Better when we leave off the gravy

June 18, 2013 

Belleville taxpayers won a reprieve Monday night when the City Council approved a contract for the city attorneys minus a special benefits clause.

The clause -- inserted by city attorney Garrett Hoerner -- would have given him and assistant city attorney Brian Flynn the same benefits as other appointed city officials or else the "monetary equivalent." Part-time officials shouldn't receive full-time benefits. That's particularly true of these attorneys, who have their own private law firms and Belleville is but one of their clients.

That's why the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund ruled they don't qualify for a pension, and why the City Council was right to remove the clause. If the attorneys don't qualify for a pension -- or don't want medical insurance because they already have taxpayer-provided coverage through another government job -- Belleville taxpayers shouldn't be expected to pay them in lieu of the benefits.

A year or so ago, this debate wouldn't have even taken place; IMRF only recently started giving more critical looks at new pension applicants, and Belleville leadership is now more politically diverse. Fortunately newly elected City Clerk Dallas Cook, a political independent, called this issue to the public's attention and argued against the benefits clause.

The taxpayers have not heard the end of this; Hoerner has said he will fight to get the IMRF to approve the pensions. We urge Belleville leaders to fight against this gravy.

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