Disgraced former Gov. Rod Blagojevich has forfeited his $64,000 annual state pension because all 17 of his felony convictions stem from his time as governor, Attorney General Lisa Madigan said in a legal opinion i

Disgraced former Gov. Rod Blagojevich has forfeited his $64,000 annual state pension because all 17 of his felony convictions stem from his time as governor, Attorney General Lisa Madigan said in a legal opinion issued Thursday.


Blagojevich, a Democrat, would be eligible to start collecting his pension on Saturday, his 55th birthday. State law allows the pension of convicted felons whose crimes involved their office to be revoked and the contributions refunded. He served four years in the legislature and six as governor.


“It is beyond dispute that Blagojevich’s convictions related to, arose out of, and were in connection with his service as governor,” Madigan wrote. “…Blagojevich repeatedly misused his position as governor in an effort to obtain financial benefits for himself, his wife and his political campaign committee.”


The General Assembly Retirement System, of which Blagojevich is a member, recently asked for the opinion, according to state Rep. Kevin McCarthy, D-Orland Park, a member of the GARS board of trustees.


“We anticipated Rod's 55th birthday coming up,” McCarthy said, adding that the board did not want Blagojevich to start collecting benefits as former Gov. George Ryan did while the issue was being decided. Ryan also collected retirement benefits before he was charged and convicted of corruption.


The board will not vote to revoke Blagojevich's pension unless he applies for it, McCarthy said.


“If he applies for it, we’d vote whether to allow it or revoke it. He has to apply before there’s a reason to do it," McCarthy said. "It would be kind of a fruitless effort on his part."


Madigan’s opinion said that Blagojevich should forfeit his entire pension, not just the part he obtained credit for while governor.


Ryan lost a case before the Illinois Supreme Court in 2010 in which he argued that he should receive a pension for his years in the Illinois House and as lieutenant governor. None of the crimes of which he was convicted were during his time in the two offices.


There is one difference between Ryan and Blagojevich. Ryan's time in the retirement system was without a break. Blagojevich served six years in the U.S. House between his time in the legislature and when he served as governor.


The attorney general did not address why his break in service while in GARS would not provide Blagojevich a legal loophole to try to exploit. If his House service were to be separated from his governorship for pension purposes, he would not be eligible for that annuity until age 62.


Blagojevich will be eligible for a congressional pension of $14,837 a year when he is 62 years old.


 


Chris Wetterich can be reached at 788-1523.