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Village ex-official to be charged with inflating salary to $472,000

By Joseph Ryan and Joe Mahr, Chicago Tribune –

CHICAGO — Two years ago, Roy McCampbell said in a Chicago Tribune investigation that he earned every penny of his $472,000 salary by holding ten different village positions.

Now he faces indictment.

The former Bellwood, Ill., village administrator, McCampbell, 57, of Schiller Park, Ill., faces eight felony counts of theft and four felony counts of official misconduct, according to court records.

The grand jury indictment accuses him of stealing in excess of $500,000 from the west suburban village, in part by manipulating his employment contracts and deceiving the village board about them.

A spokeswoman for Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez said her office would not elaborate on the charges until next week’s scheduled arraignment.

McCampbell’s attorney, Craig Tobin, said his client has done nothing wrong and instead has been made a political scapegoat by leaders of the struggling inner-ring suburb.

A 2010 Tribune investigation revealed that McCampbell had been paid $472,255 in 2009 for holding 10 job titles in the town of 20,000 — from mayoral assistant to public safety CEO — and from cashing out a generous allowance of unused sick and vacation time.

When McCampbell retired early the next year, the pay spike inflated his annual pension to roughly a quarter-million dollars — then the highest of any retiree in the statewide pension system that serves municipal workers outside Chicago.

Bellwood officials said at the time that they didn’t know McCampbell was making so much money and that they turned over records from their own probe to Alvarez’s office. The village filed a civil lawsuit against McCampbell late last year, accusing him of fraud.

McCampbell told the Tribune in 2010 that village officials signed off on all of his pay: “I didn’t hold a gun to anybody’s head to get this.”

He said he worked for his big paycheck — the capstone of a lengthy government career that stretched from being a teenage public works employee to a political player in the near west suburbs.

(EDITORS: BEGIN OPTIONAL TRIM)

While little known outside government circles, McCampbell was at the forefront of the push to bring red-light cameras to the suburbs, once touting that Bellwood’s first camera made so much money it was like a “casino type of operation.”

A licensed attorney, McCampbell cut his teeth in management posts at Schiller Park and Franklin Park, Ill. In the mid-1990s, he served as a Leyden Township, Ill., trustee and headed business services at Triton College in River Grove, Ill.

In his resume provided to Bellwood, McCampbell touted his work with law enforcement, including once being named by the state’s attorney to an environmental task force, and said — in past jobs — he also “directed the news media to focus on issues away from the entity’s negative experience.”

(END OPTIONAL TRIM)

But actions in his last position would be dogged by negative perceptions that led to embarrassing headlines over costly development gambles, the civil lawsuit accusing him of fraud and now a grand jury indictment alleging Class X felonies punishable by up to 30 years in prison.

Once the state OK’d red-light cameras in Chicago, McCampbell and other Bellwood officials began pushing for the state to allow suburbs to install them, which the state General Assembly did in 2006.

Bellwood quickly installed one at an intersection that leads to an entrance ramp for the Eisenhower Expressway. McCampbell then boasted at an Illinois Municipal League seminar that the camera’s fines raised $60,000 to $70,000 a month, calling the take a “guaranteed amount of money” and fueling complaints that the cameras were merely meant to shake down motorists.

By then, McCampbell’s pay had skyrocketed in the village. In 2002, he made $144,000, roughly in the range of what many suburban village managers made. But his compensation soared by 2009 as he added new job titles and stipends that came from the titles: public safety CEO, finance director, budget director, human resource director, mayoral assistant, property commission director and development corporation chief administrative officer.

His contracts ensured he was given a car and gas paid for by taxpayers, who also covered his pension contributions and premiums for health and life insurance.

The sparse grand jury indictment, filed Aug. 9, accuses McCampbell of creating a “false impression” to the village board by verbally misstating the salary increases in his contracts.

That mirrors allegations McCampbell faces in the village’s lengthy civil lawsuit, which accuses him of secretly inflating his salary while ruining the village’s finances.

Court records show McCampbell was not arrested and is set to appear in court Aug. 21. In the meantime, as a government retiree, he is set to collect about $237,000 in pension payments this year, although his pension could be slashed if he is convicted of a crime related to his work in Bellwood.

McCampbell’s attorney accused Alvarez of being “politically motivated” in charging his client in an effort to advance Bellwood’s civil lawsuit against his client.

“We have no doubts that when the facts come out he will be vindicated,” Tobin said. “He was a good and faithful public servant.”

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