State employee gets $137,000 pension after only 10 years of work.

During some recent research I discovered a former  employee of Gov. Pat Quinn, Carolyn Brown Hodge,  had worked for the state for less than 10 years but was receiving a 137,000 pension. When I asked Tim Blair, Executive Director of SERS (State Employee Retirement System) about it he stated it was a clerical error. So this woman has been receiving in excess of 10,000/mo pension payments when they should have been about 1,600/mo. So far since she retired in Nov 2010 she has collected $375,000 when she should have collected about $70,000.

In addition she was forced to resign her $130,000 job in the Gov. office after an ethics investigation found she had used state property for Gov. Pat Quinn’s re-election campaign and fined her $1,000.

It gets worse. In a Jan 14, 2014 appellate court decision, Sharp vs. SERS, the court rules that SERS only has 35 days after a pension is approved (before the first check is cut) to correct a mistake then on day 36 it becomes permanent and irrevocable. So under current law this woman will receive 4.6 million over her expected lifetime instead of the 700,000 she should receive.

Right now a new bill SB-3309 is wending its way thru Springfield. SB-3309 would/maybe/might correct the problem. However there is no guarantee it will pass by the end of session on May 31 and if it does that it will be retroactive. So Ms. Hodge still may collect $4.6 million by mistake.

So here are the numbers as we know them right now:
1. Current pension = $137,976/yr.
2. Pension should be = about $20,000/yr.
3. Total employee contributions for $137,000 pension = $24,242.
4. Years worked for the state = 9.7.
5. Total lifetime payout based upon IRS Life Expectancy tables = $4.6 million based on mistake versus $700,000 if mistake corrected.
6. Total payments made thru May 1, 2014 = $374,114 versus should be about $70,000.

For more details here is the link to the appellate court decision:
Sharp vs. SERS

And here for the ethics commission ruling:
Ethics Commission vs. Hodge