UPDATE: Tuesday, the Eau Claire County Board approved a resolution calling for a change in state law, to allow governments to access the Wisconsin retirement system benefits of public employees convicted of stealing from them.
The resolution was inspired by disgraced former county treasurer Larry Lokken, who was convicted of stealing $1.4 million from tax payers. County board members told News 18 that despite being convicted and sentenced to 9.5 years in prison, Lokken and his wife continue to collect nearly $118,000 a year from pensions, social security benefits and other inheritance.
Tuesday's 21-1 vote frees the board to send the resolution on to the state legislature, in hopes that lawmakers will change state law. However, even if it is, the law cannot be applied retroactively to the Lokken case.
Eau Claire County (WQOW) - Nearly $118,000 a year is how much disgraced former Eau Claire County Treasurer Larry Lokken and his wife continue to collect via their pensions, social security benefits and other inheritance, according to court records.
"Kind of infuriating in a way, because you know, it's amazing in a way, someone can do that, and yet when restitution is part of judicial sentence that's handed down, there's money coming in that can't be touched. It just doesn't make sense," said Eau Claire County Board member Steve Chilson.
Lokken was sentenced two years ago for embezzling $1.4 million in taxpayer money along with his former office manager Kay Onarheim.
Steve Chilson and fellow Eau Claire County Board member Mark Beckfield are frustrated that even though Lokken was ordered to repay more than $680,000 of the money he helped steal, they can't touch his pension.
Court records show Lokken, who is in prison, and his wife are currently getting more than $9,800 a month. Chilson and Beckfield are asking the county board to approve a resolution calling for a change in state law to allow governments to access the Wisconsin retirement system benefits of public employees convicted of stealing from them.
"There are three exceptions, currently, to access the pensions," Beckfield said. "Divorce, child support and unpaid taxes. We think this fourth action will allow the taxpayer to get stolen money from tax payers from their employer."
The two said unfortunately, if the law is changed, it would not apply retroactively to the Lokken case, but they said it could help others in the future. The county's administration committee unanimously approved a resolution last week and it will go to the county board on Tuesday.
Onarheim voluntarily agreed to pay a portion of her pension at just over $1,000 a month. Lokken is two years in on a nine-and-a-half year sentence. He has refused to pay any portion of his pension payments to Eau Claire County.