'No big red flag' on St. Clair County pension review says IMRF

By Steve Korris | Jul 25, 2013

BELLEVILLE – St. Clair County administrators asked months ago for a pension review, according to three persons with roles in the review.

BELLEVILLE – St. Clair County administrators asked months ago for a pension review, according to three persons with roles in the review.

Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund spokesperson Linda Horrell said St. Clair County asked for an employer audit and a compliance review. An auditor will perform the employer audit at the courthouse in October, according to Horrell.

She said there is “no big red flag around the county” as suggested in a media report stating the IMRF would investigate the county’s retirement benefits.

“There is always confusion over who is in and who is out, and an attorney is often the subject,” she said.

Horrell also said the IMRF tries to do 100 employer audits in a year.

She said the fund concentrates on larger government units so it can cover 20 percent of the members each year.

The IMRF scheduled St. Clair County this year at the county’s request, she said.

IMRF covers non-full timers

Illinois local governments deduct pension contributions not only from full time workers but also from those working more than 600 or 1,000 hours, depending on local option.

County administrator Dan Maher says St. Clair County deducts contributions for those working more than 600 hours “because it’s easy to know when you’re going over.”

He said he knew all about the review which will be conducted by a regional representative of the IMRF.

“What triggered this was our regional representative from IMRF was retiring and we had a transition in the human resources office,” Maher said.

He said the retirement fund deducts 1.66 percent up to 15 years, and two percent from 15 to 40 years.

“It takes eight years to vest, and many never make it,” he said. “It’s not going to cost the county a lot of money in any case.

“If they decide someone doesn’t belong, they will refund the employee contributions and the county’s contributions go back into the pot.”

Maher said there is “always an issue with part time legal help.” He said that “some years they do and some years they don’t” work more than 600 hours.

“You don’t clock them in and out,” he said. “They’re professionals.”

John O’Gara heads the county Public Defender office.

He said criticism of IMRF contributions for contracted attorneys is “a silly thing.”

“Say you make four thousand a year for eight years,” he said. “Your pension would be what, a hundred a year?

“It’s nothing.”

He said that a lot of the younger lawyers don’t want the contribution withheld.

“They ask me about it and my answer is, I can’t control it,” O’Gara said.

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