Reporting Pam Zekman
(CBS) — Retire at 50 and collect more than $100,000 a year – that’s the plan for a special group of state workers.
Some members of the Illinois State Police can end up collecting millions of dollars, according to a study by Taxpayers United of America.
“The pensions for the state police are outrageous,” TUA President Jim Tobin tells 2 Investigator Pam Zekman.
He says each of the top 200 state police pensioners receive an income of more than $107,000 per year. Their former state agency has the earliest retirement age and the highest pension payout over time, Tobin says.
A state trooper with 25 years on the job can retire at 50 and get 80 percent of his pay. Add overtime and yearly cost-of-living-adjustments, and some end up making more in retirement than they did while they worked.
Take John Lofton, for example. He was making a salary of $80,801 a year when he retired in 2002. He also got a check for $65,482 for overtime, CBS 2 has learned.
Overtime payments boosted Lofton’s monthly salary of $6,800 by $3,100 a month for the purpose of pension calculations, an Illinois State Retirement System official says.
Lofton’s current pension, with COLAs, is now $134,026, compared to that $80,800 annual salary when he retired.
Lofton says he earned a lot of overtime providing security for state officials.
“I just went to work and figured when it was time to retire they would calculate it all out,” Lofton told CBS 2. “People like myself, we did our jobs and we paid into the system.”
When former Illinois State Police Capt. Daniel Roach retired at age 50 he also got an $82,204 payout for unused vacation and sick time. That one-time payout does not apply to calculations for his pension, which is currently $117,787.
According to Tobin’s calculations, the early retirement means Roach could collect $7.1 million if he lives to 85.
“I’m not going to live that long,” says Roach, who now runs a private security firm.
Tobin sums up the situation this way: “Healthy people are retiring at 50 with multi-million-dollar pension payouts. Another person is then hired to do his or her job — now you’re paying two people to do a job.”
CBS 2 found some retired troopers now have a personal service contract with the state, earning a second salary.
For example, former state police Lt. Scott Deubel was 53 when he retired and currently has a pension of $119,184 a year.
Since then, he has had a contract with the Illinois State Gaming Board. The panel now pays Deupel $71 an hour or up to an estimated $139,132 annually, according to a state spokesman.
Deubel spent 20 of his 30 years with the state police overseeing casino dock sites for the gaming board. Now, as a deputy administrator of investigations, the spokesman says Deubel has been “instrumental” in supervising video gambling investigations and the startup for a 10th casino license.
Deubel’s contract salary, together with his pension, will potentially give him an income of $233,144 for 2013.
“Does that sound like a good deal for taxpayers?” Zekman asked Deubel.
“With my experience I think it’s an excellent deal for them,” Deubel responded.
State Rep. Jeanne Ives is pushing a bill that would eliminate all of the state’s current pension plans.
“We have the worst unfunded pension liability in the entire United States,” she says. “We either reform and save you a pension and move you to a modernized 401k plan or you are at risk of not having a pension.”
Mike Powell, president of the union local that represents state police, says his organization is against any plan to take or reduce their pension.
“The vast reason the state is in trouble is because they have not paid their pension contributions,” Powell says.
State officials say the use of an “alternative formula” to calculate state police pensions began in the 1960s and over time grew to include other state investigators, public safety employees and corrections officers.
Taxpayers United has long believed that the Illinois state police are unnecessary, except for the crime lab.
Illinois State Police spokeswoman Monique Bond said: “The Illinois State Police, like many other public safety organizations, have pension plans that are fully supported by its law enforcement officers throughout their careers. They pay into a retirement system and are entitled to their benefit of service. These are the men and women who risk their lives every day to keep peace and safety in all communities.
“Taxpayers United of America has stated that the Illinois State Police are “unnecessary” – a statement that should give every innocent victim, every law abiding citizen, and every taxpayer pause for concern.”