Health Insurance for Brentwood's Elected Officials Prompts Questions
The city pays 100 percent of the vision and dental insurance for some of its elected officials. The newly elected aldermen are excluded.
A perk that’s been available to Brentwood’s elected officials for years has one city resident wondering if it’s legal, and if it’s in the municipal code.
The benefit in question is health insurance. Resident Julie Pozzo asked about the perk at the May 21 Brentwood Board of Aldermen meeting.
Here is what Patch found out.
Part-Time Officials Receive Fulltime Benefit
Brentwood pays 100 percent of its elected officials’ monthly premiums. Presently it is $416 — the same as for a fulltime Brentwood employee, which city officials are not.
Mayor Pat Kelly, Aldermen Tom Kramer, Andy Leahy and Keith Robertson are enrolled in the health insurance program. Aldermen Anthony Harper and Lee Wynn are not.
Newly elected alderwoman Cindy Manestar is enrolled in the city’s program through her husband, who is a Brentwood police officer.
But the insurance provider — St. Louis Area Insurance Trust (SLAIT) — prevents other newly elected officials from participating in the program. Specifically, it restricts Alderman Patrick Toohey and Alderwoman Maureen Saunders from enrolling.
SLAIT, a self-insurance pool of local municipalities, does not allow new part-time help, including elected officials, to participate in its group plan. When Brentwood joined SLAIT in 2009, SLAIT “grandfathered in” existing elected officials, who had received coverage previously.
It wasn’t an issue until recently, City Administrator Bola Akande said.
That’s because Brentwood’s elected officials have remained the same — until this year’s aldermanic election in April.
“We are of the opinion that the (health care) issue is going to be resolved by the June 11 Board of Aldermen meeting,” Akande said. “We are exploring other options that affords the newly elected officials an opportunity to participate,” she said.
Historically, Brentwood has provided its elected officials with health care coverage for years. According to Akande, the practice “goes back to the early 1990s.”
But is it legal
Akande answered Pozzo’s questions and Patch’s inquiries about the health insurance benefit in short form: 1.) “Yes” (it is legal) and 2.) “ We’re still looking” (for it in the code). “The code is huge,” said Akande, and it is available online for all to search.
Akande said the city received a legal opinion verbally that the practice of providing Brentwood elected officials with health care was permissible by law. When Patch last contacted Akande, she was still waiting for the opinion in writing but was still very confident with the legal advice rendered her.
“When you survey other municipalities throughout the state, you will find some who offer this (benefit) and cover the cost, others who allow public officials to participate and pay their own cost,” Akande said. “There is nothing illegal taking place here.”
Akande said Glendale is one nearby city that provides its elected officials with access to health insurance, with a caveat. They pay for their own insurance.
When reached by phone, Maplewood City Manager Marty Corcoran said Maplewood does not offer insurance for elected officials. He also said only a handful of municipalities in the area do.
City Administrator Bola Akande supplied the following information:
- The amount expended annually for public officials medical, dental and vision premiums is $23,953.68 based on current enrollment.
- The city reimburses 75 percent of eligible costs of the $1500 employee/$3000 family deductible.
- The amount expended annually on retirement premiums is 10.3 percent of the gross pay for regular status employees including public officials.
- The city does not contribute for the first six months they are with the city.
- Total annual LAGERS contribution for public officials is $2,224.80.