Emanuel to City Employees: Pay Tickets or Lose Job

In his effort to balance the city’s budget, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has now reached the digging-for-change-under-the-car-seat level: he’s threatening to fire city employees with unpaid parking tickets, red light camera tickets and water bills.

City workers owe nearly $3 million in fees and fines. They have 30 days to pony up or enter a payment program that can last as long as a year. If they don’t, the Department of Revenue will garnish their wages, and they can be suspended from their jobs. Those who owe more than $1,000 could be fired. It’s a violation of the Municipal Code for city or sister agency employees to owe the city debt.

Here’s the schedule of punishments:

  •     Past-Due Amount                                           Disciplinary Action
  •     $1,000 and over                                              Discharge
  •     $500 to $1,000                                                29-day suspension
  •     $250 to $500                                                   15-day suspension
  •     Below $50                                                        10-day suspension

“I am creating a culture of accountability in City government and it simply is not acceptable that City employees have $3 million in outstanding debt owed to Chicago's taxpayers,” Emanuel said in a statement.   

The Chicago Transit Authority has the highest proportion of deadbeats, with 20.4 percent of its 10,279 employees in arrears, for a total of $714,544. Nearly 10 percent of City Council employees owe money (no details on how many aldermen), as do 11.6 percent of Streets and Sanitation workers, and 7.1 percent of cops. In all, 8 percent of city employees owe money.

Employees closest to the mayor are the most compliant. Of 158 employees in the mayor’s office, the Mayor’s Office of Special Events and the Mayor’s Office of People with Disabilities, only one owes money -- a total of $200. Either contact with the mayor makes them more conscientious, or they earn enough money so they don’t have to choose between paying a $100 traffic ticket and a $100 electric bill.

The city has been squeezing car owners harder in recent years. And low-paid folks do collect more parking fines, because a) they can’t afford garages, and b) they sometimes can’t pay their tickets before the fines double. Apparently, city employees struggle to pay their tickets just as much as the rest of us.

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