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:

Jim Schmuke July 18, 2012 at 08:36 PM
Man, whatever is happening in the political arena here in Brentwood needs to be fixed. I used to be proud to live in this city, with the home town feel, everyone knowing everyone, etc. But it's actually the "good ole' boys " network that needs to be broken up. We need new blood in the government here and hopefully it started this past election.
Thomas Gibson July 18, 2012 at 11:51 PM
Jim, while I agree the politicians are messed up, rember the good things about our city. I do not know about you, but I have lived elsewhere and no place was as good as here. We have our problems now, sure. But they will be fixed. Maybe i have rose colored glasses on, but I have faith in us.
Tom July 19, 2012 at 04:12 AM
It seems to me that Mrs. Saunders has her own agenda now and is trying to start her own "good ole' magdalen" network to approve things that she wants. Its a shame that her need for control must come at the expense of the reputation of some of the great political figures who have served Brentwood so diligently.
Shanahan July 19, 2012 at 06:28 AM
Ignorant comment Tom. Try providing something intellectual of meaningful to the conversation with sounding like a complete tool. If sounding like a douche was the mission, you succeeded.
Mr. Completely July 19, 2012 at 12:04 PM
Great political figures Tom? That's really funny! To suggest Saunders or anyone else is acting out of a "need for control" is about the most inaccurate summary of recent activities in Brentwood politics that's been uttered in this forum or elsewhere. Brentwood government is a mess and for the 2nd time in a decade the residents are attempting to clean it up. It's a tall order, it's been tried before. Chances for success are probably better this time. What has yet to be addressed is the fact that the insurance benefits that were provided to the aldermen and mayor were apparently not an official act of the city by ordinance as required by law. For weeks there has been a call for some sort of proof that the Board of Aldermen approved this perc by roll call vote. No answer. Simply voting to end the illegal perc (that over a decade probably cost the city 250K +/-) is not satisfactory. The city funds that paid for the insurance should be "clawed back" from the recipients (great political figures) like the illegal, no-show overtime that was paid to Brentwood fire fighters. Demanding this type of accountability from the Brentwood Mayor, Fire Chief and Aldermen is neither a personal attack or an unpatriotic jesture, its the right of the stakeholders in Brentwood to expect it and anyone who can't understand that needs to go back to high school civics class. Continued>>>>>
Mr. Completely July 19, 2012 at 12:05 PM
If you live in Brentwood and you are unhappy with these issues go look in a mirror. These recently discovered antics in Bentwood (Seemayer, fire fighters overtime, health insurance for aldermen and mayor) are not the doing of Saunders who is to be commended and respected for having the guts, determination, drive and passion to follow her words with action and results. There folks is a Great Political Figure and perhaps the next Brentwood mayor.
Tom L. July 19, 2012 at 01:17 PM
Tom either you are completely ignorant of the facts or you are simply protecting your friends. Our Alderman were taking a benefit that could not describe as legal or not legal. Seriously, the people have to ask you to stop. And still three voted to keep. Saunders was not just voted in against a candidate that was put up to run against her by the establishment, in election terms she won in a landslide. Her Ward 1 supporters sent her to city hall to clean up the mess and to simple put into order what you have been hearing her say over and over "best practices". Where does Magdalen fit in to the picture? Alderman Saunders will be successful because she has the law, the truth, and facts on her side. She is up against Alderman whose answers typically start with, "Well we thought..." or "I'm not sure..." Not exactly words that bring a lot of confidence from the voters. Just out of curiousity Tom what in your mind does she want? I have heard her say transparency, best practices, thought out processes, and stop wasting money. What a novel concept.
James Tiberius July 19, 2012 at 01:28 PM
The same evening an ordinance was passed to allow an adjacent neighbor the right to appeal an ARB decision. I have more work to do. In the words of Don Henley - I will not go quietly - I will not lie down.
Richard Emery July 19, 2012 at 02:23 PM
As a 50 year resident of Brentwood, I was embarrased at the way our alderman and mayor acted at the meeting. How dare they lecture citizens and the audience about questioning OUR government! We have that RIGHT and we will NEVER stop asking questions, no matter how many times they ask us to "move on". It is part of a health government. If Alderwoman Saunders had not asked so many questions, where would we be right now? We would not know half of what is going on in OUR city hall. Furthermore, Alderman Leahy, I saw your true side at the meeting. Let the voters chose whether we want to keep these "representatives".
Bill McKenzie July 19, 2012 at 03:34 PM
Thank you alderman Saunders. You have been a breath of fresh air. I suggest that you move next to once again place on the ballot the question of term length. It is ironic that after we lengthened the term of the mayor and aldermen in the last election their limitations were exposed for all to see. Lets go back to two year terms so we do not have to wait so long to replace elected officials.
