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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Attorney General's Challenge to Former Chicago Police Supervisor's Pension Benefits Dismissed

Former Chicago police supervisor Jon Burge was convicted of committing perjury in a civil lawsuit after he denied having any knowledge of suspects being tortured by police under his command. Following his conviction, the police pension board held a hearing and voted 4-4 to terminate his pension benefits.  Because there was no majority vote in favor of terminating his benefits, Burge continued to receive his pension benefits.

The Attorney General, on behalf of the State of Illinois, filed a complaint in circuit court alleging that the pension board was violating the Pension Code by continuing to pay pension benefits to Burge following his felony convictions.  Burge, the pension board, and the pension board trustees were all named as defendants in the case.  The Attorney General asked the court to order the pension board to stop all pension payments and require Burge to repay benefits.  The defendants argued that the circuit court did not have jurisdiction to consider the Attorney General's complaint. The circuit court agreed, and dismissed the Attorney General's complaint on the basis that the pension board has exclusive jurisdiction to decide whether pension benefits should be terminated. The appellate court reversed, finding that both the pension board and circuit court have jurisdiction to decide pension benefits. 

On appeal, the supreme court agreed with the circuit court that the Attorney General's complaint should be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.  Although section 1-115 of the pension code does provide the Attorney General with some authority to bring a civil action, that authority does not the include the power to decide whether pension benefits should be terminated.  The power to grant or terminate pension benefits is exclusively the pension board's, not the Attorney General's and not the circuit court's.  The pension board's decision was subject to appeal only through the administrative review process, not through a separate new proceeding in the circuit court.  As a result, the Supreme Court upheld the circuit court's dismissal of the Attorney General's complaint.

The dissent argues that the Attorney General did have authority to bring a separate action against the pension board to challenge the pension board trustees' fiduciary duties.  In the dissent's view, allowing a convicted felon to continue to draw pension benefits violates the trustees' duties to the fund and its beneficiaries.

You can read the case here:  Madigan v. Burge, 2014 IL 115635 (July 3, 2014).

Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf, Ancel Glink


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