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Brentwood Officials' Health Insurance: Residents Speak, Kelly Responds, Saunders Makes a Motion

Brentwood residents came one after the other to express their dismay over the salaries and health benefits of their elected officials.

The Brentwood Board of Aldermen met Monday night in a multipurpose room at the Brentwood Rec Center, and it was just big enough for the almost 60 residents that came to find out about a benefit their mayor and some of the aldermen had: city-paid health insurance.

When Brentwood’s three newest aldermen came into office in April, they did so without city-paid insurance, a benefit that Brentwood aldermen have had access to since the early 1990s.

Mayor Pat Kelly said in the board of aldermen meeting Monday night that the health insurance for elected officials is being phased out, simply by not offering it to incoming officials.

In the public comment portions of the board of aldermen meeting Monday night, Brentwood residents came to the podium one after the other and spoke their minds about their aldermen and mayor receiving city-paid insurance. There was encouraging applause for each.

Residents take the podium

Jim Pozzo was first. He said he was “surprised and shocked” the aldermen had a benefit like health insurance.

“It’s just not right, because you’re not employees. You’re elected, and you’re volunteering your time,” he said. “You’re putting in your time for the people, and I don’t see where you guys get these benefits increases your care of the people, or how it helps us.”

He compare the situation to the Brentwood firemen who were paid overtime for years. “You handled the firemen a certain way, I think you should do the same thing for yourselves,” he said.

Tom Martin said he was “surprised and shocked” that the Brentwood mayor has a $14,000 salary and Clayton’s mayor earned $6,000.

“The worst part of this is that this has been kept a secret more or less from the tax payers of this city,” he said, “and it’s taken some of the recently elected aldermen and women to bring this to light.”

Molly Hancock wanted to know how the Brentwood aldermen and mayor’s job was so different from the same positions at nearby cities that justified such a big pay spread.

Katherine Boyd wanted to know why they didn’t think their salaries and benefits isn’t a mismanagement of money?

“The money that’s here is ours,” Boyd said. “It’s a huge issue for us, and obviously, with so many people here, it’s our right and our job to take back that right and use it properly, and to show you guys this is how we want our city run.”

Julie Pozzo, who went door to door on Sunday to get some of the crowd to the meeting, said she doesn’t like to go to board of aldermen meetings, but thinks she needs to because there’s no adult supervision.

“You were not hired, you were elected,” she said. “You are here to serve the community and not for the compensation.

“It just isn’t right,” Pozzo said, “especially at this time when people are out of jobs and have to pay large premiums to keep medical insurance. You need to pay back the city.”

Karen Smith said that there was discrimination because the insurance was not uniformly offered. She was also confused, she said because she said city administrator Bola Akande had told her they’re not considered employees, but Kelly had said earlier in the meeting that they are considered fulltime employees for the purposes of benefits.

Kelly responds to the criticism

Kelly responded at the end of the first volley of comments.

He said he has talked about the benefits publicly, most recently at his monthly coffee with the mayor, where “20 or 30” people were there. He said there were no questions.

He said the salaries of the aldermen and mayor are set by ordinance, most recently in 2000.

“In early 2000, the board of aldermen elected to raise the salaries of both the aldermen and the mayor because they hadn’t been raised n more than 20 years,” he said.

“At that time, one of the deciding factors was the fact that the city judge, who meets twice a month, had a salary of $12,000 a year. The board of aldermen thought the mayor’s salary should be higher than the judges. So the judges was $1,000 a month and the board of aldermen decided to make the mayor’s $1,200 for the mayor.”

Kelly said the new salary went into effect with the new office-holder. It was him.

He said the insurance benefit “has been offered to the elected officials throughout the years. Why some people didn’t know about it, I’m not going to speak to that.”

He said the city went into a self-insured program with several area cities in the 80s to save costs.

“I think the confusion is, people say because we can’t find the records, that we haven’t had time to go back and look, that we’re all bad people trying to cover something up,” Kelly said. “That has never been the intent.”

Brentwood joined SLAIT (St. Louis Area Insurance Trust) in 2009, and the aldermen who had been insured with the city were grandfathered in. The new aldermen aren’t being allowed to participate, and eventually all elected officials will be gone.

Maureen makes a motion to end the benefit

Alderwoman Maureen Saunders said it was wrong at the time to include the elected officials at that time.

She made a motion, and Manestar seconded it, to end the health care benefit.

Alderman Anthony Harper said he wanted to look into the history of the benefit, before voting to end it, and Saunders agreed and withdrew her motion.

“I’d like to see it end,” Saunders said after the meeting, “but I’m OK, if they need to get some information for Anthony Harper, and he’s one that’s not participating. We’re not employees, and I don’t think it’s a benefit that we’re entitled to.”

