A speaker during citizen comment at the March 7 Human Services Committee meeting has touched off what could be a fierce debate about which – if any – part-time elected officials should receive pension benefits through the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund.

Sharon Eckersall, former Township Assessor, said during public comment that the present Township Assessor, Bonnie Wilson, was expecting IMRF benefits, so the City Council members should consider applying for such benefits as well. “Fair’s fair,” she said.

How part-time elected officials qualify for IMRF benefits and the process itself seemed unclear at the meeting. The aldermen on the committee asked Assistant Corporation Counsel Tom Anger whether City Council – whose members serve as Township trustees – needed to approve a resolution endorsing Ms. Wilson’s request for IMRF benefits. They also asked him to investigate whether – and if so, how – aldermen and perhaps the mayor could receive IMRF benefits.

Ms. Wilson informed the committee that she had been “accepted” for pension benefits by IMRF and so there was no need for Council (or trustees) to approve a resolution.

Ms. Eckersall said she had been denied receiving IMRF benefits when she was Township Assessor. The Township Assessor’s position is elected and is part-time. The present salary is $8,000 per year.

According to the IMRF, persons may who work more than 600 hours per year may qualify for pension benefits. While the Township Assessor’s annual salary is $8,000 per year, no hours are specified.

The RoundTable has filed a Freedom of Information Act request with IMRF, concerning information about which part-time elected officials in Evanston receive IMRF benefits, how they were approved for those benefits.