Pointing to departures of legislators under federal scrutiny, State Comptroller Susana Mendoza floats plan to end post-resignation pay to lawmakers
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Pointing to departures of legislators under federal scrutiny, State Comptroller Susana Mendoza floats plan to end post-resignation pay to lawmakers

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CHICAGO — Citing the departures of two state lawmakers who resigned their seats while under federal scrutiny, Illinois State Comptroller Susana Mendoza is pitching a plan to prevent lawmakers from drawing a state paycheck after officially leaving office.

One of the cases involves Sen. Martin Sandoval who resigned his seat effective Jan. 1 but is being paid through the end of the month.

“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.”

Under Mendoza’s plan, lawmakers who resign their seats in the Illinois General Assembly before the end of their term would not be paid for days they don’t work. Separately, Mendoza wants to pay legislators twice a month, as other state employees and constitutional officers are, rather than once a month.

Sen. Cristina Castro, a Democrat from Elgin, plans to sponsor a bill on the issue.

“This is a glaring loophole that has been exploited far too many times at the taxpayers’ expense, and I’m sick of it," Castro said in a statement. "It needs to be closed.”

The departures of Sandoval and former state Rep. Luis Arroyo, both caught up in a sweeping federal corruption investigation, prompted the proposal, according to Mendoza’s office.

Arroyo resigned his seat Nov. 1, one week after he was arrested on a federal bribery charge. Arroyo was accused of paying a bribe to a state senator in exchange for support of a gambling bill that would have benefited one of Arroyo’s lobbying clients. Arroyo became eligible Dec. 1 for a monthly pension payment of roughly $3,950 based on nearly 14 years in the House. He would lose his pension if convicted of the bribery charge.

Federal agents searched Sandoval’s Springfield office Sept. 24, removing electronic devices and documents. According to a search warrant, federal agents were looking for a wide array of information involving lobbyists, gambling interests, a red-light camera company and transportation and construction companies.

Soon after agents raided Sandoval’s office, followed federal law enforcement actions in three suburban towns in Sandoval’s Senate district, in Lyons, McCook and Summit.

Sandoval submitted his resignation letter in late November, with a Jan. 1, 2020, effective date. Sandoval was paid $5,788.66 in December, and will draw the same amount this month, according to the state comptroller’s office.

Ethics reform proposals figured prominently during the General Assembly’s fall veto session, in the wake of the Sandoval and Arroyo allegations. The legislature in November approved what lawmakers on both sides of the aisle characterized as a small step toward fixing the state’s ethics laws.

With bipartisan votes in both chambers, lawmakers approved a measure requiring state lobbyists to disclose more information publicly and create a combined online database for information on lobbyists, campaign contributions and annual statements of economic interest by public officials.

Another measure lawmakers approved late last year created a 16-member commission to recommend additional changes to state ethics laws. That panel is slated to hold its second meeting in Chicago this week, while lawmakers return to Springfield on Jan. 28.


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