
Concerned (NL) September 20, 2012 at 04:41 PM
Someone mentioned about the workers at the concerts and the costs. We are all volunteers from the CERT, police cadets, fire departments etc.... So no cost to the village only a hand full of policemen to handle the people who couldn't handle their drinking.
NL4LIFE September 20, 2012 at 04:43 PM
At this point it sounds shady but I guess if I was given a deal like this I wouldn't have turned it down. However, in the back of my mind I would be thinking....."is this right?" I would probably have trouble sleeping at night wondering if I was going to get in trouble for this.
Kyle Williams September 20, 2012 at 04:44 PM
When calculating police and fire pay, it's standard to add the 10% 'contribution' to their salary. It still comes out of tax dollars.
NL4LIFE September 20, 2012 at 04:45 PM
Also...I don't think deals like this happen to innocent people. Usually one hand washes the other. However, if he simply received the disability and didn't have to do any shady back door deals to acquire it then I guess the Village of Chicago Ridge has some explaining to do.
Kyle Williams September 20, 2012 at 04:49 PM
The difference between getting a fair disability settlement that would allow you to live modestly, and getting WAY overpaid in a pension bonanza is what is at issue here. Nobody wants to see a policeman legitimately hurt in the line-of-duty sleep in the streets, nor do we want them to have a luxury lifestyle worthy of 'Cribs' on our dime.
JPS September 20, 2012 at 04:54 PM
Regarding your first point, the "acquaintance" mentioned in the article was an acquaintance of the deceased, not an acquaintance of Mr. Baldermann. Reading is fundamental, comprehension is optional.
Kyle Williams September 20, 2012 at 04:57 PM
I imagine not much work is getting done at city ' Taj ' Ma-hall today because they are busy trying to spin this. Have you ever gone in there and asked for help with an issue ? They act all put-out. Public Service is anything but.
NL4LIFE September 20, 2012 at 05:08 PM
So we vote for Mayor in November right?
Kyle Williams September 20, 2012 at 05:09 PM
Were the backstage-pass style tickets with lanyard and holographic guitar donated, as well ? Regular tickets would suffice. Were all those fire trucks and police cars (engines running) donated , as well ?
cmc September 20, 2012 at 05:33 PM
cmc 12:32 pm on Thursday, September 20, 2012 Concerned: How did you decide Chicago Ridge was a bad area? Really :) Comical. While our men and women in all types of uniforms certainly endure risk to their lives -Chicago Ridge is by no means a high risk area. The focus of this situation is becoming convoluted with nitpicking. Someone accepted money they probably shouldn't have at a point in time before they were in a position that would focus on that action. Our past will always haunt us. Mayor Balderman needed to think of that before his injury, reaction to it, disability claim, pay raise, law suit, accepting a Superintendant position in a District with only just over 100 students (nothing wrong with getting paid $100 per student? Geez.... that puts Dr. Wylie at the poverty level if you calculate that way!). His actions speak for his character. We can nitpick typos and interpretation but facts are facts and they aren't pretty on this one. Most agree one does not step down after winning a Congressional seat unless they're afraid some dirt is going to be dug up. The shovel was just a little slow on this one.
Who dat September 20, 2012 at 07:00 PM
If the guy is disabled, pay him. No problem. The issue I have is that he is "disabled" yet he can work a part time and full time job. If someone is on SSI and works they lose a lot, if not all of their disability. Makes sense. A question here that has not been answered is will he get a pension from the village, and from Union? Most of these administrator jobs only require a few years of service to recieve a pension.
Tina P September 20, 2012 at 08:08 PM
I have lost total respect for the guy.
Marie September 20, 2012 at 11:47 PM
Baldermann was on a PR blitz today on the New Lenox Patch and on WJOL, defending himself and his admittedly substantial disability pension after being identified as the top abuser. He works full-time as a $127k per year superintendent for a 110 student school, runs a security company, and is mayor of New Lenox. I wouldn't call his injury catastrophic, and it wasn't an emergency call either. I have a bad back, and know a lot of people who do. It's called aging, and most are continuing to work without whining. Tim got a payout that should be reserved for a catastrophic injury where an officer cannot work again. Tim played the system again and again, as he does quite skillfully. The problem here is that he taking money from a police pension fund and taxypayers that he doesn't deserve. He is leaving those who will truly need it, without. And now he is whining that his actions are justified, and they're not. What a pathetic excuse of a man.
