Metro-East News

Prenzler: Did county fudge board members’ hours for pensions?

Madison County Board Chairman Alan Dunstan, left, and Treasurer Kurt Prenzler.
Madison County Board Chairman Alan Dunstan, left, and Treasurer Kurt Prenzler.

The Republican candidate for Madison County Board chairman is criticizing the move to opt out of the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund, stating that it should have happened three years ago.

County Treasurer Kurt Prenzler is criticizing the county’s response to an IMRF audit in December 2013. In that audit, IMRF officials requested confirmation that the County Board members had met the standard hourly requirements to participate in IMRF.

At that time, board members were not required to keep personal logs of their hours of service, but were required to serve a minimum of 600 hours per year — or roughly 12 hours per week of a 50-week year — in order to qualify for participation in the state retirement fund.

At the time, County Administrator Joe Parente submitted an estimation of each board members’ work time as approximately 788 hours per year: 300 hours for meetings, 240 hours for constituent services, 96 hours of reviewing financial documents and reports, 80 hours of other duties such as site visits and serving on special boards and commissions, and 72 hours meeting or speaking with other taxing bodies. He said all board members continued to meet the hourly standard.

Prenzler obtained the county’s response through a Freedom of Information Act request to IMRF. He said he does not believe that response was sufficient.

“I couldn’t believe what I saw after getting the FOIA and seeing the county’s response,” Prenzler said. “It looks like the chairman’s office just ‘made it up’ to save pensions for part-time elected officials.”

It looks like the chairman’s office just ‘made it up’ to save pensions for part-time elected officials.

Kurt Prenzler, Madison County treasurer

Prenzler said the IMRF audit required the county do one of three things: Provide documentation that board members were working 600 hours per year, or have board members sign a certification that they had worked at least that many hours, or withdraw from IMRF.

Parente said the county’s response was based on a survey of estimated board time spent conducting county business. A detailed monthly record by each board member was not required at the time, he said, and their estimation was accepted by IMRF.

“A survey of tasks board members regularly perform was compiled and it was determined that county board members met the 600-hour standard,” he said. “We were later notified by IMRF after completion of their audit that the audit file had been closed.”

At the moment, 19 of 29 board members participate in IMRF, both Democrats and Republicans.

A survey of tasks board members regularly perform was compiled and it was determined that county board members met the 600-hour standard. We were later notified by IMRF after completion of their audit that the audit file had been closed.

Joe Parente, Madison County administrator

A new law signed last month by Gov. Bruce Rauner now requires specific time logs for any current member of a county board to participate in IMRF, and forbids enrollment by future board members. Meanwhile, Madison County Board Chairman Alan Dunstan has called for all Madison County Board members to withdraw from IMRF, which will be voted on later this month. It is estimated the cost savings will be about $32,000 in county contributions.

“The Democratic and Republican members of the Madison County Board work very hard and put in a significant number of hours on behalf of their constituents,” Dunstan said. “Importantly, the members of the Madison County Board do not serve because of the retirement fund, they serve to help the people of our county and to make Madison County the best-managed county in the state, which I believe it is. I don’t think there will be a single board member who will oppose ending participation in IMRF.”

Madison County Board members are paid approximately $14,495 a year for their work. As of 2015, external audits have indicated that Madison County’s IMRF plan is in strong financial condition and funded at 95 percent.

Elizabeth Donald: 618-239-2507, @BNDedonald

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