Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

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You’d like to think it would be easier to serve your community

by John Halverson

April 28, 2011

No one wins.

The Genoa Village Board loses a member.

The board member can't fulfill the civic duty he signed up for.

He can't even give up the modest village pay that caused this situation.

The military has a word for it: Snafu.

The board member in question, Ed Lilla had to give up his trustee position because of a stipulation in his own retirement program.

He works for Metra, the Chicago based mass transit system, but plans on retiring.

But the Metra retirement program he signed stipulates that his benefits will be docked for work he does after retirement for a job he held prior to that time. This even applies to a village trustee who earns a meager $2,000. After all, Lilla does have an employer­­­ — even if it's just his constituents.

If he stayed on as a trustee he stood to lose $14,580. Doing the math, receiving $2,000 while losing $14,580 doesn't make sense even for a civic-minded person.

If common sense prevailed, you'd think Ed could reject the village pay and all would be copacetic.

After all, we assume he didn't take the job for the money.

But nooooooooooooo.

There's a state law that prohibits elected officials from voting on pay changes involving them during their time in office.

This was designed so that officials couldn't give themselves raises. It probably hadn't contemplated someone wanting to do it for free.

By an odd twist of fate, the Metra retirement stipulation does not apply if Lilla were elected to office after he retired. It applies now, however, because he holds the village position now, while he's still employed by Metra.

Metra can pay him now while he's a member of the village board, but can't after he stops working for Metra? It's enough to make your head spin.

We don't have an answer to this snafu. It just doesn't seem right.

From the way it sounds it would require Congress to change the U.S. Constitution — but they have enough on their own hands right now.

Halverson is the general manager of the Regional News.