Convicted ex-cop loses pension in media glare

MELROSE PARK | Deputy, boss shook down businesses

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Melrose Park Police Pension Board has pulled a little sleight of hand with the pension of corrupt former Deputy Police Chief Gary Montino.

First, Montino was all set to get more than $5,600 in pension benefits a month -- even though he's heading to prison for racketeering.

Then, this week -- poof -- the pension was gone.

The disappearing act happened when the police pension board took the highly unusual step Wednesday of taking back Montino's pension after first granting him the benefit in July.

The board's original decision and the circumstances surrounding it outraged some residents.

At its July meeting, the pension board first yanked the pension of former Police Chief Vito Scavo, convicted in the same scheme as Montino, in which local businesses were shaken down to use private security companies the men ran out of the Melrose Park Police Department on the taxpayers' dime.

After the board's vote on Scavo, a television news crew and reporters left, and the board voted to grant Scavo's deputy, Montino, his pension.

Under Illinois law, police officers lose their pension when they are convicted of a felony related to their job.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported on those unusual votes, and the state launched an investigation.

Pension board member Larry Spino said Thursday the pension board decided to revisit the issue of Montino's pension because after board members denied Scavo his pension at the July meeting, they were "emotionally drained" before even deliberating on Montino's pension.

"We were all very emotionally drained that night, and we didn't look at the documents as closely as we should," Spino said.

The board members also faced being sued over its decision to grant Montino his pension.

The board could reconsider its decision because it had not yet issued a written opinion on the matter, said the board's attorney, Richard Reimer.

Montino's attorney, who did not return a phone message Thursday, opposed the board's reconsideration.
Montino was sentenced to serve a year and a day behind bars for his role in the scheme and is to report to prison next month.

His former boss, Scavo, received six years' prison and is at a prison camp in Duluth, Minn.