State Rep. Nick Sauer of Lake Barrington resigned from the General Assembly after reports that he had posted nude photos of an ex-girlfriend on social media. His exit was on Aug. 1, 2018.
Yet, because of state law, he was paid for the full month of August -- as was his Republican replacement. Thus, Sauer, now facing criminal charges, was paid $5,653 for four weeks that he never served, and Helene Miller Walsh was paid for the 2½ weeks before she took office.
That appalling practice would change under a bill championed by Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza and sponsored by State Sen. Cristina Castro of Elgin.
Currently, state lawmakers are paid for a full month even if they work just one day of it. Under Senate Bill 2456, lawmakers who leave office before their term is up would be compensated on a prorated basis and paid only for the days they actually served. If approved, the change would also apply to those appointed to fill the vacancy.
The proposal rose from the recent resignations of former State Sen. Martin Sandoval and State Rep. Luis Arroyo. Both Chicago Democrats resigned their seats on the first of the month.
Arroyo left office after being arrested and charged with bribing a state senator.
Sandoval departed under federal scrutiny, and his case is a clear example of how a politician can game the system.
The FBI raided his home and office in September. Sandoval skipped the fall veto session and then announced in November that he would leave office -- but not until Jan. 1. Thus, he was paid $5,788.66 in December and is set to receive the same amount for January.
"Despite resigning on the first day of this month, my office must still pay him for the entire month. That's ridiculous," Mendoza said in a statement Monday. "I can think of no other enterprise that pays an ex-employee for work they never performed. Each of these lawmakers left under a cloud but stayed just long enough -- the first of the month -- to collect an 'exit bonus' from state taxpayers for a month's pay for no work."
Closing what Castro calls a "glaring loophole" won't save the state a huge amount of money, but taxpayers should not have to foot the bill for unearned pay. Plus, the change would stop lawmakers from taking advantage of that loophole by making their resignations effective on the first of a month knowing full well they will be paid until the beginning of the next.
SB 2456 was filed last week. We urge state lawmakers to adopt the change, save taxpayers money and send a strong message to their colleagues.
Taxpayers shouldn't be subsidizing officials who leave Springfield early -- especially those who do so after abusing the system they were supposed to serve.
(Arlington Heights) Daily Herald, Jan. 16