Judges say IHSA not required to release pension details

The Illinois High School Association brings in revenue from state-funded high schools, but judges ruled that does not mean it needs to disclose how it funds its pension plan.

Because IHSA holds not-for-profit status and is not a public agency, it is not legally required to share financial information – including the details of employee pensions, how much revenue it earns or from what sources – a three-judge panel ruled recently.

These financial details were being sought by the Better Government Association, which filed a lawsuit in 2014, citing the Illinois Freedom of Information Act as the rationale for why the IHSA needs to disclose the information.

Interest in these financial details peaked when the IHSA paid $888,425 from its two retirement funds during the 2014-15 school year despite a decline in revenue and profits from its biggest event, the state boys’ basketball tournament.

IHSA financial statements filed with the Illinois attorney general’s office show that pension payouts increased 41 percent compared with the previous year. IHSA’s contributions to its retirement funds increased 48 percent over the previous year.

The IHSA said it would not reveal what it pays individuals from its main pension fund. The panel, from the First District Illinois Appellate Court, agreed.

The panel unanimously ruled in June that because the IHSA technically isn’t a government body, it doesn’t fall under the disclosure requirements established in the Illinois Freedom of Information Act.

Attorneys Joshua Burday and Matthew Topic filed a petition for the case to be heard at the next judicial level on behalf of BGA.

“The IHSA case is currently on petition with the Illinois Supreme Court,” Burday said.

This second attempt at obtaining access to financial details of the IHSA may not pan out, however.

“The Illinois Supreme Court doesn’t have to hear it,” Burday said. “That’s at their discretion.”

Critics say IHSA should not be exempt and should be considered a government body because it generates income from athletic events that involve public schools, and thus performs a governmental function.

The appellate court said schools do not have to participate in the IHSA, rendering that point invalid.

–Illinois News Network

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