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Letter: Suspend pensions when lawmakers face charges

Published: Thursday, May 29, 2014 11:39 p.m. CDT

To the Editor:

When loopholes in current Illinois law allow an ex-state lawmaker who is currently facing federal criminal charges for the most repulsive crimes to not only collect taxpayer-funded pension checks, but also to buy a last-minute retirement sweetener for time he didn’t work, alarm bells should be going off around the state.

Believe it or not, it’s all legal in the Land of Lincoln. Currently in Illinois there are major gaps in the General Assembly Retirement System Article of the Pension Code that allow members who have been convicted of a work-related felony to continue to receive taxpayer-backed benefits while awaiting their sentence.

Despite facing child pornography charges including possessing child pornography involving a minor under age 12, receiving child pornography, and transporting child pornography, ex-state representative Keith Farnham still receives a taxpayer-funded pension check.

In Farnham’s case, after resigning from public office in March, he paid GARS for the remaining months of 2014 in order to count a full six years toward his legislative pension, thus boosting his annual retirement salary by about $2,000. That puts his net pension income at nearly $15,000 annually.

Unfortunately, as a former detective who has investigated hundreds of cases like this, the disgusting allegations against Farnham are not new to me. What is new to me is the ability for this person to boost his pension benefits after being charged with serious crimes.

This must change. As a state we can do better to stand up for taxpayers and strengthen the integrity of our state retirement systems.

To restore public trust in a clearly broken system, I have crafted a bill that would make it clear that when a person is charged with a work-related felony, that their pension benefits will be suspended until a verdict is rendered.

If the person is found not guilty, they will receive the sum of their benefits for the period that they were suspended. If the person is found guilty, their pension will remain suspended until final sentencing, at which point their pension is forfeited. In addition, if a member is charged with a work related felony, that member could not purchase future service credit unless they were found not guilty at trial.

These simple fixes found in House Bill 6276 would provide much-needed reform to the General Assembly Retirement System and will ensure that elected officials are not able to further game the system.

John Cabello

68th District State Representative

Machesney Park

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