EDWARDSVILLE – Months after ex-Madison County Treasurer Fred Bathon pleaded guilty to rigging property tax auctions, he still is collecting a $90,000 annual state pension, according to a story published Sunday.
Bathon, 58, pleaded guilty in February to rigging 2005-2008 tax lien auctions so his political donors could profit from inflated penalties paid by property owners. Three others also pleaded guilty in the scheme.
However, Bathon continues to receive more than $7,500 a month from the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund and has collected more than $340,000 in pension benefits since his retirement in late 2009, according to a story published in the Belleville News-Democrat.
Illinois law states that “a conviction doesn’t happen until the court enters the order of conviction. And we don’t do that until the sentencing date, IMRF general counsel Kathy O’Brien said.
Court records show Bathon’s sentencing is Dec. 6. A judge twice moved Bathon’s sentencing – initially set for May 21 – to allow him to continue cooperating with authorities. The newspaper reported that the delay translates into Bathon getting more than $45,000 in pension benefits.
Bathon was county treasurer for 11 years. His attorney declined to comment.
The news irked some public officials, and the newspaper’s report comes as Illinois is grappling with how to reform its state pension, which is the worst-funded of any state in the nation.
Madison County Board member Jamie Goggin, a Republican, called the fact that Bathon draws a pension “disgusting.”
“Abusing the public is one of the worst things someone can do. Especially the way these people were hurt,” Goggin said.
Republican state Rep. Dwight Kay of Glen Carbon has promised to file a bill terminating a public official’s state pension at a guilty plea and not sentencing.
“I’m aghast that nearly $350,000 has accrued to his account,” Kay said. “We find a way to pay a pension under the scenario of a guilty plea, but we can’t find a way to compensate the people who’ve really been hurt.”
Bathon faces up to 10 years in prison. However, he could receive less because he is cooperating with federal investigators.
Three others pleaded guilty in the scheme: John Vassen of Belleville; Scott K. McLean, whose company is based in East St. Louis; and Barrett Rochman of Carbondale. They face sentencing in February.