Illinois’ highest paid superintendent was fired days before he was set to retire last month for allegedly fudging school records to score himself a $1.7 million going away present.
Calumet City school board dismissed superintendent Troy Paraday in October after news reports about a massive taxpayer-funded payout he was set to collect upon retirement prompted district attorneys to examine the issue more closely, Fox 32 reports.
According to the Illinois News Network:
Paraday earned $430,000 a year. On top of that, he tried to cash in 885 unused personal, sick and vacation days worth more than $1.7 million, according to his calculations.
A Calumet City Police report filed in October described the “suspicious activity.”
“The false altering of taking days off and then changing them to show they were actual work days is under investigation,” according to the report.
Investigators contend that when they attempted to retrieve the necessary documents “all emails and folders were deleted from the computer,” Fox 32 reports.
“I think there needs to be a new day on that Calumet City school board that’s for sure,” Adam Andrzejewski, CEO of the watchdog group Open the Books, told INN. “It looks like they were asleep for years as the superintendent felt that he had amassed all these sick and vacation days that now look very questionable.”
District officials have declined to discuss the situation, other than to confirm they filed a police report regarding Paraday’s alleged scheme.
The ordeal becomes even more egregious when considering the district’s abysmal student academic performance during Paraday’s 14-year reign. Over the last four years, in particular, student proficiency in math and English has flatlined or decreased, while remaining far below the state average.
In English, for example, the percentage of students who met or exceeded expectations on PARCC tests decreased from 26 percent in 2015 to 23 percent last year. The statewide average remained around 38 percent, according to the Illinois Report Card.
The percentage for those proficient in math dropped from 14 percent to 13 percent, as the statewide average rose from 28 percent to 32 percent.
Regardless, Paraday’s attorney Steven Glink doesn’t believe his client has done anything wrong and is entitled to the end-of-career financial windfall.
“We do not believe the board of education was justified in terminating his employment,” Glink told INN. “We have not decided if we are going to file any lawsuit. I will let you know when we make that decision.”
Andrzejewski explained why Paraday’s situation is simply one of the more extreme examples of a problem that’s plagued the state’s pension systems for years. Not only would Paraday’s payout have resulted in a fat check, it would have boosted his lifetime retirement benefits based on his end of career pay.
“In Illinois, the biggest scandal is what’s legal under current statute,” he said. “There is a massive hidden liability of sick and vacation days that are being accumulated for future payout at future salaried rates within nearly every public body in the state.”
Other states struggling with pension obligations are in a similar situation.
“The fiscal 2019 state budget lowered the threshold for when governments such as school districts would have to pay extra money directly to the state’s pension systems for end-of-career pay spikes from six percent to three percent,” INN reports.
“That measure was expected to save taxpayers an estimated $21 million across all pension funds. A union-backed bill in the House would reverse that change.”