Chicago taxpayers spent $160,000 on police security for ex-Mayor Richard M. Daley in his first four months out of office last year, according to police records obtained by the Better Government Association under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act.
But we can’t tell you how much it’s cost taxpayers since then because Mayor Rahm Emanuel re-configured Daley’s security arrangement last fall and police officials claim it “would take an inordinate amount of time and unduly burden the operations of the department” to calculate the cost of the current plan.
We can tell you, however, the Emanuel administration didn’t send the ex-mayor a 1099 tax form this year or last, even though some tax experts tell us Daley should be paying taxes on the cost of his police protection since leaving office in May of 2011 because he is no longer a city employee and the protection, which is not part of any written agreement or official policy, could be viewed as a personal benefit, or unearned income.
Daley’s longtime City Hall press secretary Jackie Heard, who now works for the ex-mayor in the private sector, won’t talk about security issues but confirms reports that Daley still receives periodic threats, which is hardly surprising for someone who made a lot of unpopular decisions in 22 years as mayor, and sent a lot of bad guys to jail as Cook County state’s attorney before that.
We also learned recently that Daley, in the grand tradition of Illinois’ craven politics of self-interest and self-enrichment, was able to boost his pension by nearly $50,000 a year and avoid nearly $400,000 in pension contributions thanks to a below-the-radar-screen change in state law early in his administration.
Daley’s current annual pension is nearly $184,000 and the “sweetener” was typical of changes enacted to boost the pensions of other political insiders over the years.
But back to Daley’s security detail. Police tell us the former mayor had 21 cops protecting him over his last four-plus months in office in 2011. That cost taxpayers $744,000. Emanuel cut the detail to five after Daley left office – that’s the four-month price tag of $160,000 – and the new mayor eliminated full-time protection altogether in September.
The department says that since then they’ve assigned three officers from the 18th police district to protect the ex-mayor “as needed based on safety concerns” and when those cops aren’t with Daley they return to regular beat duty. What does that cost taxpayers? Police won’t tell us.
Our lawyers say we could probably challenge the department’s refusal to calculate the cost of the new arrangement – Emanuel quickly settled two other BGA transparency lawsuits against the police department by turning over the information we were seeking shortly after the suits were filed – but we’re letting this one go for now because, frankly, we’d rather see the department using its resources to protect neighborhoods terrorized by out-of-control gangs, guns and drugs.
In fairness to Daley he’s not the only former mayor to get police protection after leaving office. Mayors Sawyer and Bilandic had security, Jane Byrne could have but reportedly said no thank you, and a manned squad car was assigned to the first Mayor Daley’s Bridgeport home after he died in 1976 as a courtesy to his widow Eleanor “Sis” Daley.
But one veteran police insider who’s watched all this closely for decades echoes a sentiment we’ve heard from countless regular taxpayers: Why doesn’t Rich Daley – who is well compensated by a law firm and a university, international consulting work with his son Patrick, and generous fees for speaking engagements, on top of that “sweet” pension – simply “man up” and either pay back the city for the cost of security, offer to pay taxes on it, or pay for private bodyguards with his own money?
If nothing else that would burnish a Daley legacy that’s been badly tarnished by revelations about the multiple crises Emanuel inherited from him last year, and the multiple perks the ex-mayor walked away with at our expense.