A bill that would allow Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to jump into legal battles to stop government pension payments to felons passed Thursday in the Senate.
In July, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled a Cook County court was correct in not allowing Madigan to intervene in a police pension matter. The decision allowed disgraced former Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge, who was convicted in 2010 for lying about the torture of police suspects, to keep his public pension of about $54,000 a year.
The police pension board deadlocked 4-4 on a motion to strip Burge of his pension. Some argued his conviction was not related to his police work, since he was convicted on perjury and obstruction of justice from a civil suit filed after he left the force.
The House bill, co-sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, Jacqueline Collins, D-Chicago, and Daniel Biss, D-Evanston, passed the Senate 51-0 without debate. It goes to Quinn for his signature.
“What we did in this bill is to clarify the language to make sure that it authorizes the attorney general to petition the court to enjoin the payment of pension funds where somebody’s convicted of a felony in connection to their duty,” Raoul said.
“Unfortunately, you can’t go backwards,” Raoul said, noting Burge will keep getting his pension.
The bill was debated in committee with some Republicans worried the attorney general could abuse the authority. But Raoul said the attorney general could file a petition to the court, then to the appellate court and ultimately to the Illinois Supreme Court.
“It’s unlikely that you would have an attorney general who could have a conspiracy with the Appellate Court and the Supreme Court,” Raoul said.
A Madigan spokeswoman said the bill will give the attorney general an important new role in pension board cases.
“A public employee convicted of a felony related to their service should not be allowed to receive a taxpayer-funded pension,” state attorney general’s office spokeswoman Maura Possley said. “This bill provides the attorney general with an important watchdog role to ensure taxpayers are not left to foot the bill for a convicted felon.”