Charles Reasoner September 21, 2012 at 03:59 AM
Put the Police disability/pension aside. How is he able to be a Mayor and a $125K a year superintendent of three or four classrooms and not able to be a Police Chief in Chicago Ridge? Given his enormous pension and his position as Mayor (where who knows how much pay to play he may be involved with) AND his wifes salary as New Lenox school principal, did he really need to grab that ridiculous part time/do nothing/ overpaid position? Baldermanns are already making a couple of hundred thousand a year. In this economy, why suck up a job that someone else could use to feed their family? Just take all you can get right? This guy probably had a bad back for years, maybe even since since he was a teenager. He went home that evening after carrying stretcher with half the weight of a female body (perhaps 65- 75 pounds for a man 6 foot 5 inches) and sat in bed looking at the ceiling thinking about how sick of this kind of work he was and how beneath him it was. All of a sudden, Eureka. His back is hurting a bit as he turns on the Posturpedic and he thinks, hey, why not go in tomorrow and claim disability and say that THIS is what injured my back? Then I wait a while to see a physician so they will never be able to prove when I hurt it. Thing of beauty. The perfect police crime. So since when do Police chiefs carry bodies?
Charles Reasoner September 21, 2012 at 04:06 AM
Someone who knew Baldy years ago told me that he complained about his back in high school. he didn't hurt a thing while on the job. That is why he waited to go to the doctor. if you pop something like a disc in your spine, you go to see a physician right away, especially if you have health insurance. Baldy has plausible deniability, so catching him for malfeasance would require a tap on his home phone or something. At the end of the day, Baldy has profited more than Blago ever did and he is in jail.
OLY September 21, 2012 at 12:50 PM
Interesting comparison.... Baldy vs. Blago.... I like it!!!!!
Mark P September 21, 2012 at 03:07 PM
I had an uncle who had a bad back. He lost some weight and his back no longer bothered him. After looking at the Baldermann photo, he could probobly lose 50-70 lbs and eleviate his back problems.
confused September 21, 2012 at 06:52 PM
Does anyone know what an ex-police chief knows about being a school superintendent, did he learn that at the FBI school? Heck, Ill quit this construction job and take that superintendent job in a heartbeat. Ooops, but I dont know anyone that can "hook me up", with a patronage job.
Voteoutallthecrooks September 22, 2012 at 05:46 AM
This is exactly why we need pension reform in villages and in Illinois. He didn't. do anything wrong except take advantage of available options which is what 95 percent of politicians would do - ok 99 percent. Voters need to remove all of State and Village elected officials.
Ashlee September 22, 2012 at 03:53 PM
Did he " ask" to get injured at work-NO!! Every day police officers put their life on the line to help others first, at the risk of Injury to themself. We should THANK each and every one for helping to keep our communities safe. He obviously had a misfortunate accident at work, that will has left him with future surgeries and will never be 100%. I think all of this negativity is absurd. These are angry, jealous people that don't understand much, and are so quick to form uneducated opinions. I have lived in New Lenox for 5 years, and he has done wonders for our community. He obviously is not " sitting around" counting his money-he is out there ALL DAY, EVERYDAY being very accessible and a strong presence in this community. I feel everyone just needs to mind their own business, and until you are in a situation where you become injured-you have no room to talk.
Charles Reasoner September 23, 2012 at 07:17 AM
"I feel everyone just needs to mind their own business, and until you are in a situation where you become injured-you have no room to talk." What? We cannot question the actions of our elected officials and have to "mind our own business?" LOL! Pweople get ninjured everyday and do not collect millions because of it. I hurt my shoulder in high school football. i My parents could not afford to fix it then and I can;t afford to know. OK Maybe I'll pull a Baldermann and claim it just got injured.
Nancy McWilliams September 23, 2012 at 12:55 PM
He wasn't putting his life "on the line.' He was most likely already injured as a youth, according to his friends. He is be disingenuous and dishonest. He is robbing the town coffers while schools cut programs for our kids. He is taking away from policemen who REALLY get hurt on the job so he can be seen around town and at concerts. He continues to plan and build the most ostentatious government buildings that we can no longer afford. Tim is gaming the system. I'm glad you've lived here for 5 whole years. I've been here for close to 40 years. We've gotten by fine without a $10 Million police station just fine. To put this pay thing in perspective, the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court gets paid $223,500 per year. Hopefully you will agree that Balderman is not in that league.
Kyle Williams September 24, 2012 at 10:42 PM
"Some recent cases unearthed by Chicago Sun-Times reporters Tim Novak and Chris Fusco raise doubts about oversight of our disability systems. " Write the Sun Times and thank them for covering the far-south suburbs. Let them know you care about how the 'Pension King' is screwing us. Patch: Why do you keep reducing and retracting your articles? Have you been threatened by Baldermann? Will you loose access? Do you want to be a real news organisation like the Sun-Times, or are you posers? http://www.suntimes.com/news/watchdogs/15291507-452/emanuel-nemesis-burt-odelsons-law-firm-caught-up-in-dispute-over-ex-chicago-ridge-police-chief.html
steve September 25, 2012 at 03:23 PM
oh boy, cant wait till the 'mayor' has to run for re-election. **pops popcorn**
OLY September 25, 2012 at 04:05 PM
Whoa!!!! The plot thickens.....a smoking gun??????

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