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Local

Simonton says he would not collect sheriff's pension

Retired officer wants to avoid 'double-dipping' talk

DIXON – Lee County Sheriff hopeful John Simonton said he will decline the county's contribution toward the sheriff's pension if he is elected.

Simonton, a retired Illinois State Police lieutenant, announced in August that he is running against incumbent John Varga in the Republican primary.

Simonton wrote a letter addressed to County Board Chairman Rick Ketchum declining "pension benefits that are normally afforded to those who hold [the sheriff's] office."

The county contributes about $13,490 annually, which is equivalent to 19 percent of the sheriff's $71,000 salary.

As a retired state police officer, Simonton already collects an annual pension of $111,384, according to the Open the Books website.

The sheriff candidate said he did not want his pension, or the prospect of "double-dipping," to be an issue during the election.

"I felt it would reflect negatively already receiving pension from the state police, and there are so many other issues that need to be the focus," Simonton said.

Simonton's letter requests the county's contribution to the sheriff's pension be diverted into the training and technology portions of the sheriff's budget, two areas the candidate is citing as a priority in his campaign.

Those requests would need to be voted on by the county board, if Simonton were elected, Ketchum said.

Varga, who worked as a probation officer prior to being elected sheriff, is not retired and does not collect a pension yet.

He will receive the sheriff's pension benefit once he retires, he said.

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