Brentwood Insurance Vote Preceded By Tense Moments

Aldermen got emotional and took on one another during the marathon meeting.

Although no one knows when it began, the longtime practice of providing free health insurance to Brentwood’s part-time elected officials will end Aug. 31.

The measure that sealed its fate, introduced by Ward 1 Alderwoman Maureen Saunders, passed by vote of 4-3 at the Monday night Board of Aldermen meeting at City Hall. One alderman loudly recused himself in a drama-filled night complete with raised voices, finger-pointing and fists slamming on tables.

Residents remained rapt in their seats. Only a few left before the general meeting ended at about 11 p.m. Then the board went into closed session.

The vote to end the health-care perk for elected officials occurred four hours into the meeting. Saunders, Alderwoman Cindy Manestar and Aldermen Anthony Harper and Keith Robertson voted to approve the measure. Aldermen Lee Wynn, Tom Kramer and Patrick Toohey, who unsuccessfully sought to amend the measure when it was his time to vote, opposed the measure.

Neither Mayor Pat Kelly nor Ward 3 Alderman Andy Leahy cast votes.

In a lengthy discourse, Leahy attempted to explain how the insurance benefit might have become available to elected officials: more bodies and fewer costs for everyone in the overall plan. Brentwood participates in a self-insurance pool with several cities.

The Ward 3 aldermen also questioned whether or not the board even had the legal right to vote to terminate benefits because they “would be taking an action that could financially benefit or subtract from" them.

Leahy said he couldn’t participate in the vote to terminate health insurance for Brentwood’s elected officials  “because his vote was tainted” by an email he received from Saunders. It was “blackmail,” Leahy said, and was intended to sway his vote on health insurance measure. Leahy likened Saunder’s email to a tactic of “it’s my way or the highway."

Leahy abruptly left the room before the vote—but not before Saunders countered.

“It was a personal email written from my personal account to your personal account,” Saunders said.  “It was an agreement you and I had made in Jeff City, as a (St. Mary) Magdalen parishioner to another Magdalen parishioner.”

Saunders was referencing a meeting she and Leahy attended in Jefferson City.

“At Jeff City, this issue was brought up while we had the attorney general there. We asked the attorneys: Do you need to recuse yourself if you’re going to decrease your benefits? They told us, 'No.' There is no conflict of interest,” Saunders said, “and Andy informed us that he was going to vote to end the benefits."

There is no gain with a positive vote to end the practice, and a negative vote only maintains the status quo, Saunders said.

Speaking directly to Leahy, Saunders said:  “I take exception to you using 'blackmail' when you’re going to recuse yourself so there’s an odd number of votes and mayor won’t have to vote.”

The vote that followed months of wrangling took minutes.

“I just want people to understand that this vote does not mean that these gentlemen (who received the health care benefit) did anything illegal or wrong,” Wynn said.

Kelly and aldermen Kramer, Leahy and Robertson participated in the city-paid free health insurance program.

Leahy didn’t know about the benefit initially but enrolled in the program after serving as a board member for six years. Robertson has regularly reimbursed the city for his participation.

Also in Maplewood-Brentwood Patch:

Tenacious July 22, 2012 at 03:49 PM
Seemayer - allowed to quit, collected sick and vacation he didn't have because it was never tracked though it helped "repay" the city. The mayor and a couple aldermen write letters to grant leniency. The mayor states Seemayer "lost his career, had a wife, two kids and a home". He broke a law and violated the highest level of trust with the taxpayers. What about the park director who was a single mom of two kids whose department was not involved in any scandal and ran responsibly? How about letting long term employees walk out without having another job to go to because the environment was so hostile? Brentwood needs a leader, not Pat Kelly. He is in so deep that he believes he has more control staying in his position where he can cover up his wrong doing than by stepping down. He knows the next person in will do some digging and all will be exposed. A narcissist is not a leader. At first glance, charisma gets them in the door but their selfishness is their demise. As long as he denies, he is ineffective. Until Pat Kelly is removed, the city will not move forward. Every action will take twice as long as it should because there is no trust in the board, amongst board members or in the city administrator. Morale is severely low thus performance is suffering at the employee level. Anyone in business will tell you that a group's effectiveness is based upon trust amongst members, a sense of group identity and a sense of group efficacy. I don't find that here.
Mr. Completely July 22, 2012 at 04:28 PM
Yikes, you read my mind.
Russell Madden July 23, 2012 at 02:02 AM
After being rocked by the recent city hall scandals and mayoral abuses of power, I think we in Brentwood were all beginning to ask ourselves, "Where are we? Is this the same city we once were proud to call home?" It's gratifying to read all of these well-informed comments from follow residents, and it's reassured me that, yes, indeed, this is still the same great place. We simply have to reclaim our city hall from the crooks who took it away from us insidiously over the years while we weren't looking. The reclamation effort began in earnest this April with the election of reformers Maureen Saunders and Cindy Manestar to the city council to assist the council's lone incumbent reformer Anthony Harper. What Charles Patrick Kelly and his council cronies have done to us taxpayers in recent years is outrageous. They've arrogantly misspent our tax dollars right and left -- awarding costly severance packages ("hush money") to departing officials like Chris Seemayer to prevent them from singing to prosectors, treating each other to special perqs like free health-care benefits at our expense without telling us, donating our money to religious charities of Kelly's choosing when it was supposed to be spent on public services, etc. (To be continued.)
Russell Madden July 23, 2012 at 02:27 AM
And can you believe Kelly's arrogance? He still hasn't apologized to us for any of these scandals. In fact, he has never even TOLD us about them! We had to learn about them from the Patch and Post-Dispatch, sometimes weeks or months after the fact. All Kelly ever says with regard to these scandals is something to the effect of, "Fortunately, the City of Brentwood has a great tax base, so the loss of this money won't really hurt our budget." Pathetic. At the last council meeting, Kelly announced defiantly "I will not resign." I wasn't surprised. Autocrats like Kelly are so delusional and consumed by their power and self-importance that they have no idea when it's time to step down. They have to be removed from office. And while Brentwood voters lack the power to remove bad mayors from office, our councilmen enjoy this power, and so I think it's time we pursue this course of action. As Tenacious correctly observed, until Kelly is removed, our city will not be able to heal and move forward.
Gordon McInnes September 19, 2012 at 02:30 AM
I thought that kind of drama only existed in courtroom dramas that we see on TV. Revealing the email exchanges between the two alders was quite a smart move, though one might question its ethics. At least they now know what to do with the insurance money.


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