Last week, the Illinois Attorney General issued an opinion responding to a question about pension forfeiture. Att’y Gen Op. 22-001. (Note that this opinion is not issued by the PAC office and is unrelated to that office’s duties relating to OMA and FOIA).
The opinion was in response to a question raised by the General Assembly Retirement System (which deals with pension benefits for General Assembly members) as to whether former state representative Arroyo’s guilty plea for felony wire fraud charges requires forfeiture of his pension benefits.
The Attorney General looked at Section 2-156 of the Pension Code which requires the forfeiture of retirement annuities and other pension benefits if a member is convicted of a service-related felony, as follows:
None of the benefits herein provided for shall be paid to any person who is convicted of any felony relating to or arising out of or in connection with his or her service as a member.
The Attorney General noted that the purposee of the felony forfeiture provision was to discourage official mimsconduct by denying retirement benefits to public servants convicted of violating the public trust.
In applying this section of the Pension Code to the former representative’s guilty plea, the Attorney General determined that his guilty plea for wire fraud “related to, arose out of, or was in connection with his official duties as a State Representative.” Specifically, the Attorney General noted that the former representative’s criminal conduct occured while he was a member of the state house, and the underlying facts of the offense demonstrated that he used his position as a state representative to obtain financial benefit for himself when he accepted monetary payments in exchange for a promise to vote in favor of legislation to legalize sweepstakes gaming machines.