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Cahokia police pension trustees will take up Watson pay spike in October meeting

Madison County Record

Friday, September 14, 2018  |  Article  |  By Record News

Local Government (60) , Metro East (65) , Pensions (70)
CAHOKIA – Police pension trustees plan to investigate the calculation of benefits for former chief Rick Watson, current sheriff of St. Clair County.

His salary was raised from $95,163.60 to $127,462.40 in his last 35 days as chief, in 2011. 

“We will get to the bottom of this,” trustee Francella Jackson said at a special meeting on Sept. 12.  

Trustees set it on the agenda of the next regular meeting on Oct. 17. 

Watson, who served on the board as trustee while chief and has remained on it while sheriff, said nothing at the meeting. 

Benefits for Illinois police depend on salary at the last day, rather than salary over years like most government employees. 

Watson, qualifying for a 75 percent pension, would have received $71,732.70 in his first year without the raise. 

Instead he received $95,596.80, a few dollars more than his salary before the raise. 

He’ll receive $117,502.04 this year in pension benefits and $121,110.20 next year, as beneficiaries receive annual 3 percent increases. 

His salary as sheriff is $98,776, bringing his total annual compensation to $216,278. 

The special meeting called on Wednesday was not to discuss Watson’s pension but to grind through a state test about fiduciary duties.  

First they invited public comment. 

Donna Ayres, candidate for mayor, said crime is out of control and there isn’t enough money to stop it. 

She said Watson made decisions on the pension board that cost taxpayers a lot of money.   

She said the village should name who approved Watson’s last minute pay hike, or say that no one else did. 

She said the village should be paid back with interest. 

She said he should resign as trustee. 

“I hope this all ends up in court,” Ayres said. 

Trustees didn’t respond. 

Mayor Curtis McCall, from the back of the room, said, “I’m very pleased with the job you guys are doing with the pension board.” 

He thanked Watson and said the board was doing an outstanding job. 

“Keep up the good work,” he said, and he left. 

In other action, trustees accepted a resignation letter from recording secretary Nancy Koehler, Watson’s secretary as chief and sheriff. 

“I feel at this point in time my work is unappreciated to some of the board members therefore it is time to move on,” her letter states. 

“It has been an honor to hold this position and I want to thank the board for the opportunity.” 

They hired Sarah Craig effective immediately at $750 a month.