State looking into ex-Bellwood administrator's $252,689-a-year pension

Western suburb boosted his pay to $472,255 in year before his retirement

Monday, August 09, 2010

State pension officials are re-examining the retirement of a west suburban village administrator who the Chicago Tribune revealed was paid $472,255 last year under 10 different job titles, spiking his pension by tens of thousands of dollars.

"People here said, 'Oh, my God'" when they saw the figures, said Louis Kosiba, executive director of the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund, which covers employees at more than 2,900 local governments.

The scrutiny comes as former Bellwood administrator Roy McCampbell collects the highest pension — $252,689 — in the state's massive municipal employee fund, leading more than 90,000 retirees, including several county doctors and administrators.

The pension far exceeds what McCampbell should have received, about $180,000, without late-career, dramatic pay hikes that his former bosses now call into question.

Kosiba said pension-fund officials are examining about three years of service credits that McCampbell claimed when he was granted a fully vested retirement at age 55 this spring.

If those service credits are removed, McCampbell could lose up to 6 percent of his taxpayer-backed pension, amounting to $15,000 a year. That could knock McCampbell out of his spot as the pension fund's highest-paid retiree.

Kosiba said the Tribune's June report on McCampbell's salary revealed to the agency that he may have had an outsized package of unused sick time, which he partly used for one year of credit toward his retirement.

Retirees are allowed to use up to one year of unused sick time for credit, but the sick time must come under a broad village policy that applies to all other employees at McCampbell's level, he said.

McCampbell was granted weeks of extra sick time and vacation time in his village contract, which records show he racked up for years and then split between IMRF credit and cash that inflated his pension as he left in February.

Meanwhile, Kosiba said fund officials are also examining two years of credit McCampbell claimed from his work as a teenager in the early 1970s at Schiller Park School District 81. The fund has records that indicate he only qualified for four months of credits, Kosiba said.

The school district had destroyed decades-old payroll records and relied on information from McCampbell when it certified the credits, Kosiba said.

McCampbell's pay was by far the highest of any village administrator in the suburbs when he retired, skyrocketing from $168,593 in 2005 to $472,255 in 2009.

As he was eyeing retirement, McCampbell landed salary stipends attached to extra job titles, including mayoral assistant, development board director, corporation counsel and public safety CEO, among others.

After the Tribune started asking questions, Bellwood officials said they were surprised by the figures after he left and had just turned over documents to the Cook County state's attorney.

The state's attorney's office will not say whether there is an investigation.

McCampbell, meanwhile, has provided the Tribune with contracts and other village records that appear to support much of his pay. He said he earned every dollar of his compensation.

McCampbell declined to comment on the IMRF's probe of his service credits. Bellwood officials have also declined to comment. School District 81 officials did not return phone calls seeking comment.