The head of one of the largest labor unions in
resigned Monday in the wake of reports that he had been receiving a six-figure city pension while participating in a second pension plan from his local union, in violation of state law.
Tim Foley, business manager of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 134, submitted his resignation to the executive board of the 15,000-member union, which represents city, county and
electricians as well as thousands of electricians working for private contractors. He had held the post for the last five years.
"Recent focus in news reports has impacted how we are perceived by the public," Foley said in a Local 134 news release. "Placing each of the 15,000 members and their families ahead of me is the easy part of my decision to resign."
Local 134's vice president, Terry Allen, will complete Foley's term.
In recent weeks, Foley had been under increased pressure from inside the union. Local 134 sources who asked not to be identified have told the Tribune and
that the U.S. Department of Labor has requested information regarding the union leaders' pensions and informed the local that the agency will audit its finances. A spokeswoman for the Labor Department said she could not confirm any letters were sent.
Under a little-known state law, Foley was allowed to remain in the city pension fund after taking a leave of absence as a city employee to work full time for the electrical union.
In 2008, Foley formally retired at age 54 from a $47,000-a-year city job that he last worked in 1995 and began receiving a $105,000 city pension that, under the law, was based on his union salary with Local 134. He also remained at the helm of the local and continued collecting an annual salary of about $160,000.
To qualify for the pension perk, Foley signed a city pension application saying he was not participating in a local union pension plan. That turned out to be untrue.
Last year, officials from the city's municipal pension fund discovered that Foley and three other Local 134 officials had been receiving contributions toward a union pension for work that was already covered by their city plan. Foley and the others said the law was vague and they had made an honest mistake.
All four were allowed to keep their city pensions after signing affidavits promising to "disclaim" their union pensions. Less than a year later, their lawyer attempted to have about $300,000 in union dues moved into a different pension fund so they could receive benefits. After the Tribune and WGN-TV reported on that request, Foley withdrew the resolution.
One of the four officials is Thomas Villanova, who is now president of the Chicago and
Building and Construction Trades Council.
Villanova retired in 2008 at age 56 from a $40,000-a-year city job that he hadn't filled in nearly 13 years and began collecting a $108,000 city pension. He also received about $200,000 in rank-and-file member dues toward his pension with Local 134, according to union documents filed with the Department of Labor.
City employment records, meanwhile, show that Villanova may not have been eligible for his city pension in the first place because he had allowed his leave of absence from the city to expire.
WGN-TV producer Marsha Bartel and reporter Mark Suppelsa contributed.