The Times wrote:
By Gregory Tejeda - Times Correspondent | Posted: Friday, January 29, 2010 12:00 amhttp://www.nwitimes.com/news/local/lake ... mode=story
CALUMET CITY | City Council members on Thursday approved a series of resolutions and ordinances they say will permit them to offer an early retirement package to longtime municipal employees in an effort to save the city money.
Critics of city government are not convinced. There is a belief among many Calumet City residents that Mayor Michelle Markiewicz Qualkinbush plans to take advantage of an early retirement later this year, despite the fact her mayoral term has more than three full years remaining.
Qualkinbush said she has problems with the way this is being perceived by the public, and said she will not sign the measures into law. She said, however, she expects the City Council will vote to override her veto attempt. "I won't sign those," she said. "But I can do the math."
Pam Cap, a Calumet City police sergeant who twice has run against Qualkinbush for mayor, told city officials she thought they were acting improperly by approving the resolutions and ordinances that relate to early retirement programs permitted by the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund.
"Illinois law prohibits changes to benefits and other compensation during an official's term in office, yet you seem willing to break the law," Cap told the council.
At stake were resolutions that would authorize city participation in the early retirement program, specify under what conditions people could purchase extra service time and also the payment of insurance benefits to such people.
Critics of Qualkinbush and the City Council have said in recent weeks they believe the mayor and other officials are trying to create a pot of money for themselves so they could walk away from city government. Cap addressed that point by saying, "I believe it is an honor to serve the public, not a burden like you do."
Qualkinbush said it is likely that an early retirement package similar to two other packages offered in recent years will be offered by Calumet City government during 2010. She could not say when they would be offered, but said the resolutions and ordinances approved by the City Council are required by state law before any further action can be considered.
"This is all something that is governed by state law," Qualkinbush said. While she admits that her name was on a list of city employees included as part of an analysis of who could be eligible to take advantage of early retirement, she said that is not evidence she plans to actually leave her mayoral post.
"I've been here for 33 years, of course my name is going to be among those who could take advantage of this," she said.
Five aldermen voted for all the measures, which were voted for separately from other council business because 2nd Ward Alderman Magdalena "Leni" Wosczynski insisted. In turn, she voted against one resolution and recused herself from voting on the other two related measures.
One other official, 7th Ward Alderman Antoine Collins, voted no on all three measures, saying he did not receive copies of the resolutions and ordinances until Thursday and had not had a chance to read them.
"I didn't have time to review the information; I can't say what this is really about," Collins said. "I didn't feel comfortable voting yes."