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Tuesday, July 23, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

No Pension for Convicted Governor

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CN) - There will be no pension for former Gov. George Ryan, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled. Before his conviction on corruption charges, Ryan was drawing more than $197,000 a year in pensions from his time as a state lawmaker, lieutenant governor, secretary of state and governor.

Ryan argued that he was entitled to the amount accrued as a lawmaker and lieutenant governor, more than $60,000 a year, because the crimes of which he was convicted related only to his actions as secretary of state and governor.

But in a 6-1 decision, the state Supreme Court ruled that Ryan is not entitled to any of it. The decision reversed an appellate court ruling.

Justice Robert Thomas wrote for the majority that the laws on pension forfeiture are meant to discourage actions such as Ryan's.

"Here, the trust to which Ryan was unfaithful was that which he owed to the People of the State of Illinois, who for 30 years placed their confidence in him and whose continuing confidence he repaid by transforming two of this state's highest constitutional offices into an ongoing and wholly self-serving criminal enterprise," Thomas wrote. "Allowing Ryan to now collect any portion of his pension would not only run afoul of the plain language of Section 2-156, but also would undermine the public policy underlying that statute, which is to ensure that the retirement of a corrupt public servant is never financed by the very constituency whose trust was betrayed."

Chief Justice Thomas Fitzgerald and Justices Charles Freeman, Thomas Kilbride, Rita Garman and Lloyd Karmeier concurred.

Justice Anne Burke was the lone dissenter. She argued that Ryan was convicted of no wrongdoing while he served as lieutenant governor or as a member of the General Assembly and should be entitled to his pension from that time.

"I do not intend to diminish in any way the seriousness of the criminal acts committed by the former governor," Burke wrote. "Also, I understand the very human impulse to want to punish Ryan for his wrongdoings by depriving him of all of his pension benefits. However ... our constitutional obligation is to follow the law, not our personal preferences."

Ryan, who will turn 76 next week, is serving a 6½-year sentence in federal prison.

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