Mr. Completely June 12, 2012 at 12:42 PM
While the Brentwood residents are to be commended for attempting to hold their elected officials accountable it’s likely to end up nowhere. The odds are in favor of the mayor & his allies wearing down any opposition. Time is on their side. They all got up this morning and went to their jobs without a care about the average Brentwood citizen, voter, parent, business owner. Mayor Kelly asked for his salary increase in the mid 2000’s (maybe 2005) because “I send my kids to private high schools and the tuition is high”. The sitting aldermen voted to double his salary (quid pro quo) with an increase in their salary several months later supported by mayor Kelly. The justification given by Brentwood city hall for the alderman pay hike was that they were overworked and having to meet several times a month in addition to attending committee hearings during the wholesale land grab and development of the north end of Hanley Industrial. At the end of the day the problem in Brentwood is far simpler than salaries, health insurance, land grabs, incentives for wealthy developers, illegal political campaign practices, or the smoke and mirrors of the day. Mayor Kelly and his allies simply don’t give a damn about Brentwood. They are an ego driven bunch with time on their side. You can’t pull the curtain back far enough or fast enough to keep up with their agenda. Stall-stall-stall. Delay, delay, delay.
Karen Smith June 12, 2012 at 02:33 PM
In addition to the health benefit, the life, dental and pension benefits need to be addressed as well! And we also need to understand any other benefits they are receiving such as free membership at the recreational facilities.
Elisabeth Boone June 12, 2012 at 03:17 PM
I am one of the lucky residents who live near the Mobil station at Brentwood Boulevard and Garden Street. Since this facility was expanded to a convenience store, neighbors have been exposed to virtually nonstop noise from what amounts to a 24/7 truck stop. Within the past few weeks I have sent two e-mails about this issue to Lee Wynn, one to Pat Kelly, one to the "Report a Concern" segment of the city website, and one to Cindy Manestar. Other than an automated bounce-back "reply" from both Wynn and Kelly, inviting me to join their exclusive priority e-mail lists, the only actual response I received was from Ms. Manestar. These elected officials' failure to acknowledge or respond to my concerns (which are shared by neighbors) is evidence of a disturbing lack of accountability on the part of people whose salaries are paid by our taxes (which, despite declining property values, always seem to increase). The poison icing on top of this moldy cake was the recent revelation that Kelly and the aldermen/women voted to reward themselves with pricey benefits packages at taxpayer expense, without consulting the residents whose money pays for these perks. Kelly claimed he needed a raise because he chose to send his children to private school. Right! And I need a raise so I can build a soundproof barrier around my property so I can sit outside in peace instead of being bombarded by the ceaseless racket from the Mobil station. Gee, I wonder when I'll get the money!
Sue Indelicato June 12, 2012 at 10:54 PM
I would like to know what company they have their insurance through. Many insurance companies require a minimum number of hours worked before they will provide coverage. Also, I don't think it's allowable to insure just a select group of people. You have to offer it to everyone, or no one.
Confused June 13, 2012 at 03:34 AM
Brentwood is in a self insurance pool called SLAIT... St. Louis Area Insurance Trust. Membership is made up of cities in St. Louis & St. Charles County that have appointed City Administrators or Managers. SLAIT offers its member cities property, liability, workers compensation and health insurance to a few select cities.
Russell Madden June 14, 2012 at 07:27 AM
For Mayor Kelly and his aldermanic pals, it would appear their goal is to milk Brentwood's hapless taxpayers for as much as they can. Why else would Kelly ask city taxpayers to pay his health insurance, when he earns a big salary at Eagle Bank and his wife earns even more as a high-ranking executive of Wells Fargo Advisors? Together the couple reportedly earns around a quarter of a million dollars a year. And both Eagle and Wells Fargo surely offer their employees attractive health benefits, too. Ladue's filthy-rich taxpayers pay their mayor $0, while Brentwood's struggling middle-class taxpayers pay Kelly $19,000 a year (salary + health benefit). And two of Kelly's aldermanic pals rely on the taxpayers to provide this health benefit so they don't have to saddle their personal businesses with this expense. I guess this is what happens when opportunists win elections and voters don't monitor them closely. Let's make these guys really sorry they ever talked us into voting them 4-year terms.
Bill Prat July 02, 2012 at 05:06 PM
I've felt for years that our wonderful small city was getting to big for it's britches and the actions of city leaders confirms it. We use eminent domain to keep thinning the houses in favor of what is sold as a commercial boon for the city. That is if you define the city as those making their living with the city or governing it. The city is not you or me because these "boons" simply raise our taxes to pay for the additional services needed by the new commercial spaces. Which by the way get huge tax incentives to locate here. What the city gets is new police and fire stations, ever higher salaries and pay for hours not worked and benefits for "volunteer" city leaders that are richer than those for cities many times our size. It's like a page right out of the federal government play book.

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