Promotion cost Cicero commander 2nd pension, but he’s happy
BY BECKY SCHLIKERMAN AND JON SEIDEL Staff Reporters October 13, 2013 8:34PM
Updated: November 15, 2013 6:02AM
Cicero cop Raul Perez is collecting more than $200,000 a year between his state pension from his days as an Illinois State trooper and his current Cicero town salary.
But the former bodyguard to disgraced ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich has lost out on a second pension that could have boosted his income even higher after the Chicago Sun-Times reported on his recent promotion to the rank of commander at the Cicero Police Department.
The good news about the promotion: It nearly doubled his pay.
The bad news: It came a little too soon.
Turns out Perez didn’t spend quite enough time in his previous civilian job to get vested in his municipal pension. So he can’t collect.
A state investigation discovered the issue after the Sun-Times published a story about the swelling ranks of police management in the Town of Cicero.
Perez just shrugged it off. The 57-year-old said in recent weeks: “I’m fine with it.”
The Sun-Times reported in July that the Cicero police department expanded the number of commanders on its force from two to 10 — promoting Perez and seven others to the new posts as part of a restructuring plan, officials said at the time.
Then the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund got an anonymous phone call that prompted an investigation, a spokeswoman said.
The retirement fund determined that Perez’s new job means he can’t participate in the fund for civilian municipal employees because he’s now “performing police protection duties,” according to a letter the fund sent last month to the Town of Cicero’s human resources department.
He has been contributing to that fund since August 10, 2005, according to the fund. That’s a day after he was hired in Cicero, the town’s payroll records show. He previously worked in the Cicero Police Department’s criminal analysis unit and as director of the Cicero Juvenile Improvement Program, according to his profile on the professional networking website LinkedIn.
Before this summer’s investigation, Perez officially had eight years and one month of service credit with the pension fund, spokeswoman Linda Horrell said in an email. That means he was vested and eligible for a pension once he retired. But now his records will be “adjusted” to reflect his promotion in April.
“Once the adjustment is made, he will have less than 8 years of service credit with IMRF. Therefore, he will not be eligible for a pension,” Horrell said.
Horrell would not estimate what Perez’s pension benefits would have been. She said the benefit payments are “based on the years and months of service credit and a final average salary.”
Perez said he won’t try to recover his lost pension.
“They followed the law and did the right thing,” Perez said. “What’s wrong with that?”
The commander also said he’s “blessed” to have a job helping the people of Cicero: “I can’t begin to tell you how rewarding it is.”
“Money is not everything,” he added.
Perez is now collecting more than $200,000 a year from his state pension and his salary in Cicero.
He collects $7,748 a month from the State Employees’ Retirement System of Illinois, the agency’s executive secretary said. That’s about $93,000 a year. He retired from the state police on Sept. 1 2006, while already on Cicero’s payroll, records show.
Add to that the $108,375 he earns as a Cicero commander, payroll records show.
But that’s not what he earned when he was first promoted on April 9.
At the time, Perez’s base pay rose from $55,825 to $75,000. August payroll records now show he has joined the list of commanders with an annual $108,375 base salary.
Perez said, and records reflect, that’s the standard pay for most commanders.
Perez said he has no control over his own salary.
Ray Hanania, the Cicero spokesman, did not respond to questions about Perez’s salary or pension.
Back in his days working on Blagojevich’s security detail, Perez was once disciplined for failing to report that the former governor’s driver had been drinking. He also faced questions about accidents with state vehicles and a state police patch he had allegedly given a motorist.
Perez said he’s happy to now be working in Cicero, cracking down on street gangs and improving the quality of life for its citizens.
“God has blessed me with another career, and I’m fine with it,” he said.