Excerpts from the ChicagoSunTimes.com:

Thirty-two members of the Chicago Fire Department’s top brass resigned their exempt positions Monday and returned to the rank-and-file in a fight over pay and benefits that will cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The chiefs will return to their career service ranks of battalion chief and, in one case, paramedic field chief, but continue to act up in their exempt positions. That means they will now be eligible for overtime, holiday pay, duty availability, haz mat and other forms of supplemental and specialty pay afforded to members of the rank-and-file.

The 32 who resigned en masse effective at 8 a.m. Monday represent more than half of the chiefs on the fire suppression side of the CFD and just one of roughly a dozen bosses overseeing EMS.

The highest-ranking member is First Deputy Fire Commissioner Richard Ford II. Others include Mark Nielsen, deputy commissioner of the Fire Department’s Bureau of Operations, Michael Callahan, who oversees logistics, and Don Hroma, district chief of training.

The fire chiefs are seeking pension changes, expanded health insurance benefits and pay raises … which city officials say would require a change in the state pension code.

Fire officials must retire at age 63. But exempt officials must pay for their own health insurance until they hit 65. They also lose pay perks, including vacation time, when they become exempt staff members.

In addition, the state pension code doesn’t allow exempt fire officers to earn pension benefits based on their current salary. Instead, their pension benefits are based on the lower salary of their most recent union-covered job. That can result in a loss of thousands of dollars in pay each year. 

Pending state legislation known as a “brass bill” would allow exempt fire employees to earn a pension based on the pay for their current jobs. Many exempt officers are nearing retirement age and have signed a letter to the city warning they may return to the rank of battalion chief to improve their pensions and health insurance benefits before they leave the department.

Some rank-and-file members questioned why Mayor Emanuel didn’t just let the bosses quit and replace them instead of allowing them to return to their career service ranks in an arrangement with the potential to cost Chicago taxpayers a fortune. 

All 32 are closing in on the mandatory retirement age of 63. They have to self-demote two-to-four years before they retire to rebuild their pension before turning 63,” a source said.