Cal City’s push for $145K pension for part-time lawyer rejected
BY ANDREW SCHROEDTER December 25, 2012 5:38PM
Dennis George Gianopolus, attorney and owner of the Dennis G. Gianopolus P.C. Law offices, Lansing, Illinois
Updated: January 27, 2013 6:19AM
Calumet City’s push for a six-figure government pension for its part-time attorney — a friend and supporter of Mayor Michelle Markiewicz Qualkinbush — has been rejected by the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund.
Dennis Gianopolus, a top attorney for Calumet City and Chicago Heights, was in line to collect a six-figure pension from the IMRF when he retires.
Pensions covered by the retirement fund typically go to municipal employees or elected officials who work at least 600 hours a year.
But Gianopolus doesn’t meet those criteria, according to the pension fund, which, prompted by questions from the Better Government Association, determined that:
◆ Gianopolus doesn’t work full-time for either municipality. He’s an outside contractor who maintains a private law practice in Lansing.
◆ His positions with Calumet City and Chicago Heights don’t “meet the 600-hour standard.”
Calumet City officials had maintained that Gianopolus is an “officer” and a salaried employee of the city and thus entitled to a government pension.
If its position had been upheld, he would have been in line for a taxpayer-subsidized pension estimated around $145,000 a year.
“You will not be entitled to a pension based upon your service with Calumet City or Chicago Heights,” Kathy O’Brien, the pension fund’s general counsel, said in a letter to Gianopolus.
Gianopolus, who declined to comment for this story, has filed an appeal with the pension fund that will be heard at a hearing that has not yet been scheduled. The appeal will go before the fund’s benefit review committee and then to the fund’s board, according to Linda Horrell, a spokeswoman for the fund.
Calumet City had approved a pension sweetener that could have boosted Gianopolus’ benefits by a total of $2 million over the course of his retirement.
Gianopolus became Calumet City’s city prosecutor in 2001 and the south suburb’s corporation counsel in 2003. At the time, the city prosecutor job was a salaried position that made him eligible for a pension. Gianopolus was classified as an independent contractor for the corporation counsel post, which carried an hourly salary and no pension.
In 2010, Qualkinbush and the City Council made the corporation counsel job a salaried position paying $240,000 a year and reclassified the city prosecutor post as an independent contractor with about the same pay as before — about $25,000 a year.
The moves could have proven to be lucrative for the 53-year-old Gianopolus, who also serves as Chicago Heights’ city prosecutor, a post that pays about $24,000 a year, because higher pay translates to a higher pension.
Qualkinbush didn’t return messages seeking comment. Chicago Heights Mayor David Gonzalez also couldn’t be reached.
If the decision to reject his pension stands, Gianopolus likely would be reimbursed for payments he’s made to the fund covering a small portion of any future pension payout.
Andrew Schroedter works for the Better Government Association.