Chicago school guards angry over check errors

Hundreds of off-duty Chicago cops who moonlight as part-time school security officers could be the latest group of employees to be victimized by Chicago Public Schools paycheck problems.

CPS officials say the officers should have been contributing to Social Security, so CPS will dock their pay to cover the missing contributions.

Officials of the union that represents more than 600 of the off-duty or retired officers contend CPS erred in not withholding the contributions, so they say CPS should cover the amount owed to Social Security.

"We're not agreeing to cough it up," said Taalib-Din Zayad, vice president of Service Employees International Union Local 73.

"If the [Board of Education] was under an obligation to make these deductions, then it's their fault they didn't take them out," Zayad said Friday.

Zayad said the withholding error could date back years, well before the March installation of a new $17 million PeopleSoft payroll and human resources record system that has been blamed for months of other paycheck and pension problems.

More than 600 security officers could be affected, Zayad said. CPS sent out letters in late November, alerting officers to a plan to establish a "repayment schedule" for them, he said.

Malon Edwards, a CPS spokesman, said Friday the officers who work part-time security for CPS were overpaid and the Social Security tax they owe "is being taken back in small amounts."

Edwards did not know how many employees were affected, how much they owe, when the problem started or when the withholding would begin.

"I'm pissed off," said one off-duty officer who works in a school and asked to remain anonymous. "This is occurring around Christmas, and they are sending out letters stating you owe money."