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Saunders Takes Aim at Health Insurance Perk

Brentwood alderwoman plans to introduce motion to stop the long-held practice.

If Alderwoman Maureen Saunders has her way at the next Board of Aldermen meeting, the city’s long-held practice of picking up the health insurance tab for its elected officials will end — immediately.

There will be no more research, no more discussion and no transition time for Mayor Pat Kelley and the three aldermen who participate in the program to shop around for another insurance carrier.

Saunders intends to introduce a motion to end the practice of providing city-paid health insurance to Brentwood’s part-time elected officials. She made a similar motion last month, but withdrew it after fellow alderman Anthony Harper asked for some research into the long-held practice before the next aldermanic meeting, which is scheduled for July 16th.

“They can pick up COBRA,” she said of her fellow elected officials. “Enough!”

How to you feel about this city-paid health insurance? Vote in the poll below.

COBRA (the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act) allows qualified (former) employees the right to temporarily receive health insurance from their employer — but pay the entire premium, for coverage up to 102 percent of the cost to the plan.  

But Brentwood aldermen aren't former employees.

“I don’t believe we (elected officials) are entitled to the insurance,” said Saunders, nor does she want it.  She also said it irks her that some of her peers, by virtue of receiving insurance, are getting paid more than she is for the same job.

Saunders and other newly elected officials are barred from participating in the insurance program administered by the St. Louis Area Insurance Trust (SLAIT). SLAIT does not allow part-time help, including elected officials, to participate in its group plan.   When Brentwood joined SLAIT in 2009, SLAIT ‘grandfathered in’ existing officials. There was no change in guard until the aldermanic election this past April.

Saunders was voted into office along with new Patrick Toohey and Cindy Manestar.  Manestar is enrolled in the city-run insurance program through her husband, who is a Brentwood police officer. Toohey is satisfied with his health insurance from his employer, and Saunders is covered through her husband’s plan.

Mayor Pat Kelly, aldermen Tom Kramer, Andy Leahy and Keith Robertson are enrolled in the city-paid health insurance program. Aldermen Harper and Lee Wynn are not.

“The big question is: Did we have the legal right to get this benefit,” Saunders said.

So far no one has been able to provide any proof — one way or the other.

Also in Maplewood-Brentwood Patch:

