An Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund investigation into McHenry County Board members' pension eligibility was determined to be inconclusive.
IMRF Executive Director Louis Kosiba said the retirement fund found it too difficult to prove whether board members were expected to work the annual 1,000 hours required to participate in the program.
The investigation began earlier this year after state Rep. Jack Franks, a Marengo Democrat, questioned whether the 18 board members enrolled in IMRF were putting enough time into their county positions.
Kosiba asked them to submit records proving they were meeting qualifications. With the amount of time board members spend preparing for meetings or conducting county business outside the office, he said, there wasn't enough evidence to suggest otherwise.
"We had to weigh all of that, and we came to the conclusion that it would be difficult to prove a negative," Kosiba said.
McHenry County Board chairman Joe Gottemoller declined to comment on the investigation Wednesday, saying he had not yet been informed of its findings.
The county board had already voted amid the investigation to end its IMRF participation altogether, effective Dec. 1.
"We had been asked to retroactively reconstruct time going back two years, which was an impossible thing to do," District 3 board member Michael Walkup said. "Rather than get into all that ... we decided to pull the plug on the whole thing."
Walkup, a Crystal Lake Republican, will face Franks this November in the race for board chairman.
Before a new law signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner last week, county board members' requirements for IMRF participation statewide were somewhat ambiguous, Kosiba said. Rather than tracking their hours, he said, board members' eligibility was based on the expectation of time spent in their county positions.
The new law, spearheaded by Franks and sponsored by state Sen. Pamela Althoff, a McHenry Republican, prohibits new county board members from receiving pension benefits at all.
It also requires current board members enrolled in IMRF to submit monthly time sheets documenting their hours. Anyone who fails to do so will be immediately removed from the program, Kosiba said.
"There has been a major shift in perspective here," he said. "First of all, it's transparency. Secondly, from an administrator's standpoint, it provides important guidance and clarifies an area that was obscure in the past."
Though Franks said the pension reform was inspired by his inquiry into McHenry County Board members, the new regulations will apply to them only until they leave the program in December.
"The whole thing is just a witch hunt by Jack Franks to bolster his election campaign," Walkup said, noting the pensions board members received were minimal.
Franks argued the new law improves transparency and reduces government spending statewide. "We needed to end this corrupt practice and hold elected officials accountable to protect our taxpayers," he said.