IMRF: Simple resolution could end pensions for elected DuPage forest officials

Updated 3/22/2017 6:12 PM

DuPage County Forest Preserve District commissioners can immediately eliminate their taxpayer-funded pensions if they simply pass a resolution saying they're doing less than 1,000 hours of work each year.

But it appears unlikely most commissioners would support that declaration after years of asserting their $50,000-a-year positions are more than just part-time jobs.


"I spend a ton of time," Commissioner Jeff Redick said Wednesday. "I put in more than (1,000 hours a year)."

On Tuesday, commissioners directed forest preserve staff members to look into ending the participation of board members and the board president in the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund.

According to the resolution, the board "desires to remove the seven elected board positions from IMRF program eligibility, both for current and all future position holders."

Staff members will "research available options to cease participation in the IMRF plan, including the immediate removal for service credit and financial contributions, for the seven elected board member positions."

IMRF officials, however, say the only way the board can immediately kill the benefit is by passing a resolution saying commissioners and the president no longer meet the hourly standard.

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Commissioners aren't required to enroll in IMRF, but once they do, they can't withdraw unless they leave office.

To qualify for the retirement benefit, commissioners and the president must perform at least 1,000 hours of district-related work each year.

Commissioner Mary Lou Wehrli, who didn't sign up for the pension, said she doesn't believe any of the district's elected jobs require 1,000 hours to perform.

"Even if it did, it's still a public service," Wehrli said. "Any elected official, in my mind, should be running to serve the mission and the people -- not to get the salary and benefits."

Forest preserve commissioners are paid $50,000 a year; the president is paid $75,000.

The elected officials also are eligible to receive medical and dental insurance through the district.


Commissioner Tim Whelan is questioning whether it's a good idea to end the practice of offering pensions. He said the pension is an incentive for commissioners "to put in the time to benefit the taxpayers."

Whelan is one of five commissioners enrolled in IMRF. The others are Redick, Marsha Murphy, Linda Painter and Al Murphy.

Redick, Painter and Marsha Murphy already are eligible for an IMRF pension -- and will receive it regardless of whether the district does away with the perk. Whelan and Al Murphy are not yet vested.

Forest preserve President Joe Cantore withdrew from IMRF when he became president in December 2014 but will receive a pension from his years as a commissioner, according to IMRF.

If commissioners don't vote on the 1,000-hour requirement to end their pensions, they will need to vote to keep them.

Nisa Neely, a spokeswoman for IMRF, said all governing bodies with elected officials in the plan must recertify by Sept. 1 that the positions meet the hourly standard.

"If any governing body does not act on this requirement," Neely said, "its elected positions will no longer be able to participate in IMRF as of that date."

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