Editorial: Simple time card could verify pension eligibility

  • Joe Vallez works as an executive at four suburban park districts and is eligible for a public pension from three of them.

    Joe Vallez works as an executive at four suburban park districts and is eligible for a public pension from three of them. Marie Wilson | Staff Photographer

 
The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Posted8/17/2017 1:00 AM

It takes a hard worker to be on the job more than 11 hours a day, seven days a week, every week of the year.

Joe Vallez is that guy, affidavits from boards of three suburban park districts say. The North Berwyn, Marengo and Justice park boards recently certified that Vallez works at least 1,000 hours a year as their executive, making him eligible for a public pension from each of the jobs. North Berwyn went further, saying its agreement with Vallez is for 40 hours a week, or about 2,000 hours.

 

That's where the 11 hours a day comes from, and that isn't counting Vallez' fourth job, with the Bensenville Park District, which is not eligible for a pension.

Being skeptical, Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund administrators sought documentation of Vallez's work hours, but settled for affidavits from the three park districts after sternly warning the boards about potential liability and potential criminal charges if they "knowingly make a false statement to a pension fund."

Why not go a step further? The magic 1,000 hours of work that makes a person eligible for a taxpayer-supported pension has been controversial in numerous instances, with even elected officials across the suburbs frequently asserting they qualify. That 1,000 hours works out to at least 19.2 hours spent on public business every week of the year.

Why not demand participants in public pension systems document their hours worked and supply the information to the pension administrators?

It seems like a small step. Most other employees in the United States punch a time clock, fill out a time sheet, track billable hours or otherwise keep a record of work time.

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Even given Vallez' rave reviews from park districts that hire him, why wouldn't those employers want to know how much of the time he is on the job for them?

The hours are "irrelevant," Rich Johnson, president of the Bensenville Park Board, told our writer Jake Griffin. "He's getting the work done and the job that we tasked him to do is getting done."

We disagree. It's fine to focus on results rather than desk time, but for jobs that pay $109,478 (North Berwyn), $72,000 (Bensenville), $36,919 (Justice) and $32,294 (Marengo), employers should have a handle on time spent on work.

IMRF should insist on such verification, and, if any question remains, records of work done or contacts made during those hours, as well. It's the least taxpayers should get in exchange for footing the bill for a lifelong pension.

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