2 Chicago cop-legislators changed law to benefit 2 people: themselves

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Then-state Rep. Edward “Eddie” Acevedo, D-Chicago, in 2013, left, and state Sen. Antonio “Tony” Munoz in 2012. | AP, Sun-Times

They were a couple of Chicago cops, each serving in the Illinois Legislature, when they helped change state law to give themselves police pensions at taxpayer expense.

The amendment co-sponsored 16 years ago by now-retired state Rep. Edward “Eddie” Acevedo and current state Sen. Antonio “Tony” Munoz gave them — and also any future Chicago cops-state legislators — the ability to get credit toward their police pensions for every day they served in the Illinois Senate or House.

And Acevedo and Munoz took advantage of the change in Illinois law that they helped enact.

Without that, neither would have been eligible for a police pension at all. That’s because they took so many leaves of absence from their duties at the Chicago Police Department to work in Springfield that they didn’t have the minimum 10 years on the job needed to get a cop pension from the city of Chicago.

Now, the two clout-heavy Chicago Democrats have each used the special interest legislation they co-sponsored to boost their retirement pay, buying additional years of service toward their police pensions. That’s allowed each of them to be given credit toward their city pensions for hundreds of days that they spent in Springfield while on leave from the police department.

They also get to count those days toward their legislative pensions — cashing in twice.

That includes days that they were under investigation by the police department’s Bureau of Internal Affairs, which recommended firing both of them — Acevedo for attending legislative sessions while on paid disability leave from the department and Munoz for failing to disclose that FBI agents had interviewed him four times during the investigation of Mayor Richard M. Daley’s corruption-riddled Hired Truck Program.

Both managed to avoid getting fired — Acevedo got a reprimand, and Munoz got a 10-day suspension — and are now collecting small police pensions. Their pensions are based in part on records that the Illinois House and Senate staffs had to research to show specific legislative sessions they attended.

Acevedo, who is weighing a run for Cook County sheriff, cashed in first. Initially, he wanted credit for each travel day between Chicago and Springfield, as well as for the time he actually spent at the state capitol. But pension officials would give him credit only for attending sessions of the full House of Representatives, not for committee meetings, as he wanted, records show.

Their cop pensions aren’t big. But they’re also not the only pensions the two men are eligible for. And each is only in his 50s.

Acevedo, 54, gets $4,572 a year from the police pension fund. That’s based on 10 years, eight months and 28 days of service — including 655 days while he was on a leave of absence from the police department, serving in Springfield. He started collecting pension checks in September 2015 while an assistant majority leader to House Speaker Michael J. Madigan, D-Chicago, a top post he held until leaving the Legislature last December. Madigan had been the chief sponsor of the change in the law that benefited Acevedo and also made changes to other state pension benefits.

Munoz, 53, gets a police pension of $6,802 based on 10 years, 11 months and 28 days of credit — including 972 days while on leave from the police department. He has been getting pension checks since February 2016 even as he continues to serve as an assistant majority leader to Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, a job that pays him $88,485 a year.

Acevedo contributed $57,864 toward his police pension, including $13,342 to cover his employee share for the days in the Illinois House. Munoz contributed $87,859, including $53,714 for his legislative time.

Both men will get back all of the money they contributed to the pension plan in less than 13 years, leaving taxpayers to cover all future payments — something that would have been impossible if they hadn’t helped get the law changed to benefit themselves.

“If they did not purchase this time, both of them would have been under 10 years and would have gotten a refund,” says David Kugler, attorney for the Policemen’s Annuity and Benefit Fund of Chicago, the police pension fund. “By going over that, they were able to get a small pension. They both took advantage by going over that threshold of 10 years by adding in their days in the Legislature.”

Here’s what Acevedo, Munoz and their fellow legislators did: Illinois pension law previously had allowed any Chicago cops serving in the Legislature prior to January 1997 to get credit toward their police pensions for days served in Springfield — a law that was enacted specifically to benefit the now-deceased Rep. Roger McAuliffe, R-Chicago. But that didn’t cover Acevedo and Munoz because they took office after that date. So they helped get the law amended, deleting five words: “Prior to Jan. 9, 1997.” That meant the law now covered them.

Acevedo and Munoz, who were once roommates in Springfield, couldn’t be reached for comment.

They also are eligible to receive much richer pensions from the retirement plan for state legislators in the future. Acevedo hasn’t yet begun to collect that pension, and Munoz hasn’t retired. As it stands now, each will receive a legislative pension topping $64,000 a year.

