County board members across Illinois are no longer eligible for government pensions under a new law that was pushed by State Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, after he found out that officials in his own backyard were abusing the state pension program.
Signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner Aug. 26, the legislation disqualifies future candidates elected to county boards from participating in the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (IMRF) and requires existing board members who are already enrolled and wish to remain in the system to keep detailed records of their hours spent as a county board member and be able to prove they work the minimum 1,000 hours required annually.
Franks -- in his ninth term as a state representative and chairman of the State Government Administration Committee -- was tipped off by a fellow lawmaker that government officials could be gaming the pension-application process.
Franks' investigation confirmed that board members in McHenry County, where he lives, were the most egregious violators of the pension program.
"What we had in McHenry County was 17 of our 24 county board members stating that they worked 1,000 hours, so I started an investigation into how many hours they actually worked by looking at the attendance of the meetings, how long the meetings ran," Franks said. "What I saw is that some people didn't even attend 90 hours of meetings a year, yet were getting full-time benefits," and one board official in particular "spends three months a year out-of-state during the wintertime due to health reasons.
"These folks were getting benefits they were not entitled to," Franks said. "They were doing it knowingly, they were doing it willfully and they were collusively doing it together," Franks said. "It was a totally corrupt practice. They were ripping off the taxpayers" at a cost of "multi-millions of dollars."