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Our View: Big pension plum is thwarted

Updated: January 27, 2013 6:23AM



We’ve written about how Illinoisans should not be upset with public employees when it comes to the state’s pension financing crisis.

Rather, their anger and frustration should be directed toward state officials and legislators who failed over many years to contribute as required to the five pension funds and who backed increasingly generous pension benefits (that they also received) when times were flush. That combination is directly responsible for Illinois’ pension fiasco and the abyss ($96 billion and counting) in long-term financing of the funds.

What also has justifiably upset taxpayers are the periodic horror stories about how select persons with political clout have gamed the system to get large and undeserved pensions.

Thanks to media coverage and a few government watchdog groups, some of the more egregious cases are gradually being addressed and corrected — including a whopper involving Dennis Gianopolus, the city attorney in Calumet City and city prosecutor in Chicago Heights.

Because of political chicanery, Gianopolus, 53, was in line to get a pension of about $145,000 a year if he stayed in both posts until 65. Now, he may get zip, and that’s how it should be.

After inquiries by the Better Government Association, the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund looked into Gianopolus’ expected pension and found that he failed to meet IMRF’s criteria in either job — he wasn’t a city employee or elected official and didn’t work at least 600 hours a year.

When he became city attorney for Calumet City in 2003, the position was that of an independent contractor, with an hourly rate and no pension. But in 2010, aldermen made it a salaried position at $240K per year, with a pension based on that high salary — they said not as a gift for Gianopolus (perish the thought!) but to reduce the city’s overall legal costs.

Neither of the jobs is full-time and deserving of a pension. Gianopolus, who also has a private law practice, is appealing the IMRF decision, and we hope he loses. If he doesn’t, we all lose.



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