Local Editorials

Our View: Time to scrap County Board pensions

We listened with interest last week as Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund Director Louis Kosiba and state Rep. Jack Franks questioned whether McHenry County Board members work enough hours to qualify for IMRF pensions per the board’s own 1,000-hour-a-year requirement.

But after hearing the explanation, we were left with a simpler question: Why are elected, part-time County Board members eligible for pensions at all?

We support an IMRF probe into the dubious claim made in sworn affidavits that all 18 McHenry County Board members who take the IMRF pension work the required 1,000 hours, the equivalent of 20 hours a week. Some might work that much; others likely don’t.

There are criteria for what is considered work. One’s deep thoughts on county matters, campaigning or arguing on blogs don’t count for actual work, according to IMRF officials or any reasonable citizen.

Franks has requested that McHenry County State’s Attorney Louis Bianchi appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the claims made in the affidavits. Franks certainly has had his issues with the County Board, but a criminal investigation would be too expensive and have little chance of success. How does an investigator determine whether 18 different people worked 20 hours a week for 50 weeks a year going back years?

It wouldn’t be surprising if the cost of a special prosecutor outweighs the taxpayer cost of paying into IMRF pensions for part-time, elected officials.

What we’d rather see is that County Board members going forward forgo IMRF pensions, as six McHenry County Board members and most county board members across the state already have.

If they won’t, McHenry County should set the bar even higher and require a larger burden than 1,000 hours and require any IMRF recipients to document their work.

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