Warren Twp. Told to Transfer Back Retirement Funds

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Byline: Bob Susnjara Daily Herald Staff Writer

Facing a possible violation of state law, Warren Township officials said Tuesday they might reverse their decision to use $120,000 from an employee pension fund to help finance the purchase of the shuttered Gurnee post office.

The change could be made at a meeting Monday. If the change is made, officials said they don't know where they'll find money to buy the building, which they plan to convert to a youth center.

Their announcement Tuesday that they would consider shifting the money back into the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund account came after they received a legal opinion earlier in the day from Michael Weinstein, an attorney with the state agency.

Louis Kosiba, executive director of the fund, said the township violated state law late last year by transferring pension money into another fund for the post office purchase.

Kosiba said the law requires local governments to send pension money generated from specific tax levies to the municipal retirement fund on behalf of public employees. He said taxpayers should expect the money they pay toward pensions is not used for other purposes.

"If you get a tax bill and it shows X dollars are going to the school district, but the school district is taking a chunk of that money and giving it to the federal government, you'd say, 'What's going on?'" Kosiba said.

The potential violation was brought to the agency's attention by a Daily Herald inquiry.

Warren Township Supervisor Suzanne Simpson initially disagreed with Kosiba and pointed to a township-specific state statute that she said allowed the retirement-cash transfer. She has said township lawyer Richard Cowen advised officials the maneuver was legal before it was approved Dec. 4.

"It's one of those anomalies in township law," Simpson said.

Cowen said Tuesday he and Simpson, who was not available for comment Tuesday, discussed the issue and agreed it would be best to return the money to the retirement fund and avoid a legal fight. …