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State Rep. Jack Franks bill closing police, fire double-dipping loophole clears Illinois House

H.B. 1334 forbid retirees from working full-time government jobs while drawing pension

A bill that would forbid retired public safety workers from working full-time local government jobs while continuing to draw their pensions cleared the Illinois House.

House Bill 1334, filed by Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, would freeze pension payments to police officers and firefighters who work full-time for any other state or local government job that comes with a pension. Franks said it is unfair to ask taxpayers to shoulder two salaries.

The employee’s pension under the proposed law would continue once he or she leaves the post-retirement job.

“It’s insidious, and it’s an outrage. Retirement means retirement, and that’s what my bill does,” Franks said.

The bill passed the House on a 105-2 vote on Thursday and is now in the Senate. It will take effect next year if signed into law.

Franks filed the bill in response to a number of instances over the years, some of them local, in which retiring police officials were able to double-dip even as municipal and state governments struggle with ever-increasing pension liabilities.

Former Lake in the Hills Police Chief Jim Wales retired in 2004, but the village board created the civilian role of director of public safety for him, which allowed him to collect both a full-time salary and his police pension. Village leaders defended the combined income as a reward for Wales’ long and distinguished service. Wales retired from the civilian position in 2014.

Former Barrington Police Chief Jeff Lawler retired in 2009, accepting a 6 percent salary boost as an incentive. The village board subsequently hired Lawler as village manager – what’s more, Barrington subsequently joined a municipal lobbying coalition seeking pension reforms. Lawler made $147,212 as village administrator last year, and received a $109,108 police pension in 2013, according to records.

Similar situations in recent years have occurred in Danville, Chicago Heights, Hinsdale, Franklin Park and elsewhere. And although Franks’ bill specifically targets public-safety employees, the practice occurs in other units of Illinois government as well.

The Rockford Park District was poised last year to accept the retirement of Executive Director Tim Dimke, then hire him as a full-time consultant to fill the same role. But the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund denied Dimke’s pension request, concluding that he wasn’t truly retiring. Dimke scrapped his retirement plans and continues to work as the district’s director.

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