Updated Nov. 28, 2012 – 4:50 p.m.

On Monday, Brookfield trustees voted to officially discontinue the practice of allowing elected trustees to participate in the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (IMRF), a pension system for government employees at the local unit level.

While Brookfield unofficially terminated sitting board members from the pension plan at the beginning of 2011, the IMRF requested that the board do so formally by resolution, which passed unanimously on Nov. 26.

The action comes on the heels of an audit undertaken by the IMRF of member agencies back in 2010. According to Linda Horrell, a spokeswoman for the IMRF, the pension system began auditing its members in 2007.

“We realized we needed a deeper look because it was important that members get the benefits they’re entitled to,” Horrell said.

Another way of saying that is the IMRF also wanted to make sure it wasn’t paying out benefits to people who weren’t entitled to them.

In 2010, the IMRF’s audit of Brookfield uncovered the village’s practice of having all of its elected officials – president, clerk and trustees – participate in the IMRF program. Participants in the program contribute 4.5 percent of their wages, while the village contributed an amount that varied from year to year, based on an actuarial evaluation by the IMRF.

In recent years, the village’s contribution has been anywhere between 11 and 17 percent of the employee’s wages, according to Brookfield Finance Director Doug Cooper.

IMRF member employees are vested after eight years of service and can begin to collect a pension for life after they retire. The amount of the pension is determined by the number of years participating in the pension plan and a formula that determines the member’s final annual wages.

But in 2010, IMRF demanded proof from Brookfield that its elected officials qualified to participate in the pension plan, based on the number of hours they worked in their individual capacities. The IMRF determined that only those elected officials who worked more than 1,000 hours per year qualified.

By 2010, many current and former trustees had made contributions to the pension plan, and some have received pensions for years. Former Trustee John Curin, who last served in the 1980s, for example, is retired and collects an IMRF pension related to his years as a trustee in Brookfield, according to information provided to the Landmark by the village of Brookfield.

Curin continues to serve Brookfield in an un-elected capacity as the village’s representative on the West Suburban Mass Transit District board.

Former trustee Alan Dorobiala, who served two terms in office in the late 1990s and early 2000s, is also listed as retired in the village’s records. Dorobiala also continues to serve the village as a member of its Police and Fire Commission.

The village determined that while the president and clerk put in at least 1,000 hours on the job, trustees did not and, as a result, did not qualify for the pension plan.

The IMRF in March 2010 notified the village of the changes it needed to make, and sent a follow-up letter that December reminding officials to make those changes in order to avoid being brought before the IMRF’s audit committee “for further action.”

In January 2011, any trustee sitting on the board as of the date of the IMRF’s first letter – Michael Towner, C.P. Hall, Yvonne Prause, David LeClere and Brian Oberhauser – was terminated from the program, but not officially.

By the end of 2012, said Cooper, those trustees will have their contributions to the IMRF refunded to them, and the village will be credited for the amounts it contributed to the plan on their behalf.

The village also determined that the cutoff date for IMRF membership for trustees would be May 1, 2005, during the year the most recent administration took office.

“Part of the problem was the decision of how far back to go,’ said Cooper. “This definitely decides where we’re at.”

In addition, according to Cooper, both Kit Ketchmark and C.P. Hall, who joined prior to that date, were also terminated retroactive to the beginning of their political careers and will have their contributions returned to them.

Michael Garvey, who was also a trustee prior to May 1, 2005, will also have contributions he made as a trustee returned to him. Any contributions made by the village on their behalf will be credited to the village.

Other former trustees who joined prior to May 1, 2005 and who have enough service time as members will qualify to receive a pension from the IMRF, including James Gavin, Thomas Hagle, Linda Stevanovich, Bill Russ, Karen Skillman and Gail Cabala.

Some former trustees who joined the IMRF prior to May 1, 2005, including Wil Brennan, Jane Harps and Daniel Warren previously asked for their contributions to be refunded to them.

Any former trustee who has already retired and is receiving an IMRF pension based on those years of service will continue to do so. Some current and former trustees never participated in the pension program and won’t be affected by Monday’s action.

This article has been changed to correct which trustees’ memberships in IMRF have been terminated and which former Brookfield trustees still may qualify for an IMRF pension. It also clarifies that the IMRF is a retirement fund for employees of local units of government, not the state of Illinois.