MEA President Steve Cook
MEA President Steve Cook.
Image via MEA.org.

Near the end of February, Michigan Capitol Confidential broke the story of a union president using his private union salary to inflate his public pension.

Steve Cook, president of the Michigan Education Association, works full time for the union, yet he’s listed as an “educator on loan” from the Lansing School District. Lansing schools says the “educator on loan” has no job responsibilities in the district.  Cook’s public pension is based on his salary, which the Lansing School District pays, of $201,613, or more than $20,000 more than the district’s second-highest paid employee the superintendent.

Capitol Confidential story page
Near the end of February, Michigan Capitol Confidential broke the story of a union president using his private union salary to inflate his public pension.

The district also contributed $51,976 on behalf of Cook to the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System (MPSERS) in 2014.

This sweetheart deal could net Steve Cook a taxpayer funded pension of $105,000 a year for the rest of his life, despite Cook spending just 15 years in the classroom. When Cook worked in a classroom, his title was “paraprofessional.” According to a recent union contract, that position pays between $7.69 to $16.52 an hour. Using his private salary of more than $200,000 as a basis for his public pension, Cook will likely receive $97,000 more each year than what his pension would have been based on 15 years working in the classroom as a paraprofessional.

 Lansing schools says the MEA reimburses the district for Cook’s expenses. But that would not include state pension fund contributions.

State Director of the National Federation of Independent Business Charles Owens said of the sweetheart deal, “If it’s not illegal,
it should be.”

Jim Perialas, president of the Roscommon Teachers Association, says, “I think it is absolutely absurd he is able to do that.”

On March 5, WLNS 6 News covered a story titled “Retirement Pension Deal Stirs Controversy In Lansing.” Two weeks later, The Detroit News ran a story about Cook’s pension titled, “MEA boss scores hefty state pension.”