CHERYL EMERY July 19, 2012 at 05:01 PM
Tom, You obviously have not been paying attention to our city government for a long time. I suggest that you start now, so that you can better understand where most of the residents are coming from! Don't you think Maureen Saunders won the election by a landslide because she understands what is going on? You and others, sure could learn a lot from her! She only wants what is best for the taxpayers. She is doing an excellent job of fulfilling her obligation to represent the residents who elected her. It is unfortunate that some of the other elected officials have not represented those that voted them in.
Thomas Gibson July 19, 2012 at 05:54 PM
Amen Bill!
Thomas Gibson July 19, 2012 at 05:55 PM
Quetioning government is the American way. Not doing so is the losers way.
Mr. Healthcare July 19, 2012 at 08:00 PM
Tom, you sir are the only one that gets it. I wonder how many of the others that commented realize that Saunders pushed for getting healthcare for herself. It was only once she found out she was not eligible that she got upset with this practice and that she went to her ole' magdalen network to question the practice. Had SLAIT not told the new Board Members no Healthcare, Saunders would be using your tax money to live it up. For anyone that wants to challenge this post, go look at the minutes from board meetings instead of sitting at home and getting all of our information from Patch, how would that be for transparency.
Mr. Completely July 19, 2012 at 08:43 PM
OK, Mr.H. In typical Brentwood fashion you are having trouble with reality. First, do you see a problem with only certain members of the B of A getting health insurance from tax dollars while other members are denied the insurance? I do. So imagine this; Saunders is told no insurance for you. Like anyone else she asks for some information, clarification and hard core answers. Upon review she finds that the whole insurance situation doesn't pass the sniff test. She continues to ask questions and demand answers and follows the whole mess to where it ends at he Monday night B of A meeting. Seems like what any reasonable person would do especially an elected official who took an oath. Maybe Mr. H if you were denied a benefit at work that others were given you'd require some answers too. There's an old saying; sh%# doesn't stink till you stir it up. Yea, the Seemayer mess, the fire fighter no-show overtime, the health insurance fiasco did't smell till it got stirred. Hey Saunders, hey Brentwood, keep stirring!
Lynn July 19, 2012 at 08:58 PM
Mr. Healthcare, your are really not doing a very good job thinking through what happened here. You have a group of white males receiving more than the females for the same work. Can you say discripmination? Was she suppose to just sit there and say okay? She should have demanded it. And I would have hoped she sued the city silly if they denied her coverage, we residents would have gotten our clocks cleaned because of the men on our B of A. A four year old could be her lawyer and win that lawsuit. Since you missed her point it was simple, "gentleman I am not going to take a back seat to the old boys network, I am your equal". "What you earn I earn." Mr Healthcare, here is a litmus test for you, if you have a wife or daughters ask them if the would be happy doing the same job as a man for less money. Before you type your next misinformed message, try to spend some time thinking through your thoughts. The challenge you seem to be having with some of the other gentleman on the board is that you are dealing with an intelligent, strong female who understands the law and the facts. Just as an FYI, the 50's ended awhile ago, and they don't just hang out in the kitchen anymore cooking for you.
Jim Schmuke July 19, 2012 at 09:00 PM
Tom and Mr. Healthcare must be charter members of the "good ole' boys" network. They seem to be having issues separating fantasy from reality. The time for change is now and it feels good.
Mary Konroy July 19, 2012 at 10:03 PM
Mr. Healthcare, SLAIT did not vote on this issue after the Brentwood aldermanic election.I spoke with Steve Wicker, the administrator of SLAIT, who confirmed that in a follow-up email. Wicker said the city informed him that an appeal vote was not necessary since no new aldermen were interested in the health insurance program.
James Tiberius July 19, 2012 at 10:24 PM
Ditto Mr Schmuke. Glad to have met you and your family. Loved Toohey's new age term for moving ahead - he said - Let's rock and roll. Yep ... Let's rock and roll. It is an end of innocence. We can face the future with our eyes open, our head,out of the sand and thise who want Brentwoid to reclaim it's integrity - the line is forming.
John July 19, 2012 at 10:30 PM
Tom and Mr Healthcare, if you were unsure whether something was legal or illegal what course of action would you take? Would you do it, then just wait to hear whether you broke the law or not, or would you wait for the answer before moving forward. My guess is you are both smart enough to find out if it is legal. Well, our Alderman did not wait. Don't you find that to be a rather telling statement. How are you upset about someone finally watching over your tax dollars in a proper fashion? Of course, Alderman Touhy, Saunders and Manestar should have received the same benefit. How many more lawsuits do you want our city to have against it. We already support a small army of lawyers. This is probably one of our biggest city expenses. The question is why? Are there really people out there who thought it was okay to pay someone less for the same work? Yes, in fact we had three Alderman say it was okay. Wow, talk about being clueless when it comes to equal pay for equal work laws. As a city we really need to get smarter and more importantly follow the law. As taxpayers we have been letting our lawmakers steal from us because no one would go in and rock the boat. Well, it's finally starting to rock and it needs to rock a few off the board. Brentwood will be a much better place once we get a few more of the "entitled" Alderman off the board.
