HomeLatest ThreadsGreatest ThreadsForums & GroupsMy SubscriptionsMy Posts
DU Home » Latest Threads » Forums & Groups » Places » U.S. » Wisconsin (Group) » Democratic Party of Milwa...

Tue Feb 24, 2015, 09:50 AM


Democratic Party of Milwaukee County asked to expel Cty Exec Abele for attack on pensions

We really need more efforts like this to get these Republican shills out of our Party

from my email ...

Democratic Party of Milwaukee County
170 S. 2nd Street Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53204

Dear Executive Board Members:

I am writing to request that the Democratic Party of Milwaukee County and the Democratic Party of Wisconsin act under Article VIII of the Milwaukee County Party Constitution to either expel or censure Milwaukee County Executive and Party member, Chris Abele, for his decision on Monday, February 16th to veto the 14-2 vote by the Milwaukee County Board to protect the pensions of over two hundred Milwaukee County retirees. This decision demonstrates Abele’s true colors and reveals that his personal platform is fundamentally at odds with the beliefs of the Democratic Party.

The 2014 Democratic Party Platform states that “[o]ne of the primary jobs of government is to ensure that everyone can lead dignified, healthy and fulfilling lives.” It states that the Party will ensure that everyone receives “fair and equal treatment under the law” with an explicit understanding that “senior citizens . . . face formidable challenges.” Specifically, the Platform clearly requires that “pension and other retirement funds must be strictly safeguarded and responsibly managed through regulation.”

Over the last ten months, Chris Abele has violated these Party pillars and upended the lives of over 200 retirees by unnecessarily threatening to take away their pensions despite the fact that some of his victims had been retired for over two decades and were living on a fixed income. For example, over 40% of the affected retirees relied on the County’s advice to invest in a pension program using their retirement savings. Had they opted to use cash instead, like hundreds of other retirees, their pension benefits would have been the same, but they would not have been threatened by Abele’s attack. Instead, Abele used the County’s accounting error as an opportunity to collect over $26 million in past pension payments in a self-created pension scandal.

Chris Abele was caught with his hand in the Milwaukee pension scandal cookie jar, but the media coverage regarding his actions has been extremely biased due to the history of pension scandals in Milwaukee and the overwhelming influence of Abele’s family fortune; however, the facts below will demonstrate that Abele’s actions exhibit a fundamental rejection of the principles of the Democratic Party in a naked attempt to catapult himself politically on the backs for elderly retired County workers a la his ally, Scott Walker.

Back in April 2014, Chris Abele was notified of an unresolved pension issue that was left over from the Scott Walker regime. The issue had been dormant since 2007 as the County was awaiting instructions from the IRS about how to resolve their accounting error. Upon this revelation, County Executive Abele directed a letter to be sent to the over 200 affected retirees informing them of imminent changes to their pensions. No further information was provided and retirees were informed that more information would be provided in September, five months later.

Along with the letter, Chris Abele did an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which led to the April 23rd article entitled, "Milwaukee County Demands Pension Repayments Because of 'Buyback' Errors." For those retirees, that article added context to the cryptic letter they received that week. That context horrified the retirees because Abele was essentially threatening to send a debt collector to recoup pension money that had been spent decades ago.

After receiving no additional information from the County Executive or the Pension Board, a group of retirees went directly to Chris Abele's office to demand answers. Their action can be seen here or in this MJS article. The County Executive purposely cancelled his appearance that evening to avoid meeting the retirees.

There was practically no contact or new information provided to these retirees between the May Finance Committee meeting and the December Milwaukee County Finance Committee meeting except for a letter sent in September notifying them that a resolution had been delayed with no future timeline provided.

It was revealed in July, but not explained to the retirees until December, that the County had two options for resolving the buy-in/buy-back situation: Option 1 would be to change three ordinances to retroactively put the pension investments in compliance with the IRS rules.

Option 1 would have no cost to taxpayers and had been endorsed by the Pension Board because the fund had already included the retirees in their actuarial calculations so continuing to pay them would have no impact on other County retirees. Option 2 would be to collect past pension payments and cut the future benefits of over 200 retirees, some of whom have been retired for literally decades.

Option 2 was endorsed by Chris Abele when he stated in the April 23rd article that "I'm going to aggressively try to recover whatever I can." He went on to say that collecting the payments was "important to taxpayers and other retirees."

However, Abele's initial plan to collect over $26 million in past pension payments would have harmed taxpayers because over $20 million of that $26 million would have been uncollectible based on a 6-year statute of limitations on the collection of pension payments and the County would owe the Pension fund the full $26 million if they couldn’t collect that money from the elderly and even the estates of deceased retirees! Therefore, Abele's initial position would have cost taxpayers money when an alternative existed that would do no harm to any of the affected parties and would have allowed the County to honor its obligations. With his expressed reason for supporting the pension cuts debunked, the only logical reason for Chris Abele’s position is his political ambition.

Since the absurdity of Abele's initial plan was revealed last month, the County Executive has proposed a “compromise” plan that would limit the pension theft to only future pension payments. However, his new plan fails to address the contractual liability of the County due to the fact that the benefit was offered to employees by the County and the fact that the IRS mistake was the cause of an oversight by the County's accountants, not the retirees that were given the improper advice. His new “compromise” plan would cause 12 retirees to lose their pensions altogether and more than 25% of the retirees would lose over 20% of their future pension benefits.

Abele’s plan was unanimously rejected by the Milwaukee County Finance committee and “Option 1” was adopted unanimously by the Committee and approved by a vote of 14 -2 by the full Milwaukee County Board, including radical conservative Deanna Alexander.

Chris Abele’s pension theft plan has been completely exposed by the Milwaukee County Board, but his “compromise” is still considered reasonable in the eyes of the public due to the comments of Chris Abele and the biased reporting on the issue by pension scandal profiteers from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Dave Umhoefer) and Urban Milwaukee (Bruce Murphy).

Thankfully, the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors voted to override Chris Abele’s veto, but the threat remains of an influential elected Party member willing to damage the reputation of the Democratic Party by actively advocating for positions that are in fundamental opposition to the Party’s Platform.

I urge this Executive Board to vote to expel or censure Chris Abele due to his failure to ensure that Milwaukee County government treats their retirees fairly and equally under the law. Chris Abele has failed to allow over 200 retirees to continue to lead dignified, healthy, and fulfilling lives. He has instead put their lives on hold for nearly a year and placed a dark cloud of financial ruin above their heads in their most vulnerable years. Chris Abele must be held accountable for attempting to break the commitments his County made to these retirees. I appreciate your consideration and look forward to a hearing on this matter.

Respectfully Submitted,

Dennis Hughes
Democratic Party of Milwaukee County Member

0 replies, 1055 views

Reply to this thread

Back to top Alert abuse

Reply to this thread