News Local/State

Letter Makes Death Threat To State Lawmakers & Others Over Pensions

Headline of a threatening anonymous letter sent to state lawmakers and Illinois Public Media.

Headlline of an anonymous letter sent to Illinois Public Media. Many state legislators of both parties reported that they had received similar threatening letters. Illinois Public Media

Authorities are investigating an anonymous letter threatening the lives of anyone in line to receive state-funded pensions. The letter was mailed to several state legislators and to Illinois Public Media. In big letters, the mailing says “Dead people can’t collect fat state pensions,” and goes on to warn lawmakers and union leaders of death by arson, strangulation or other unspecified means.

The writer demands that lawmakers change the actuarial tables for pensions, remove the pension clause from the state constitution before enacting any graduated income tax proposal, and claw back “outrageou$ pension payout$”. 

The writer specifies that public school teachers are not exempt from this death threat.

But Kathi Griffin, president of the Illinois Education Assocation, state’s largest teachers’ union, says she’s more concerned about getting mental health services for the letter-writer than she is about her own safety.

“People who are well do not make threats like this. And I am hoping that nothing happens to anyone, and I’m hoping that we find whoever this person is, and I hope that w​e’re able to help them,” she says. “I feel confident that our police will find who is behind this, and I feel confident that this is someone who is acting solo, and I‘m going to be just fine.”

Earlier Tuesday, before learning about the letter, Griffin held a press conference to announce the results of a union-sponsored statewide survey. In an unplanned irony, the survey showed that 75 percent of Illinois residents want teachers to receive their full pension payment.

Teachers, along with most state employees in Illinois, do not collect Social Security, and must rely on the state pension system.

Update: Illinois Public Media was among the organizations that received the anonymous letter threatening public and state employees. The letter, which was postmarked in Champaign, did not target any specific individual or department at Illinois Public Media. But station employees reported the letter to University of Illinois Police, who now have it as part of their investigation. Illinois State Police are also investigating.