Roy McCampbell accompanied by his attorneys in the lobby of the Leighton Criminal Court Building in Chicago in August. | Jose OrsorioChicago Tribune.
Monday, December 14, 2015 || Originally Published: Chicago Tribune || By Joe Mahr
Five years after the Tribune exposed a suburban official’s questionable $472,000 annual pay — and three years after he was indicted over it — the official continues to collect a lucrative pension as his case lingers in court.
Amid the high-profile debate over whether prosecutors took too long to charge a police officer in the fatal shooting of a Chicago teen, the case of Bellwood’s Roy McCampbell offers a window into just how long it can take to prosecute lower-profile cases, and how the delay can cost taxpayers in other ways.
McCampbell, Bellwood’s former comptroller, was accused of stealing more than $500,000 in allegedly inflated pay from the blue-collar, inner-ring west suburb before he retired in 2010. If convicted, he could lose his $257,000-a-year pension.
But because McCampbell hasn’t been convicted, he has continued to receive monthly pension checks, totaling more than $850,000 since the indictment, according to state pension data. That’s on top of the half million he collected in pension payments in the two years it took prosecutors to seek an indictment from when the Tribune first exposed the questionable pay in June 2010.
McCampbell has argued, then and now, that village officials signed off on all his pay, which he rightfully earned, and that he’s being made a political scapegoat by village board members now embarrassed at what they approved and a prosecutor willing to appease them.
But village officials countered McCampbell deceived them, a view that Cook County prosecutors adopted when they charged McCampbell in 2012. At the time, prosecutors touted evidence that McCampbell bragged about his ability to confuse the village board as well as proof McCampbell paid himself even more than the inflated contracts allowed.
Forty months later, there is one thing upon which both the village and McCampbell’s attorney can agree: The case shouldn’t have taken this long to prosecute.
Bellwood Chief of Staff Peter Tsiolis called the charges “pretty straightforward” and added: “This case isn’t that complicated.”
Alvarez’s office did not answer questions, submitted through two spokeswomen over a week, about the reasons for the delays. Alvarez’s office has been battling heated complaints by protesters and some public officials that she waited more than a year to charge a Chicago police officer in the death of Laquan McDonald.
The Tribune has separately tried to measure how long it typically takes Alvarez’s office to seek charges and conclude prosecutions in public corruption cases, but Alvarez has declined in the past to turn over data requested by the Tribune for such an analysis. Her office said it would be too hard to produce the data.
The Tribune in February appealed Alvarez’s decision to the Illinois attorney general’s office, which could order the data’s release. The attorney general’s office said its review has been delayed because Alvarez’s office twice failed to respond to the attorney general’s request for a more detailed explanation on the refusal to release the data.
In the time since McCampbell’s indictment, the village has dropped its separate lawsuit against McCampbell that had accused him of defrauding the suburb. Each side offered different reasons: the village saying they wanted to cut their legal costs on the assumption a criminal judge would order restitution, and McCampbell’s attorney saying it showed how weak the village’s case was and how leery village officials were to be questioned under oath.
Both sides, however, say they are eager for a trial.
McCampbell’s attorney said he expects the criminal judge to set a trial date soon. The next hearing is Wednesday.
If McCampbell is convicted of the charges, and the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund determines the crimes for which he was convicted were related to his old job, IMRF by law must stop sending him pension checks from the date he is sentenced. But McCampbell would get to keep all the pension money he has collected so far: more than $1.4 million.
And, if his pension is voided, IMRF said, the law mandates he be sent one final check to cover money that he was credited as contributing toward his pension — for another $155,489.64. VFP