Happy Sunshine Week, when we celebrate “access to public information and what it means for you and your community.”
Often what that means is hounding the public officials as Kie Zelms did for two years until she was able to prove O’Fallon City Council members illegally held a secret meeting to discuss privatizing city water and sewer service.
Or it means an Illinois Freedom of Information Act request turning into an eight-month legal battle costing $14,000 to prove Collinsville City Councilwoman Cheryl Brombolich used city accounts and credit cards for 20 personal purchases.
By comparison, this one was easy. We only had to hound the St. Clair County Board via e-mail and wait 73 days — state law calls for a response within five working days — to find out which County Board members are willing to track their hours to qualify for a pension perk.
In 2015 there were 27 board members participating in the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund. That cost taxpayers $194,903.
Last year state law changed to require all elected county officials to prove they worked a minimum of 600 hours a year. Starting in September they were required to submit detailed timesheets every pay period.
Madison County decided to end participation in IMRF. They will save $32,000 a year.
St. Clair County? Only 10 are still in the plan, with most of the rest starting to collect the retirement pay or terminating participation rather than agreeing to track their hours.
Robert Allen Jr., Fred Boch, Sandra June Chartrand, Roy Mosley Jr., Michael O’Donnell, Robert Trentman and John West all submitted time sheets, most showing about 40 hours a month. West kept track by the minute, tallying 129 hours and 9 minutes in January
Joan McIntosh and Nick Miller are still in the plan. Neither has submitted a single timesheet.
Carol Clark is still in but submitted just one timesheet in September. It is mainly dots and zeros, with the actual hours and how she spent the time anyone’s guess.
Total savings to taxpayers? Good question.
The 10 still in the plan will cost taxpayers $19,777 this year. The cost for the 10 who took retirement status depends on the shortfall between contributions and what they will draw in benefits.
But none of them should be costing taxpayers a dime for anything but their roughly $19,000 in annual salary. They held day jobs. They don’t need this costly little benefit, or the health insurance that costs taxpayers more than $300,000 a year.
Part-time workers at the burger stand and discount store don’t enjoy retirement or health benefits, but they are taxed so these part-time politicians can enjoy a little something extra.
So here’s hoping the sanitizing power of sunshine embarrasses a few more of them into quitting the system. Put a little public light on the subject and maybe politicians become the taxpayer’s friend — or scurry to another dark corner.