2 felony convictions, 2 big checks from UIC
BY CHRIS FUSCO Staff Reporter December 2, 2013 12:00AM
UIC garage foreman Thomas J. Morano | Sun-Times file photo
Updated: January 3, 2014 6:02AM
A University of Illinois at Chicago auto-mechanic foreman who lied about an attempted-murder conviction on job applications but got his job back under a court order has been awarded $636,443 for the six years he was off the job.
Nearly 25 percent of the money UIC owed Thomas J. Morano — $155,496 — is for interest the twice-convicted felon was due under state law, according to records obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times.
Attorneys for UIC and Morano’s union, Teamsters Local 700, agreed to the award after months of negotiations over how much money he would have been paid if not for the years-long court battle over his firing, records show.
Morano, 59, ended up getting $480,947 in lost wages — including $49,363 for overtime it was estimated he would have been paid.
On top of that, the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act requires state universities to pay compounded interest at 7 percent a year in cases in which back pay is awarded. That resulted in UIC paying Morano the extra $155,496.
Morano declined to discuss the matter when reached by phone. “Go after somebody else,” he said before hanging up.
He returned to work at a UIC garage on June 3. Negotiations over his lost wages went on nearly four more months, with Morano getting one check for back pay and another for interest on Sept. 24.
After deductions for income taxes, union dues and contributions to the State University Retirement System, Morano took home $426,307, records show.
The university declined to say how much it deducted for Morano’s retirement contribution, but a total of $40,624 was added into Morano’s retirement account from the time he was off work, state pension records show.
Last year, the Illinois Appellate Court ordered UIC to reinstate him to his $73,985-a-year garage foreman’s post because a university administrator made a “last-chance” deal letting Morano keep his job in 2006, shortly after Morano had been convicted of a second felony.
The administrator, Mark Donovan, has since been promoted to the $236,134-a-year post of vice chancellor of administrative services. Had Donovan not made the deal giving Morano another chance, his 2007 firing in the wake of a Chicago Sun-Times report about his past “may very well” have been upheld, the appellate justices wrote.
UIC hired Morano in 1996. The following year, a black co-worker accused Morano and another UIC employee of threatening him and using racial slurs,
The UIC police then ran a background check on Morano and discovered he hadn’t disclosed a 1977 conviction for attempted murder on his job application, which “specifically asked if he’d ever been convicted of a crime,” according to court records. He resigned in February 1997 rather than be fired.
In 1998, he again applied for a job at UIC, admitting the criminal conviction. But, when asked to “describe the crime in full,” Morano said only that he’d been in “a traffic accident which turned into a fight [and] the other driver was hurt” — not that he’d shot the man, leaving him paralyzed from the chest down after their cars collided on the Stevenson Expressway. He didn’t get hired.
In 1999, Morano “updated” his UIC application. This time, he said of his criminal conviction: “I was involved in a traffic altercation in which the other driver was injured.” UIC rehired him and in December 2005 promoted him to garage foreman, “a security-sensitive position.”
In January 2006, the Chicago Police Department seized 14 guns — two of them loaded — from Morano’s house, and Morano told UIC he was out sick when he was “actually in police custody.”
On June 28, 2006, he pleaded guilty to two felony weapons possession charges and got probation.
On Nov. 1, 2006, Donovan wrote Morano about “disciplinary action.” They met the next day and signed the deal giving Morano one last chance.
Donovan — a son of John L. Donovan, who was Chicago’s streets and sanitation commissioner under former Mayor Jane Byrne — plans to retire from UIC in January.
Besides the $636,443 in back pay, UIC spent $129,111 in its legal battle to boot Morano, bringing its total cost to $765,554.
“It is not our practice to comment on personnel matters,” UIC spokesman Bill Burton said.