For the Good of Illinois

BREAKING: Illinois Pension Fund Manager Received $137,000 Golden Parachute

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Illinois Pension Fund Manager Received $137,000 Golden Parachute

Co-Investigation with Fox32 Chicago and OpenTheBooks.com

Watch the Fox32 Chicago news segment, click here

July 19, 2018
 
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The retiring  executive director of the Illinois State Board of Investment (ISBI), William Atwood, received a $136,577 special gift after a 15-year career at the 4th largest pension fund. Atwood cashed in 144 days of unused vacation time last week. So much for fiscal accountability.
 
Atwood announced retirement via press release on June 29, effective immediately. Atwood had banked 144 unused vacation days. Under the Illinois Personnel Code, state employees are able to cash in 50 days of unused vacation time upon retiring. We thought these rules applied to Atwood, too, but that wasn’t the case. 
 
Over the first seven years of his employment (2003-2010), Atwood accrued 144 days of unused vacation time. In 2010, the ISBI board carved out an exception for Atwood, capping his vacation bank at 144 days rather than 50. 
 
We estimated Atwood’s compensation rate per day at approximately $950. If Atwood had been capped at 50 days – like every other Illinois state employee – he would have received $47,500 rather than $136,577. 
 
Atwood was already receiving one of the largest salaries in the state. In 2005, Atwood received $186,750. By 2017, his salary had increased to $246,200 – the 32nd largest salary among nearly 75,000 disclosed state employees. In 2018, Atwood received six months’ compensation plus his cashed in vacation bank ($136,577) for a total $269,900. Based on 2017 payroll, Atwood’s 2018 compensation is the 14th largest in the state. 
 
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It’s a classic case of Illinois insiders and politically powerful profiting at the expense of regular people. In this instance, powerbrokers from both parties allowed Atwood to fleece taxpayers and the 142,000 public employee beneficiaries. ISBI manages the money of three state pension plans: State Employee Retirement System (SERS); General Assembly Retirement System (GARS); and the Judicial Retirement System (GRS). 
 
The 2010 ISBI board including Comptroller Dan Hynes and Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias allowed this to happen. 
 
We’ve investigated this story since May. When we filed a Freedom of Information Act request, the current ISBI board first learned of Atwood’s huge unused vacation bank. On July 9th, the board took action to prevent any future abuses.
 
Currently, the ISBI board is controlled by the five appointments of Republican Governor Bruce Rauner. Two other statewide officeholders sit on the board, Comptroller Susana Mendoza (D-Chicago) and State Treasurer Michael Frerichs (D-Champaign). The board is also comprised of the Chairman of the Judges Retirement System Hon. Thomas Hoffman (D-Chicago) and Chairman of the General Assembly Retirement System Sen. James Claiborne (D-St. Clair). 
 
In Illinois, the elites know how to game the system for personal gain. Even though Moody’s estimates the long-term pension liability of the state’s five pension plans at $251 billion, insiders are punching their own tickets. Big time. 
 
Consider a few examples of other elites, over the last few weeks, abusing the system:
  • Timothy Mapes, former chief of staff to House Speaker Michael Madigan, cashed in $130,500 in unused vacation and sick time, according to the Associated Press. Mapes received this parting gift in June following allegations of inappropriate conduct. 
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  • When Southern Illinois University President Randy Dunn announced his retirement in July, he received a $215,000 severance package plus a $100,000 contract to teach as a visiting professor at the Edwardsville campus starting January 1. 
Illinois citizens are tired of taxpayer abuse, golden parachutes, and huge payouts on their dime. No public employees deserve a six-figure parting gift at termination or retirement.
 
Watch the Fox32 Chicago news segment, click here
 

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