Fox Lake officials will have a voice in Gliniewicz pension hearings
Fox Lake village officials will have a voice when an independent panel determines how much Melodie Gliniewicz should receive from her deceased husband's pension.
The Fox Lake police pension board voted unanimously Wednesday to allow village officials to present evidence and arguments when it convenes to decide how much Melodie Gliniewicz should receive from the pension of Lt. Joe Gliniewicz. Melodie Gliniewicz's attorney, Brian Smith, argued against the move, saying the village is not allowed to be part of the proceedings.
The discussion is likely to be controversial -- Joe Gliniewicz took his own life Sept. 1 to cover up an embezzlement of funds from the Fox Lake Police Explorer Post 300, and authorities have charged Melodie Gliniewicz, 51, with conspiracy, misuse of charitable funds and money laundering for assisting her husband in the embezzlement scheme.
Village officials were asked to create a witness list and turn over documents within two weeks. A hearing date on the pension would be set at a later time.
"Obviously, this is the outcome we wanted," Village Administrator Anne Marrin said. "We wanted a seat at the table in order to represent the taxpayers in these proceedings."
The decision on how much pension money to award Gliniewicz's family rests with the police pension board. The five-member panel administers pension funds for the village's 27 officers and 10 others retired or on disability.
Normally, village officials are not allowed to be part of the proceedings. However, pension board officials can allow village officials to intervene in unique situations.
Village officials have not previously said they want to block Gliniewicz's pension. However, attorney Yvette Heintzelman struck a more aggressive tone Wednesday in arguing Fox Lake should have a voice in the process.
"A co-conspirator should not benefit from the conduct," Heintzelman said. "It's the pension board's duty to make sure it only rewards money to those deserving of it."
Joe Gliniewicz was found dead by police officers at the edge of a swamp near an abandoned cement factory at the east end of Honing Road. Initially, members of the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force investigated the death as a homicide, but the task force announced in November that Gliniewicz had killed himself to cover up financial embezzlement.
Attorneys for Melodie Gliniewicz have denied any wrongdoing, and she has pleaded not guilty to the felony charges in court.
Surviving spouses of Illinois police officers killed in the line of duty are eligible for 100 percent of the officer's salary at the time of death. Families of active officers whose deaths are not considered "line of duty" get less -- spouses receive at least 50 percent of the officer's salary and up to 75 percent.
In Gliniewicz's case, as he died at age 52 with 30 years of police service, his wife would be eligible to receive 75 percent.
The only factor that takes away a police officer's right to a pension is conviction for a job-related felony, pension experts have said. However, Gliniewicz wasn't convicted of crimes, so there may be no loss of rights.
The Gliniewicz pension discussions are ready to begin at the same time State Sen. Pam Althoff, a McHenry Republican, is working to introduce legislation to prevent someone from collecting survivor pension benefits if convicted of a felony connected to a spouse's official duties.
Althoff said Fox Lake officials brought the idea to her because it would be inappropriate for taxpayer dollars be provided to her as a pension.