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A discussion at a recent Human Services Committee meeting touching on whether part-time elected officials should receive pension benefits from the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund may expand into questioning whether the Township Assessor qualifies for membership in IMRF.
At the March 7 Human Services Committee meeting, former Township Assessor Sharon Eckersall said during citizen comment that the present Township Assessor, Bonnie Wilson, is seeking IMRF benefits.
In order to qualify for IMRF benefits, an elected official of Evanston Township must hold a position that normally requires more than 600 hours of work per year. The Township’s trustees may determine by resolution what the normal annual hourly requirements of its elected officials are and find whether elected positions qualify for IMRF benefits.
Seventh Ward Alderman Jane Grover, who chairs the committee, asked Ms. Wilson whether she was seeking a resolution from the Township Trustees – the nine City aldermen and the mayor – approving her request to be eligible for pension benefits.
Ms. Wilson said she was already qualified for benefits.
Through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to IMRF, the RoundTable obtained a copy of a document signed by City Clerk Rodney Greene as Township Clerk, certifying that the City Council had passed a resolution on Jan. 11, 2010, finding that the Township Assessor (which would include Ms. Wilson) was qualified for membership in IMRF, as of Jan. 1, 2010.
Nothing on the City Council’s agenda for Jan. 11, 2010, indicates a resolution approving the Township Assessor for IMRF benefits would be considered at that meeting. Nor is there anything in the minutes of that meeting indicating the presence, let alone approval, of such a resolution.
Mr. Greene told the RoundTable that he did sign the document and that Ms. Wilson “brought it to me, stating that the IMRF board stated her to be qualified. He said Ms. Wilson “jumped the gun” and added that after he signed the document, “I called her because there is no document” indicating that City Council or the Township trustees approved the resolution. He added that one of the City attorneys, who has since left the City, was supposed to prepare a document – possibly the resolution for the trustees – “but he never got around to doing it. The document is supposed to be generated by the Township,” Mr. Greene said.
Ms. Wilson told the RoundTable that she disputes Mr. Greene’s recollection but does not know how the IMRF resolution came to be signed and filed with IMRF. “I never told him to sign anything,” she said, adding that that is not the kind of thing she would do. She said she had applied to IMRF and was told that she was qualified to receive benefits, that she “dropped out” shortly afterward but later “decided to stay in the program.”
The RoundTable asked several aldermen whether they recalled approving a resolution qualifying the Township Assessor for IMRF benefits. None has responded in the affirmative, and two said they relied on minutes of meetings to reflect accurately what occurred at these meetings.
The RoundTable submitted an FOIA request to the City Clerk, who is the keeper of Township records, asking for a copy of any resolution approving the Township Assessor for IMRF benefits. On the day the response to the FOIA was due, the Clerk’s office notified the RoundTable that additional time was needed to research the matter.