Bathon loses $90,000-per-year pension after federal sentencing

News-DemocratDecember 18, 2013 

Former Madison County Treasurer Fred Bathon.

STEVE NAGY/BND

Fred Bathon, the former Madison County treasurer convicted of rigging property tax lien auctions, has lost his $90,000 state-funded pension from the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund.

Bathon, 58, was sentenced Dec. 6 to 30 months in a federal prison after pleading guilty to rigging the bidding on delinquent property tax liens for 10,000 property owners from 2005-09 in exchange for campaign donations.

Kathleen O'Brien, the IMRF's general counsel, sent a letter Dec. 10 to Bathon informing the former treasurer that his pension had stopped as of Dec. 6 because he was "convicted of a felony arising out of his service as an IMRF participating employee."

As a result, Bathon's pension stopped as of the date of sentencing and the only further payment IMRF can make to him or his beneficiary is a refund of his contributions, according to O'Brien's letter. He also can appeal the termination of his pension.

Bathon had spent 38 years in public service jobs, including stints in the Madison County's highway department, and as the county auditor. At Bathon's sentencing, defense attorney Clyde Kuehn estimated that Bathon's lifetime pension benefits could've totaled up to $2 million.

Bathon has 63 days from the Dec. 10 letter to file an appeal. After that, he may no longer do so. If he takes a refund of contributions, that, too, terminates his appeal rights, according to an email from O'Brien.

As for the process to battle the termination of his pension, it requires that Bathon file a written request for an appeal with the IMRF's Board of Trustees. Bathon may file written arguments or other documents to help him make the case for why the decision to cut off his pension was wrong.

Bathon's appeal would be heard by a trustees review committee. It would make its recommendation to the full trustees board, which makes the final administrative decision. That ruling, in turn, can be appealed to a circuit court under administrative review law, according to O'Brien.

"Very few felony forfeiture decisions are appealed," she wrote. "Those that are usually involve arguments about whether or not the felony was job-related."

Bathon has no plans to appeal the IMRF's decision, Kuehn said on Wednesday.

Bathon contributed $118,355 to his pension and may apply for a refund of the full amount. If the refund occurs, Bathon must pay taxes on nearly $104,000 of that amount.

Kuehn said he did not know if Bathon planned to apply for the refund from IMRF.

Contact reporter Mike Fitzgerald at mfitzgerald@bnd.com or 618-239-2533.

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