Despite a federal jury last week convicting Tim Mapes of two felonies, the former chief of staff for Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan continues to receive a nearly $150,000-a-year state government pension.
In fact, while he sat in the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse defending himself against a mountain of evidence, pension records show that Mapes automatically collected his monthly pension check of $12,492 for August.
And there’s a good chance he’ll keep collecting that money.
Illinois’ pension laws generally require a direct connection to a crime that happened during a public employee’s official duties before a pension can be halted. Given Mapes’ lies to a federal grand jury came nearly three years after he was forced by Madigan to resign, the highly forgiving pension laws may give Mapes plenty of room to stop any efforts to halt his pension after he’s expected to be sentenced by a federal judge early next year.
Mapes, 68, of Springfield started receiving the taxpayer-supported pension checks shortly after Madigan told him to resign on June 6, 2018. Mapes’ high-profile ouster came within hours of a staffer accusing him of sexual harassment over several years and fostering “a culture of sexism, harassment and bullying that creates an extremely difficult working environment.” Mapes has denied those accusations.
Since Madigan forced him out five years ago, Mapes has raked in $723,775 in pension payments, according to records.
On Aug. 24, a federal jury found Mapes guilty of lying before a grand jury on March 31, 2021, allegedly to protect Madigan from the federal racketeering investigation against the ex-speaker, whom Mapes served for 25 years as chief of staff. He also served as the clerk of the House.
Mapes faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for his conviction on attempted obstruction of justice charges, while the perjury conviction carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. Madigan is charged in the racketeering case with co-defendant Michael McClain, a longtime Madigan confidant. They have pleaded not guilty and are set for trial April 1.
Andrew Porter, Mapes’ criminal defense attorney, had no comment about the pension issue.
Timothy Blair, who oversees pensions for a large portion of the state’s unelected employees, said a review will be done to determine whether Mapes should lose his pension once he is sentenced, which is scheduled for Jan. 10. In the meantime, Mapes will keep collecting monthly pension checks, meaning he’ll be able to collect roughly $50,000 before the sentencing, Blair said.
Once Mapes is sentenced, the case will be examined by Democratic state Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s office to determine whether Mapes is still eligible for a pension despite his conviction. The attorney general’s office examination of Mapes’ crimes will look to see whether any part of the lies he was convicted of touched upon his time in office and whether that could put his pension in jeopardy, Blair said.
“That’s why we ask the attorneys,” Blair said. “We’re not equipped to make that determination.”
Upon a review of Raoul’s recommendation, the board of trustees for the State Employees’ Retirement System, which is chaired by Democratic state Comptroller Susana Mendoza, then will make a decision on Mapes’ pension.
“While it is my personal opinion that anyone convicted of violating the public trust should be stripped of their taxpayer-funded pension,” Mendoza said in a statement to the Tribune, “SERS will follow the law, which in pension cases involves a legal finding from the attorney general’s office about whether a state employee’s conviction relates to their state job and whether their pension can be terminated under state statute.”
Susan Garrett, a former Democratic senator from Lake Forest, said the Mapes case may fall into a “gray area” of the law that “could give him a pass” because of the timing of the crimes on which he was convicted. She noted Mapes lied to the grand jury after he left state government but that he was convicted of lying about a subject matter related to his work in state government for Madigan.
The Mapes case exposes a potential technicality that “just has to be” addressed by legislators and clarified so that former public employees convicted of committing crimes arising from any connections to their government work are not able to easily “get around” laws that could cost them their pensions if still employed, said Garrett, who now chairs the Center for Illinois Politics, a nonpartisan organization that tracks key state issues.
If Mapes’ pension is protected, he’ll be able to keep getting automatic increases of 3% per year for the rest of his life, according to pension guidelines.
Clearly a factor in Mapes’ favor is that the bar to revoke a state pension is fairly high: Even a prison sentence does not automatically cause the loss of the retirement income.
One recent example is that of ex-Rep. Edward Acevedo, a Democrat from Chicago and a former police officer who spent less than a year in prison after pleading guilty to a tax-related charge arising from the federal government’s sweeping corruption investigation. But since Acevedo’s alleged tax evasion occurred after he left the Illinois House, the former member of Madigan’s House Democratic leadership team is allowed to keep his pension.
The General Assembly Retirement System is currently paying Acevedo $6,267 per month — and has paid him $377,888.34 since his retirement in July 2018, Blair said.
Acevedo’s benefits were suspended temporarily on Jan. 1, 2022, and reinstated April 27, 2022, during the review, said Blair, who also oversees legislative pensions. The reinstatement was based on an attorney general opinion that Acevedo’s felony conviction was not related to his actions in the state legislature, Blair said.
Ryan received $635,000 from the Illinois taxpayer-supported pension system for legislators and statewide officials in the three-plus years after his retirement to his federal conviction. And Ryan got a refund of $235,500 when his pension was taken away — the amount of personal contributions he made during his more than 30 years in public office.
Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was impeached and then convicted over wide-scale corruption, also lost his state pension but remained eligible for a federal pension because he served six years in the U.S. House.
Madigan, who has not been convicted of any crimes, has also begun collecting his pension.
After more than 50 years in the legislature, Madigan receives a pension of $153,426 a year, only a few thousand dollars more than Mapes receives annually in state retirement checks. When Mapes was forced out, he was being paid an annual salary of more than $200,000.
Madigan’s pay was about half that when he lost his speakership in 2021. But Madigan, as a former lawmaker, is in the state’s most lucrative pension system, and combined with his extraordinary length of service, is able to receive more in his pension each year despite a lower salary than Mapes.
A few years ago, the General Assembly Retirement System, which included statewide elected officials, changed its policy on when it would suspend pension payments.
Unlike other state pension systems, the system for legislators and statewide elected officials actually suspends pension payments upon a conviction or a guilty plea instead of waiting for a sentencing — a time when a conviction is considered finalized.
If the same standard — suspending upon conviction rather than after sentencing — were in place in the system for unelected retired officials that Mapes is in, his payments would have been halted already rather than still flowing into his bank account until his sentencing in January.