Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau
Pension eligibility for the mayor of Orland Park, an issue seemingly resolved back in May, has returned and is again pitting Mayor Keith Pekau against Trustee Jim Dodge in a battle that is at times over the facts of the law covering municipal pensions, and at times personal.
Dodge revived the issue at the October 21 village board meeting by introducing a resolution that would have rescinded a resolution approved just five months before that made the mayor ineligible for the pension in two years. Other resolutions approved at the same meeting in May made the other elected officials, the six trustees and the village clerk, ineligible as of this past July. After some heated debate, Dodge’s resolution failed on a 5-2 vote. Besides Dodge, Trustee Kathy Fenton was the other “yes” vote on the resolution.
At the meeting, Pekau, who was elected in 2017 running opposed to pensions for part-time elected officials, accused Dodge of trying to “line his pockets,” Dodge said back in November 2018 that he would run for mayor when the position is up in April 2021.
Orland Park Trustee Jim Dodge
“I proudly supported the Village Board’s effort earlier this year to make the mayor’s position ineligible for a pension when it reverts to a part-time position in 2021, despite Dodge being one of only two trustees to vote against the effort,” Pekau said in a statement issued after the October 21 meeting. “Then Monday night, Trustee Dodge attempted to make the Mayor’s position pension eligible again. I can only assume it’s because Trustee Dodge thinks he will be the next mayor and wants to continue to pile more years onto his already substantial taxpayer-funded pension. Fortunately, a strong majority of the board saw through this self-serving move and voted it down.”
Dodge told South Cook News that Pekau is misrepresenting the facts and that he, not Dodge, benefits from the resolution as it was approved in May. He promises to raise the issue again at an upcoming meeting after consulting with attorneys from the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (IMRF).
“He’s deceiving, he’s mispresenting the facts, and he’s lying,” Dodge said of Pekau.
The dispute centers around the mayor’s job changing next term, which starts in May 2021, from a full-time position at $150,000 a year to a part-time job at $40,000 a year. The mayor will not be eligible to participate in the pension system when the job reverts to part time.
Pekau said that the position could not be certified as part time until that change actually takes place. And he says for him the point is mute since he has no intention of participating in the IMRF.
“This pension garbage is the entire reason I ran for office in the first place,” Pekau said.
In October 2016, the board made the mayor’s position a full-time job at the $150,00 a year salary. The salary change would have boosted then-Mayor Dan McLaughlin’s pension from $25,000 a year to more than $100,000. But McLaughlin lost in April 2017 to Pekau.
“People get in these part-time positions and then they figure out a way to boost their salaries over their last couple of years of work so they can fatten their pensions,” Pekau said for an earlier story on the issue. “Work part-time, then get appointed to the Tollway for the last couple of years, and you struck it rich.”