This summer, the Illinois Attorney General issued an opinion interpreting 40 ILCS 5/14-149 which states that members of the State Employees’ Retirement System forfeit pension benefits after they are convicted of a felony related to or arising out of or in connection with their service as an employee.
An employee in the Department of Vehicle Services for nearly twenty years had access to title and registration fees and sales tax payments. According to the Attorney General opinion, the employee began stealing fees and tax payments in 2015, and attempted to cover up her activities by cycling stolen funds with new title and registration fees and requiring staff to direct missing fee complaints only to her. The employee also sent license plates to vehicle owners by United Parcel Service, rather than by the usual method with the United States Postal Service. Ultimately, the employee was convicted of mail fraud, intentional misapplication of Secretary of State fees, and theft of Illinois Department of Revenue vehicle sales tax payments and sentenced to 18 imprisonment and ordered to pay over $70,000 in restitution.
The State Employees’ Retirement System sent a letter to the Attorney General asking for an opinion as to application of the Pension Code requirement that a participant’s pension benefits be forfeited if the participant is convicted of a service-related felony. The Attorney General issued an opinion finding that the employee’s conviction was related to, and arose out of, her employment with the State because (1) she was working in her capacity as a government employee when she defrauded the State and (2) without her position, she would not have had access to State funds. The Attorney General also noted that its opinion is consistent with court cases applying forfeiture in other situations where government employees have violated the public trust and commited felony misconduct.
Post Authored by Dan James & Julie Tappendorf, Ancel Glink