Tom July 20, 2012 at 03:55 AM
To all of you coming to Maureen Saunders defense, explain to me this. If she is such a good member of society out only to make things better for the Brentwood community, then why did the previous patch article say that SAUNDERS MOTION PROPOSED THAT THE INSURANCE EITHER BE AVAILABLE TO EVERYONE ON THE BOARD OR NO ONE ON THE BOARD If Maureen is all about making things right in just for Brentwood, then why did part of her proposal leave the option that everyone partake in the practice. If its so illegal and unfair to the residents than why did she want it to be available to everybody?????? The real truth of what is going on here, is that for Maureen Saunders, its either her way or the highway. She would have been fine if the insurance was available to her, that must make it legal, right? But as soon as she is told that she can not receive the benefit, all hell breaks loose and this becomes illegal.
Mr. Completely July 20, 2012 at 12:34 PM
Tom is a troll parroting the negative flyers that were mailed around Brentwood prior to the election. Don't waste any keystrokes on him. Have a nice weekend Brentwood.
Lynn July 20, 2012 at 12:57 PM
Tom, the answer is really simple. It is called equal pay for equal work. What part of that don't you understand. She was not going to allow the board to continue with its inequity. I am at a loss at how youcannot understand that is a federal law. Would you really expect anyone to sit there and accept less pay then others on the board? What part of a lawsuit don't you understand? We citizens are going to pay the guys more than the ladies on the board. This board has treated itself like the US Congress, a protected class that is entitled to what others cannot have. The BofA are at best part time workers. Why would they give themselves benefits while other Brentwood part time employees cannot have it? Her point was really simple to them: "If you are going forward with this them everyone partakes." It's called forcing someones hand. And here is what would have happened, the city would have been forced to buy new insurance outside of Slait, which would have been extremely costly. Ask our city Administrator just how much our BofA folks would have put us on the line to pay had she not voted no along with the other three members. Pay closer attention Tom, or better yet pick up the phone and call Maureen. She will explain the process and exactly how she worked to relive us taxpayers of paying our BofA folks something we did not authorize. Again, it was a process, well thought out, legal, and it worked.
Tenacious July 22, 2012 at 03:18 PM
After watching this board meeting, I am compelled to make a few observations. First, I thank Alderman Harper for his rational, professional approach to his position and for acknowledging the excellent work the police department did during the investigation of one of its co-workers. I'm sure it was an extremely difficult task for these employees as they had worked side by side with Seemayer for many years and did not know if the investigation would reveal any additional wrong doing about the mayor or anyone else they worked for. The mayor certainly hasn't shown much support to this department since the investigation as demonstrated through the handling of the personnel manual. Alderman Saunders as usual is proving to be a leader. She is not afraid to ask the hard questions, and apparently, ask them repeatedly when she is given the run around by Bola, the mayor or city attorney. Please don't get tired of this. I only hope that Alderman Manestar gets more comfortable and familiar in her position and will speak up more. I know she has it in her, as do those that elected her. It just takes a little time for some to get a feel for the arena. I echo the sentiments already expressed here about Alderman Leahy. He has lost all support. He has certainly had his emotional, irrational outbursts in previous meetings but this time he shirked his duty to the citizens. That's ineffective which means time for replacement.
Tenacious July 22, 2012 at 03:33 PM
Next, I must address the mayor. Pat Kelly made the comment that the health care benefit started long before him and that he did not initiate it. He said it is unfair to treat the elected officials like they're criminals for taking something that was offered to them that they thought was approved and appropriate. How is this situation different from the firemen that accepted overtime through a policy that started long before them and that they never had the authority to initiate or approve? They have taken verbal beatings publicly, not to mention the freeze in pay. Tell me that they don't feel they have been treated like criminals by the public and more importantly, by their own administration and co-workers in other departments? The person to be held accountable in that scandal was asked to retire (not fired), allowed to go home with a city vehicle for six weeks - paid - until a grandiose retirement spectacle could be made at Brentwood Days and then allowed to collect sick and vacation benefits for the next 7 months (of which no one had kept track of therefore allowing him the maximum benefit just like Seemayer). On top of that the City of Brentwood then gave him a lavish retirement party at the firehouse in April to celebrate his official 50 years with the City. That's punishment for you. How did those firemen feel at that party? Like they had been slapped in the face again, I'm sure. Who in their right mind would want to work for an employer like that?
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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