Former Rep. Sandy Pihos of Glen Ellyn pleaded not guilty on Wednesday in DuPage County Court to charges that she stole three items of women’s clothing worth hundreds from Von Maur at Yorktown Center, a shopping mall in Lombard.
The Lombard Police arrested Pihos on September 26, and she was later released on $1,500 bond. Her case, originally set for Nov. 3, has been continued until Dec. 13.
In her 12 years in the House, the 71-year-old Pihos touted herself as a champion of transparency and reform in government. In 2013, she filed legislation that would suspend the pensions of lawmakers indicted for felonies, and cancel the pensions of any lawmakers convicted of felonies. The bill went nowhere in the General Assembly.
At the time, Pihos told the Glen Ellyn Patch that she introduced the legislation after another former House member, Connie Howard (D-Chicago), retired in July 2012, began to collect her pension, then pleaded guilty to mail fraud.
In December 2015, Howard was sentenced to three months in federal prison but collected $195,000 in pension funds during the three-year-plus gap between her resignation and sentencing.
“Today the system is set up in a way where it is actually beneficial for an elected official to retire prior to admitting wrongdoing because their pension payments begin immediately and don’t stop until sentencing has taken place,” Pihos said. “As we are seeing with the Connie Howard case, this can add up to tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars from a system that is already nearly $100 billion underfunded.”
Howard took advantage of a loophole in a 1955 law that says that the pension of any public employee can be revoked for conviction of any felony related to official duties, but retired officials don't stop receiving pension checks until sentencing.
Pihos was charged with a misdemeanor. For now, she remains on the board of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform (ICPR) and on the host committee for the Dec. 4 awards reception at Petterino’s on Dearborn Street honoring elected officials for their service to the community.
Susan Garrett, chair of ICPR and a former state senator, told the DuPage Policy Journal that Pihos’ arrest was “uncomfortable and awkward” but said they would wait for the legal process to play out before taking an action regarding her standing with ICPR.
The Edgar County Watchdogs reported that one of Pihos’ final actions as a legislator “was to shaft citizens interested in holding their local governments accountable through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).”
“While she campaigned for Trustee of College of DuPage she issued witty quotes printed in the Daily-Herald like ‘I believe there is a need for transparency’ while at the same time standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Frank Mautino, a self-admitted FOIA violator who is currently under several investigations for his campaign expenditures, in voting in favor of a bill to force FOIA requesters who meet a certain category to fork out outrageous fees for public records," the group posted on its Illinois Leaks website.