Bernie Madoff

It pays to be a top Bensenville administrator. And to be the village president’s son.

The Chicago Tribune reported Monday that nine employees of the Chicago suburb received pay raises of 10 percent or more from 2007 to 2008. The largest percentage increase went to Ryan Geils, son of Bensenville Village President John Geils. Ryan Geils, a director of the village-owned and operated Edge Ice Arena, received a salary bump of 21 percent, from $49,500 to $60,000.

Additionally, Vincent English, supervisor of streets, received a 20.7 percent increase, from $65,986.96 to $79,647.87; Gary Thorsen, director of community events and special facilities, got a 19.86 percent raise, from $71,749.98 to $86,000; Village Manager Jim Johnson’s pay went up 14 percent, from $106,510.97 to $121,510.97; Assistant Village Manager Steve Marshall’s salary increased 12 percent, from $103,558 to $116,058; William Moreth, an Edge Ice Arena employee, received an 11 percent increase, from $45,000 to $50,000; Police Chief Frank Kosman’s pay went up 10.17 percent, from $98,324.93 to $108,324.93; former administrative employee Anna Hendry’s pay increased 10 percent, from $50,000 t0 $55,000; and Public Works Director Paul Quinn got a 10 percent raise, from $99,079.55 to $109,079.55.

The Tribune noted that most non-union village employees received far more modest cost-of-living increases.

Perhaps Bensenville will ask for bailout funds next, because it is spending money like a drunken sailor, despite a sour economy that helped put Illinois’ unemployment rate at 8.6 percent, a half-percentage point higher than the national rate. Sounds like something AIG would do, and Bensenville officials know it, judging by the way they tried to hide the pay raises from the public:

The raises were awarded in December and made retroactive to May 1, which meant employees received lump sum payments for about seven months’ worth of raises. [Village Manager Jim] Johnson said the practice is common for the village and that employees like it because it seems like a holiday bonus.

The raises came to light recently when an anonymous source leaked a confidential memo detailing them to the Chicago Tribune and to Bensenville attorney Frank Soto, who is running for village president in the April 7 election against six-term incumbent John Geils.

Naturally, Soto made the pay increases a campaign issue — and rightfully so.

His campaign blanketed the community last weekend with fliers that said, among other things, “When was the last time you got a raise? Was it 21%?” and “Who’s in charge here? Bernie Madoff?”

“In a situation where the village has the amount of debt it does, the property tax increases that we have seen, the extra fees and the water fee increases we have received, I do think it is inappropriate that certain people close to the administration seem to be getting these rewards,” Soto said. “I think that is inappropriate in this economy.”

Darn right those excessive pay increases are inappropriate. Instead of a retroactive pay increase in the middle of a recession, I got laid off. And so did thousands of other Illinoisans.

But Bensenville apparently has plenty of money to spread around among its top-tier employees. I hope the Chicago Tribune is checking into whether Bensenville applied for stimulus funds. I suspect that extra money didn’t stop village officials from asking for a government handout.


A lot of angry people weighed in today about AIG awarding $165 million in bonuses to executives who helped put the large insurance company in the position of needing $170 billion in bailout money from the federal government. U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, may have made the most outrageous comment about the situation.

“I suggest, you know, obviously, maybe they ought to be removed,” Grassley said. “But I would suggest the first thing that would make me feel a little bit better toward them if they’d follow the Japanese example and come before the American people and take that deep bow and say, I’m sorry, and then either do one of two things: resign or go commit suicide. And in the case of the Japanese, they usually commit suicide before they make any apology.”

Now I’m sure Grassley was speaking rhetorically and doesn’t actually want AIG executives to kill themselves, but surely there was a less inflammatory way to say what he meant. At the same time, Grassley’s comment seems to neatly summarize how the average taxpayer feels about the greedy executives who eagerly took bailout money from the government while continuing to run their failing businesses as if nothing had changed.

The root of what Grassley said holds true: these executives need to show remorse for screwing up so badly that generations of Americans will literally be paying for their mistakes. If they think they didn’t do anything wrong and insist on continuing business as usual, those people need to be fired or, at the very least, demoted in pay or position.

Approximately 4.4 million Americans have lost their jobs since the recession began in December 2007. Many of them are unemployed despite their job performances having nothing to do with why they were laid off. Yet AIG executives played a hand in causing their company’s near-collapse and they get bonuses. That doesn’t seem right, does it?

Perhaps President Obama will succeed in his attempt to block payment of the AIG bonuses. But I’m not holding my breath waiting for that to happen. After all, this is just another example of the great divide between the upper class and everyone else. Bernie Madoff, Enron executives and a few others notwithstanding, rich people who mess up don’t tend to be held accountable for their actions. The AIG bonus scandal likely will end up being just one more example of that.

News item: Investment adviser Bernie Madoff, 70, pleaded guilty Thursday to masterminding the largest Ponzi scheme  in history, fleecing thousands of investors of an estimated $65 billion. The maximum prison sentence he faces is 150 years.

News item: Muntadhar al-Zeidi, 30, the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at then-U.S. President George W. Bush, was convicted of assault Thursday and sentenced to three years in prison for the Dec. 14 incident.  Many Iraqis believe al-Zeidi should be honored as a hero for hurling his shoes at the man who started the Iraq war.

Bread Line suggestion: Put both men in the same cell. Order al-Zeidi to throw a shoe at Madoff for every person financially ruined by the latter man’s Ponzi scheme. That should last about three years. Madoff’s victims would feel a little better and al-Zeidi would be considered a hero in America, too.

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Bread Line bonus: Learn how to play “Six Degrees of Bernie Madoff” – It’s like playing “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon”!

A 162-page, single-spaced list of people allegedly swindled by money manager Bernie Madoff was filed late Wednesday with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York. These thousands of people allegedly are victims of the biggest Ponzi scheme in history, through which Madoff supposedly paid early investors with money from new investors.

There are some prominent names on the list, including CNN talk-show host Larry King, Hall of Fame baseball pitcher Sandy Koufax, actor John Malkovich, U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon, World Trade Center developer Larry Silverstein – and actor Kevin Bacon.

Kevin Bacon? This means playing Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon just got a whole lot easier thanks to Bernie Madoff’s $50 billion swindle.

Surely you are familiar with Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, a game wherein players link other stars to the prolific actor through six or fewer films. The game is based on psychologist Stanley Milgram’s theory that there are six or less degrees of separation between any two people on Earth.

I hereby propose an updated version of the Kevin Bacon game: Six Degrees of Bernie Madoff. Keep in mind that most of the disgraced financier’s clients probably used a middle man to make their investments with Madoff, so, for example, there likely are two degrees of separation between Bacon and Madoff. I suspect that King’s inclusion on the list makes it possible for practically anyone to be tied within six degrees of separation from Madoff.

For fun, consider how far removed you are from Madoff. I am four degrees of separation from Madoff, if King is two degrees away from him. King recently interviewed former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who I met twice during my journalism career.

The possibilities are endless. Find Madoff’s complete client list on the Internet and start making connections.