High-ranking state official leaves job with 144 unused vacation days worth $137k

FOX 32 teamed up with watchdog group "Open the Books" to expose another high-ranking state official walking off the job with a six-figure payout. How did he get it? By cashing in un-used vacation days, lots of them. In fact, about 3 times what's allowed.

This payout comes after several other state employees recently left positions with payouts that have turned heads.

Last month, Michael Madigan’s former chief of staff Tim Mapes resigned with a big check.

Earlier this week, it was the president of Southern Illinois University leaving with a sweet deal.

And now, the former executive director for the “Illinois State Board of Investment” is joining that growing list.

“The people of Illinois are tired of surprises. We are tired of golden handshakes and these parachute retirement payments,” said Adam Andrzejewski, CEO of OpenTheBooks.com.

Andrzejewski and his team at OpenTheBooks.com started digging on this story back in May. They found William Atwood cut a special deal back in 2010 allowing him to keep his unused vacation days up until that point.

When he resigned last month, those days were valued at almost $137-thousand dollars and according to the comptroller's website, they'll be paid out by Friday, July 20.

All 144 days -- that’s three times what’s allowed by code.

“A regular, rank-in-file state worker, they get to cash out up to 50 unused vacation days,” said Andrzejewski said.

Ironic, he says, because the ISBI manages state employee retirement money and has moral obligations to the people whose money they manage.

“To do two things - to operate ethically and transparently,” Andrzejewski said.

But if there is a silver lining in all this, it turns out after "Open The Books" started asking questions, things changed.

They approved a new rule to stop this practice on a go-forward basis,” Andrzejewski said.

That should mean taxpayer dollars will stop going towards these special payouts, at least at the ISBI.

“In Illinois, no public employee should be entitled to leave with a six-figure parting gift,” Andrzejewski said.

The ISBI confirms the payout and tells FOX 32 that moving forward, all ISBI employees will be subject to the vacation accrual schedule set forth in the state personnel code.

“Upon his resignation as Executive Director of ISBI, Mr. Atwood received a payout for 144 unused vacation days accrued prior to 2010, based on actions taken in 2010 by a previous ISBI board. On July 9, 2018, the current ISBI board revised ISBI’s vacation policy to ensure that all ISBI employees are subject to the vacation accrual and forfeiture schedule set forth in the State Personnel Code,” the ISBI said in a statement.