Naperville Police Chief Robert Marshall finds himself in the middle of a pension dispute that is likely to trigger a legal debate early next week.
The city's five-member police pension board will decide Tuesday whether Marshall will be allowed to continue receiving pension payouts from his 28 years as a police officer. The question hinges on whether those payouts, which began when he retired from the force in 2005, should have continued when he was named chief last spring.
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When he retired from the police department, Marshall immediately joined the city's administrative ranks as assistant city manager, a position he held until being sworn in as chief on May 18.
He currently is paid $151,000 a year while also collecting his pension from the police department. His police pension has totaled roughly $50,000 since May 18.
His municipal pension from his seven years as assistant city manager is held in the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund.
The state's Department of Insurance has taken the position that Marshall is once again a police officer and his pension payouts must cease until he retires as chief. The city's police pension board must decide whether Marshall has, in fact, technically returned to the police force or holds a city administrative post.
Officials from the department of insurance declined to speak about the case but issued a written statement Friday afternoon.
"The position of the Department of Insurance is that Chief Marshall has re-entered active service as contemplated in section 3-124.1 of the Illinois Pension Code because he is a policeman within the definition of the Illinois Municipal Code," the statement read. "The department has moved to intervene in the Naperville Police Pension Board hearing set for Oct. 30 and the department has filed a brief in support of its position that Chief Marshall has re-entered active service."
If the pension board agrees, Marshall would stop receiving payouts from his police pension.
Marshall's attorney, Thomas Radja, said such a decision would violate Marshall's constitutional rights. He argues that under the code, Marshall was given a choice to re-enter the police pension fund or join IMRF. Marshall chose IMRF, which would include his seven years of credit as being assistant city manager.
"Chief Marshall is collecting his retirement pension that he earned during (his) years of service. I think taking that away would be a violation of his constitutional rights that state his pension can't be diminished," Radja said. "He is legally entitled to earn a living and keep collecting the benefits he has earned."
Radja said Marshall also received notice from the IMRF stating he is not eligible to earn credits in that program, either, now that he has returned to the force.
"I don't know what logic they used in coming to that decision," Radja said.
City Manager Doug Krieger said the issue has been hanging over the city's head since the state department's decision was rendered in August. Krieger said he believes if Marshall were to retire within the next 10 years, those years of service would be credited to his IMRF pension. He said he's thankful the city's pension board has stepped in to resolve the issue.
"It's not a normal proceeding. The issue comes down to a legal question and how the pension code is interpreted. As it stands right now, he is not earning credit with any state pension," Krieger said. "I personally am looking forward to the ultimate solution surrounding this issue and I'm hopeful for clarification of the statute and resolution if the matter."
The five-person board includes two members appointed by the city council, two active police personnel and one current beneficiary of the Police Pension Fund.
The board meets quarterly at the police department to manage the assets of the fund, accept members into the fund and approve regular and disability pensions.