Acevedo had been a correctional officer with the Cook County sheriff’s office when he was hired by the police department in June 1995. Munoz got hired 15 months later, leaving his job with the city’s aviation police force.

It’s unclear what duties they had as Chicago cops. Both were assigned to the “miscellaneous detail,” but the police department says it would be “overly burdensome” to produce records showing their precise assignments and details over the course of their careers. The Chicago Sun-Times appealed that stance to Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who agreed with the police.

Both men were detailed to City Hall’s law department shortly after they joined the police department, according to a 2000 internal affairs report regarding “unsustained” disciplinary charges that accused the legislators of associating with convicted felons, which would be a violation of police rules.

A decade ago, the Sun-Times reported that the city’s law department had the two officers serving subpoenas. But police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi now says there are no records showing they worked for the law department.

Eighteen months after he joined the police department, Acevedo won election to the Illinois House, representing several South Side neighborhoods, including parts of the 11th Ward, the Daley family’s political power base. Two years later, in 1998, Munoz was elected to the state Senate representing the same neighborhoods as well as others.

Munoz co-founded the now-defunct Hispanic Democratic Organization, which served as a patronage army for Daley until it became embroiled in a hiring scandal at City Hall. HDO helped elect Acevedo and other Daley loyalists.

The FBI questioned Munoz four separate times about his close relationship with Angelo Torres, the former gang member who ran Daley’s Hired Truck Program until a Sun-Times investigation in 2005 led to the shutdown of the $40 million-a-year program and the indictments of 49 people, including Torres. Forty-eight of them went to prison; the 49th died before going to trial.

While they were legislators and police officers, Acevedo and Munoz also found time for a side gig as lobbyists for Aurora Venegas, the owner of Azteca Supply Co., who went to federal prison for defrauding the city of Chicago and the village of Orland Park on government contracts. The legislator/cops had their own desks at Azteca’s offices when it was raided in 2008 by FBI agents — who never searched those two desks.

Azteca Supply Co., which became enmeshed in a fraud scandal involving government contracts, provided desk space for Edward Acevedo and Antonio Munoz. | Rich Hein / Sun-Times

Azteca Supply Co., which became enmeshed in a fraud scandal involving government contracts, provided desk space for Edward Acevedo and Antonio Munoz. | Rich Hein / Sun-Times

At her sentencing hearing five years ago, Venegas testified that she hired Acevedo and Munoz to find customers who would buy glow-in-the-dark paint from her company, but she said they never did.

The pair of police legislators have been subject to several internal affairs investigations, sometimes individually, sometimes together. Most of the cases ended up being closed without any disciplinary charges being filed against them.

Former state Rep. Edward “Eddie” Acevedo, D-Chicago.| Illinois House

Former state Rep. Edward “Eddie” Acevedo, D-Chicago.| Illinois House

Acevedo and Munoz joined the police department more than 20 years ago, but they each spent only slightly more than eight years working as cops. Each asked for, and received, repeated leaves of absence from the police department.

Acevedo got leaves totaling four years. His first leave came while he was under investigation over an allegation he assaulted a fellow officer at a downtown auto pound in August 2001. The case was wrapped up in 2007, with Acevedo getting a 15-day suspension for being intoxicated off-duty.

Acevedo got a two-day suspension in a separate case in 2007 after he led Hispanic lawmakers on a retreat to Miami where his brother, a state prison worker, got into a brawl at a South Beach bar. Acevedo had been on medical leave from the department and failed to obtain permission to leave the state, as he was required to do, records show.

Munoz got one leave of absence, but it was renewed annually for more than 10 years. While on leave from the Chicago Police Department, Munoz became an auxiliary deputy with the Kane County sheriff’s office, apparently an unpaid position that lasted for years.

State Sen. Antonio “Tony” Munoz. | Illinois Senate

State Sen. Antonio “Tony” Munoz. | Illinois Senate

In February 2015, Munoz decided to return to duty with the Chicago Police Department, but he was still facing firing for failing to disclose his FBI interviews a decade earlier. The senator filed for mediation and ended up accepting a 10-day suspension to close the case.

A year later, Munoz retired from the department and began collecting his police pension.

Munoz was about six months shy of 20 years since he’d joined the police department and had spent less than half of that time on active duty as a cop. Still, Donald O’Neill, who was then the police department’s human resources director, awarded Munoz a retirement star — a service award that’s supposed to go to officers with at least 20 years of service.

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