New law helps block those who commit felonies connected to public employment from collecting pensions

pensionsSPRINGFIELD — State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13th) announced that a measure he sponsored to make it harder for felons to receive public pensions became law today. Outraged by a pension board’s decision to allow convicted former Chicago police commander Jon Burge — who oversaw the torture of more than 100 suspects — to continue receiving a pension, Raoul worked with Attorney General Lisa Madigan to clarify that courts can intervene to stop such payouts.

“How can we prevent future abuses by law enforcement and public officials when those who use their positions to commit heinous crimes can avoid the consequences as long as others are willing to protect them?” Raoul said. “It is unconscionable that Jon Burge is receiving a pension, and this law gives taxpayers a way to fight back.”

Burge was convicted in 2010 of lying about the physical and psychological torture of more than 100 black men in police custody on Chicago’s South Side during the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s. He was sentenced to four and a half years in prison and was released in October to a halfway house in Florida, where he also owns a vacation home. A police pension board deadlocked, 4-4, in 2011 on whether Burge should be prohibited from drawing his $54,000 per year pension; the even split meant he kept receiving it. When Madigan challenged the board’s decision, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that no court had jurisdiction to reconsider and overturn such votes by pension boards. Senate Bill 2809, which the governor signed into law today, specifies that the attorney general may bring a civil suit asking the court to rule on whether the pension board’s decision was correct and to stop pension payments to a convicted felon if the court believes the board erred.

“While Burge’s victims and their families continue to suffer the pain and humiliation of torture and in some cases false imprisonment, the man responsible for his officers’ conduct is retiring to sunny Florida on the taxpayers’ dime,” Raoul said. “I want to make sure this never happens again.”