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Editorial: A pretend fire chief

8-20-08  Department Senior Services. 2102 W. Ogden Avenue. Chicago Illinois. Mayor Daley holds Public Hearing 2009 City Chicago Proposed

8-20-08 Department of Senior Services. 2102 W. Ogden Avenue. Chicago, Illinois. Mayor Daley holds Public Hearing on the 2009 City of Chicago Proposed Budget. Raymond Orozco, Director of (OEMC) Office of Emergency Management and Communications. Photo by Scott Stewart/Sun-Times

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Updated: July 11, 2013 6:13AM

Why are public employees so furious about any and every effort to cut their pensions?

Because they thought they had a promise and they want to live with dignity in retirement and, honestly, wouldn’t you fight to keep every dollar?

But there is something else. Public employees and their union leaders resent any suggestion that they must take a hit when, as best they can see, powerful political insiders do a pretty good job of taking care of themselves. The fix, they say, is in.

And they are not crazy.

The latest case in point: As reported in Sunday’s Chicago Sun-Times, the Daley administration five years ago pulled a sneaky trick to bump up the pension of a former Fire Department chief just before he retired. The secret maneuver — giving Raymond Orozco Jr. back the title of fire commissioner for a couple of years when he was not the fire commissioner — put an extra $27,000 a year in Orozco’s pocket in retirement.

Orozco’s yearly pension is $144,000. Common sense says it should be $117,000.

The specifics, as reported by Andrew Schroedter of the Better Government Association, worked like this:

Orozco served as fire commissioner from May 2006 through July 2008. Then Mayor Richard M. Daley made Orozco head of the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications and appointed John Brooks fire commissioner.

But three months later — and isn’t this so Chicago? — the Daley administration gave Orozco the expanded title of “fire commissioner/executive director of OEMC,” though everybody still called Brooks the fire commissioner and Orozco had nothing to do with the department’s day-to-day operations.

Being a pretend fire chief for a couple of years worked out nicely for Orozco because firefighters’ pensions are based on their four highest-paid years of service in their last decade with the department.

Meanwhile, Chicago’s pension fund for firefighters is deep in debt, as are other city employee pension funds, and something has to give. Or, rather, somebody will have to give — probably the firefighters.

But we sure wish we could start with Orozco.

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