Pensions

Gliniewicz-inspired law blocks public employee families from pensions if convicted of felony

SPRINGFIELD – New legislation will prevent a person from receiving public employee survivor pension benefits if they’re convicted of a felony involving the service of their spouse.

The bill was created in response to the scandal involving Fox Lake Police Lt. Joseph Gliniewicz. His wife, Melodie Gliniewicz, could receive her husband’s survivor pension if she is convicted of any wrongdoing.

State Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, sponsored House Bill 350, now Public Act 100-0334, to prevent pension abuse. The bill only will apply to future cases to withstand potential court challenges, McSweeney said.

“That is the only way it is constitutional, or else it’ll be challenged in the courts,” McSweeney said. “I would love to go back and apply this specifically to the Gliniewicz cases, but it would be a long court fight, and we wanted to pass this now so it applies to future cases.”

State Sen. Pam Althoff, R-McHenry, sponsored the bill in the Senate.

“Pam and I want to eliminate pension abuses,” McSweeney said. “We want to avoid tax increases that will destroy the state, so we are trying to ensure there is no abuse in the future.”

Melodie Gliniewicz faces felony charges of money laundering, conspiracy and misusing charitable funds relating to the now-disbanded Fox Lake Police Explorers Post 300 youth program run by her late husband.

Her trial was set to begin in July but has been delayed. Lake County Judge James Booras ruled in May that the state cannot submit potentially damaging emails and texts from Melodie Gliniewicz to her husband before he died, citing marital privilege laws.

Prosecutors are trying to argue to the 2nd District Appellate Court that protections do not cover communication between spouses outside of court. Her next court date will be Nov. 27, according to Lake County court records.

Her effort to receive the survivor’s pension, which would amount to between 50 percent and 75 percent of her husband’s $96,000 salary at the time of his death, is on hold pending the outcome of her trial.

Joseph Gliniewicz was found shot to death Sept. 1, 2015, in Fox Lake. Investigators originally believed the veteran was killed in the line of duty, but it later was revealed that he killed himself and made it appear as if he had been murdered.

The couple had used money donated to the Explorers program for their own purposes, investigators said. Prosecutors allege that Joseph Gliniewicz spent $2,455 on Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts; $8,822 on restaurants; $2,515 on the Fox Lake Theatre; $7,217 on health clubs, athletic event registration and hormonal supplements; and $2,623 on adult entertainment and dating websites.

Melodie Gliniewicz’s attorneys have said that her husband was the only person in control of the Explorers’ bank accounts from 2009 to March 2015.

Pensions previously have been taken away in high-profile cases in Illinois, including former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, who lost his teacher pension after being sentenced on federal banking charges.

• The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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