Like it or not, crooked lawmakers earned their pensions

Pensions are nothing but deferred compensation. Even a crooked officeholder rendered some service to the voters.

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Then-Illinois Rep. Edward Acevedo, D-Chicago, shown at the state Capitol in March 2013, pleaded guilty to federal tax evasion and last year was drawing his state pension while serving time in a federal prison.

Then-Illinois Rep. Edward Acevedo, D-Chicago, shown at the state Capitol in March 2013, pleaded guilty to federal tax evasion and last year was drawing his state pension while serving time in a federal prison.

Seth Perlman/Associated Press

In a story in Monday’s Sun-Times, Dave McKinney wrote about convicted and accused politicians who are receiving pensions from the state or other governmental units. This issue shows up periodically, with the stated or implied question: Why aren’t these pensions forfeited?

As a retired pension attorney with 35 years of experience, I can answer that the reason is these pensions were earned while the officeholder was working. This is the same reason why teachers’ pensions cannot be retroactively cut.

Pensions are nothing but deferred compensation. They are fully earned while the pensioner was actively working. They are not gifts paid after retirement that are optionally withheld. Even a crooked officeholder rendered some service to the voters.

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If you say that a crooked politician did not earn their pension because of crimes connected (or unconnected) to their office, then also sue them to claw back the salary they were paid as an officeholder. Their pension and former salary are the same thing. If you say politicians should not get pensions, then prospectively end pension eligibility for officeholders while they are in office, but before they render the services that entitle them to their pensions.

If an officeholder commits a crime, they should be prosecuted. If found guilty, they should be fined and/or put in jail to an extent that is commensurate with the crime. If they don’t pay the fine, maybe you can put a lien on their pension, but there should not be a law that cuts off 100% of an officeholder’s pension for any crime, great or small.

Scott Zapel, Glen Ellyn

Responsibilities of being a father

The conclusion of Mona Charen’s recent column attributing the achievements of quarterbacks on both of this year’s Super Bowl teams largely to the constant support of their devoted fathers could hardly be considered a unique revelation.

The driving forces behind Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods and the Williams sisters to becoming the best in their fields can clearly be traced to the love and guidance of their fathers.

Highland Park experienced precisely the opposite last July when an apparently indifferent and irresponsible father provided his troubled son with the ability to buy a weapon used to kill seven innocent people, wound dozens more and terrorize the entire community.

Compounding the pain suffered by survivors of his son’s actions, the father continues to disavow any connection between his indulgence of his son and the pall his action cast over a citizenry known for compassion.

The failure of other fathers to provide a positive role model and show a commitment to supporting a child’s interests can have similarly negative results.

What drives a young boy or girl to want to join a gang and use a gun to steal from or settle arguments with others can often be traced to the lack of interest from an absent father. If he lives in the area but doesn’t care about his son’s or daughter’s hopes or concerns, why should it be a surprise they would look to those on the streets to provide that type of support?

J.L. Stern, Highland Park

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