Triple-dipping Illinois fire chief collects $260K per year from taxpayers, but isn't allowed to fight fires
Taking a job as interim fire chief at Byron might jeopardize a disability pension Rick Kolomay receives from the Carol Stream Fire Protection District.
An attorney representing Carol Stream's pension board told DuPage Policy Journal the status of Kolomay's pension was being re-evaluated after he was hired in January by the Byron Fire Protection District.
“Without disclosing too much of the ongoing investigation … it appears that he has been hired by Byron as a contract employee to perform on a temporary basis only administrative functions,” Cary Collins of Collins & Radja, wrote in an email. "Kolomay's disability under the current case law is due to his physical limitations which prevent him from the unrestricted ability to perform the duties of a firefighter. The board under the statute would need to have him examined by a physician who finds Kolomay's fit to perform the unrestricted duties of a firefighter to terminate his disability benefit. Presently the investigation is ongoing.”
Kolomay said that the Byron FPD looked into him working for the fire department while on a disability pension.
“As long as I don’t get involved in actual firefighting and I am strictly a consultant, it’s OK,” Kolomay said. “At an actual fire, I have to be an observer.”
The Byron contract pays Kolomay $10,000 a month and includes the use of a car. It continues until Byron hires a full-time chief. Interviews for the job, which will pay between $95,000 and $115,000 a year, are scheduled to begin in mid-June.
Besides the nonduty disability pension from Carol Stream at just over $70,000 a year, Kolomay receives $68,000 a year, an amount he splits with his ex-wife, from the Village of Schaumburg Fire Department. In total, Kolomay has 37 years of service as a firefighter, 22 of those with Schaumburg.
If he’s cleared by Carol Stream, Kolomay can continue receiving both pensions and the monthly payments from Byron, a government watchdog group said.
“While nothing in Illinois law precludes this arrangement, we believe most taxpayers don't think it's fair for public workers to earn both a pension and separate compensation for public work,” Madeline Doubek, Policy & Civic Engagement director for the Better Government Association, said.
A similar incident concerning a retired police chief in Naperville led to legislation signed last spring by Gov. Bruce Rauner that prohibits police in Illinois from double-dipping. Under the new law, retired police officers who return to work in law enforcement would enroll in a 401(k)-style plan instead of being eligible for a second pension.
“While that legislation was confined to law enforcement, both Rep. (Grant) Wehrli (R-Naperville), the sponsor of the bill, and the governor has suggested that it could be a model for helping to address this issue in other areas,” Jay Young, acting executive director of Common Cause Illinois, wrote in an email.
The Carol Stream firefighters pension fund is already under fiscal duress, according to a recent analysis by DuPage Policy Journal, and might have to be rescued by taxpayers.