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TB unit challenged on severance plan

Tuesday, January 04, 2005
Chicago Tribune
by Mickey Ciokajlo

The board of a suburban governmental agency devoted to tuberculosis treatment would violate the law if it approves salary and medical severance packages for its employees, the Cook County state's attorney's office said Monday.

The county filed a lawsuit against the Suburban Cook County Tuberculosis Sanitarium District in an attempt to block the proposed pay and health-insurance set-asides for employees.

The TB district's board is scheduled to consider the proposal Wednesday in which $1.5 million would go toward funding employee severance payments and to prefund retiree health benefits.

The proposal comes as the district faces an uncertain future. Pending legislation in Springfield calls for dissolving it, as has Cook County Board President John Stroger, who controls appointments to its board.

Dr. James Gallai, district executive vice president of field operations, said prefunding the retiree health plan is a precautionary measure to ensure benefits are paid in the future.

Gallai said there's a concern the workers would be folded into Cook County's system.

As for the severance payments, Gallai said they are common in private industry when a company is on the losing side of a hostile takeover, to which he equated the current situation.

Employees would receive one week's pay for every year they worked for the district, up to a maximum of six months, he said.

Also on Wednesday's meeting agenda is what the district will do with $15 million in proceeds it retained from a land sale in Hinsdale. Gallai said one option under consideration is to write refund checks to every taxpayer in suburban Cook County.



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