Investigation finds interim superintendent packing supersized salary

A joint investigation between FOX 32 and Open The Books uncovered another Illinois superintendent who is raking in a supersized salary. 

Dr. Joyce Carmine showed up to the Park Forest District 163 School Board meeting Monday, continuing to run the school district on a part-time basis while drawing a massive pension.

When Carmine retired in 2017, records obtained by Open The Books show she was the highest paid school superintendent in the state, making $398,229

Because of that big salary, Carmine began drawing a big pension, just under $300,000 dollars in 2018.

Earlier this year, board members re-hired Carmine to serve as interim superintendent for two more years. The contract says she only works 100 days a year—at $1,200 a day—a $120,000 annual salary.

Which means between her pension and new/old job, Carmine will take home $419,235.

“The pension is designed to give [employees] some income after they're retired. It wasn't designed to give people double or triple salaries,” said retired state lawmaker Karen May.

Former Democratic lawmaker Karen May helped pass a bill in 2011 banning former state employees drawing a pension from returning to the same job on a full-time contract, which is why Carmine's contract only allows her to work 100 days.

May says that loophole needs to be closed.

“I think this particular bill was trying to stop—what's especially egregious is that people would go back to the same school district and that is totally, totally double dipping,” May said.      

Carmine says she was asked to return by the board, which was having trouble finding her replacement.

"The board asked me to remain as interim superintendent in order to maintain progress we had achieved while a successor was identified," Carmine said.

Board President Lance Jefferson calls it a win-win. 

"We brought her back because we knew she knew the district, and that's what the board wanted to do as it relates to bring back someone who knew the district,” Jefferson said.

But a resident who's running for the board says it's an expensive fix for a self-created problem.

"The tax situation in Cook County is one of the highest texting bodies in the state of Illinois. How can we afford this without raising taxes?"  asks school board candidate Randall White.

The school board has hired an superintendent "designate" to take over next year.