By Brian Costin -
As the Illinois General Assembly is nearing a vote on Gov. Pat Quinn’s proposal to extend the income tax hike, which will cost the average taxpayer about $1,100 per year, a WGN-TV investigation revealed one of Quinn’s former top staffers is the beneficiary of a $117,000 pension error.
Brown Hodge, former Deputy Chief of Staff to Quinn, gets a nearly $137,000 pension each year from the state of Illinois. She has been receiving the pension since 2010 shortly after she resigned from her post after receiving a $1,000 fine from the Illinois Ethics Commission for using state property for political work.
According to Illinois pension rules, Hodge’s pension is supposed to be about $20,000 a year, based on the $25,000 she contributed to the system during her 10-year career as a state employee. Considering her $25,000 in contributions, a $20,000 annual pension in itself is extremely lucrative compared to what can be obtained privately.
A $137,000 per year pension on $25,000 in contributions should be considered grand larceny.
Hodge has collected “about $374,000” in pension benefits since she retired.
Under current state law there’s nothing the State Employee Retirement System, or SERS, can do to rectify the error. Legally, SERS only has 35 days from the initial pension calculation to find and correct any errors otherwise there is nothing that can be done.
Since being alerted to the problem by WGN News, SERS Executive Director Tim Blair has said they checked and there are no other errors like Hodge’s in their system.
It’s funny how the only pension calculation that slipped through the cracks just happened to be Quinn’s former deputy chief of staff. Oops!
Senate Bill 3309 field by Senator Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, D-Plainfield, would change state law and allow pension calculation errors to be corrected, and for pension overpayments like Hodge’s to be recouped.