Mayor Emanuel Cracks Down On Sick-Day Payouts

In wake of BGA investigation on former City Colleges chancellor, who stands to collect $500,000 in accrued sick time, Chicago mayor halts the practice and orders a review.

Last Thursday, the Better Government Association revealed that the now-former chancellor of Chicago’s City Colleges had accrued roughly 500 unused sick days and the publicly funded community college system was converting that sick time into cash—$500,000 that’s being paid to him in five annual increments. Read the full investigation here.

On Friday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel ordered City Colleges and other city-related "sister" agencies to temporarily halt sick-day payouts to nonunion recipients such as former City Colleges Chancellor Wayne Watson while officials determine the legality of ending the practice permanently.

City Colleges currently owes former nonunion and union workers a collective $4.2 million, records show. Watson, now the president of Chicago State University, alone is owed about $200,000.

"The mayor has zero tolerance on this," Emanuel's spokeswoman Jennifer Hoyle said. "This is not a benefit City of Chicago employees receive."

Nor is it a common benefit in the private sector.But it’s a benefit that nonunion employees of City Colleges have long enjoyed, although the agency’s board voted in November to end the perk for newly hired nonunion employees. (Converting unused sick time to cash for departing workers continues on the union side and for certain nonunion retirees hired before Jan. 1.)

At least one other city-related agency—Chicago Public Schools—also pays qualified union and nonunion employees for unused sick days, records show.

The Chicago Park District and Chicago Housing Authority do not, officials told the BGA.

The mayor has asked all governmental agencies under his control to report back by Feb. 17 on their policies on unused sick-time payouts, and a decision on how to proceed will be made after then, Hoyle said.