Karen Smith July 05, 2012 at 02:08 PM
I was asked to submit a sunshine request to get answers to questions that I raised at the June 11th BOA meeting. It is unfortunate that citizens have to submit sunshine requests to receive information which the city and the Board of Alderman (the entity charged with overseeing tax payer monies and charged with providing governance and oversight) should know as a result of the due diligence that they do as part of their job. See the next posts for copies of the questions.
Karen Smith July 05, 2012 at 02:08 PM
Questions submitted in follow up to June 11th BOA meeting: a. When did the practice of offering health/dental/life and pension benefits to elected officials begin? How was it authorized? b. What is the rationale for offering these benefits? What is the added value that elected officials in Brentwood offer to taxpayers that justifies these benefits?…a practice that is not customary c. Are there any other compensation benefits offered to elected officials that the tax payers don’t know about (e.g., free membership to the Recreation Center in Richmond Heights)? d How was it determined who was offered the benefits? They do not seem to have been uniformly offered. e. What is the employment status of elected officials: are they not employed and if they are employed are they full time or part time? I am not sure how they can be both non-employees and full time employees at the same time? And if they are full time employees, how can you be classified full time when they don’t work 40 hours?
Karen Smith July 05, 2012 at 02:09 PM
Continuation of Questions submitted in follow up to June 11th BOA meeting: When elected official’s salaries were raised in the early 2000s, how was this accomplished? Did the voters vote on it? Based on the text Andy Leahy read from Roberts Rules, who can authorize increases in compensation? g. What is the basis for determining compensation for elected officials? As I mentioned at the BOA meeting, I am not sure you can base if off of the judge’s salary given the requirements of that position versus that of the elected officials. His position requires a level of training and experience that is not required of elected officials. And the position’s roles and responsibilities are very different. And one question that I did not ask about: are there any other appointed officials or fire/police board individuals that have access to health/dental/life insurance benefits and to the pension?
Thomas Gibson July 05, 2012 at 02:27 PM
Karen, if you have this many problems with Brentwood, why not move. This is a great city, with excellent government. We are comfortable and pay no city taxes, eclose to everything. If you can find a better place to live, do so. yoe and others just like to complain.
Thomas Gibson July 05, 2012 at 02:28 PM
Boy, am I a bad typist. Sorry
Karen Smith July 05, 2012 at 02:45 PM
Thomas, I don't know why I should have to move because Brentwood city hall and BOA are not acting fiscally responsible. As tax payers we should expect our elected officials to provide appropriate checks and balances and we should hold them accountable. Just because you are comfortable and don't pay city taxes is not an excuse to allow misconduct. Allowing what has gone on in Brentwood over the last 20 years is inexcusable.
Thomas Gibson July 05, 2012 at 03:07 PM
I do not see anything wrong Karen. If you do, then you are doing the right thing. I just happen to disagree with you. I have known Pat and Andy for years, they are good at what they do, and I support them 100%. Neither has a dishonest bone in their bodies. So we pay their insurance, big deal. They deserve it if you ask me. Their work for the city is good, they deserve more than we give them, Maureen also does as do they all.
Mr. Completely July 05, 2012 at 03:33 PM
Roll Call Please: Saunders, Yes Harper, No Toohey, Yes Manestar, No Kramer, No Leahy, No Roberston, No Wynn, No Motion Fails
Doug Miner July 05, 2012 at 03:38 PM
Now YOU vote. There's a poll at the end of the article.
James Tiberius July 05, 2012 at 03:51 PM
Asking for accountability is simply fair, open and honest. Each of us has the right to respectfully voice our opinion. There needs to be checks and balances in all aspects of life. It is when the playing field is unequal and in the eye's of many unfair .... that problems arise. Compensation should be equal. The cash value of insurance premiums paid and any other benefit is compensation. No one is a bad person, no one should be told to move. Disagreement is fine bur, let's find the common ground amongst us to make it the city of warmth for all.
Karen Smith July 05, 2012 at 04:15 PM
Sorry Thomas..we will have to agree to disagree on this one. I hardly call the following list which occurred during their watch as “doing a good job”….especially when they are responsible for providing governance and oversight of tax payer money. - Embezzlement of $30k (that we know about) - Allowing firefighter to go into fire without updated protective gear - Fraudulently billing tax payers for overtime - Using city credit cards for personal use - Inability to account for how city funds are allocated - Managing to budget
RDBet July 05, 2012 at 04:53 PM
Though I don't blame people for questioning Brentwood government spending in these cases, I am wondering why similar scrutiny isn't extended to the TIFs and incentives given to various developers. It's all taxpayer money, and at a much larger scale.
Thomas Gibson July 05, 2012 at 05:18 PM
Karen, okay, sounds good to me. If you know the history of those things, it was mostly Seemayers fault. He is now gone, should have been fired though. Yes, they did allow him to do it and should be held accountable for it. We can do that at the ballot box, as we should.
Karen Smith July 05, 2012 at 06:12 PM
Good point RDBet. We have been asking questions regarding TIFs and TDDs because Brentwood has a lot of these vehicles and millions of tax payer money passing through them with very little oversight. One such vehicle (the Meridian) had $400k miss-allocated...but understanding what happened (transparency) and holding public officials accountable is challenging. In addition, tax payers will be paying even more over the next several years as a result of a law suit that came out of this development.
Ed July 05, 2012 at 10:07 PM
Brentwood is a great city. I belive folks are just trying to make it better.
Ed July 05, 2012 at 10:11 PM
"Pat and Andy" may or may not be as honest as the day is long... but that doesn't mean they are doing a great or even an acceptable job. If they were, we wouldn't have had all of the issues in local government that are just now coming to light... things like embezlement, fraudulent overtime, etc. Public officials can and should be held up to scruitiny for their actions. And while I applaud your speaking up for your belief, in this day and age many of us DO NOT believe that part-time public officials 'deserve' fully paid insurance.
Reginald Hermann July 06, 2012 at 12:13 AM
Wait, Im trying to see where the news is in this article? If you talk to andy, who I have, he will say that only a handful of thoise guys have ever worked it as a p/t representitive. When they wlak out the door their job is not fin. U only see the formal part. Btw, for a good laff, one of the mtgs shows Saunders demanding a check for the same $$ as the insurance, that she is now denial that she ever wanted.
Philip Scherry July 06, 2012 at 04:05 AM
1) The benefit is being phased out. 2) None of the current board members should be allowed to vote on this issue. State law does not allow them to increase their own compensation immediately. If a change is made, it must take place after the next election for that seat. As Brentwood just increased the terms of their alderman to 4 years, it will take that long to make this change.
Joseph Mansker July 06, 2012 at 06:49 AM
Everyone here has a point except for one thing. How do we get paid back? The aldermen can give up their pay, the mayor can take a cut, the fire chief has already been taken care of, but how do we rid ourselves of the good ole boy network? These guys have had control too long, and they are operating under our noses as good guys. Good luck all from a recent citizen, keep Brentwood strong.
Jim Pozzo July 06, 2012 at 07:03 AM
But the question is, 1. if the benefits were never authorized by the aldermen, 2. were not offered to all of the aldermen in the past, 3. were not stated in an ordinance regarding compensation, 4. were just given to them arbitrarily by the former city administrator, Are these benefits legal? The mayor said these benefits were not being hidden, why were they not offered to all of the aldermen, past and current. Leahy said he was alderman for many years before he knew health benefits were available per Seemayer. And why is Brentwood the only municipality where elected officials get these benefits? This is very similar to the firemen's maintenance program, the program had gone on for years but it was never "approved," so management was forced to resign and firemen forced to pay back the funds.
Jim Pozzo July 06, 2012 at 02:04 PM
Jim Pozzo
Ed July 06, 2012 at 02:53 PM
if the benefits were simply an arbitrary decision to implement, why do they need to be 'phased out'. make an arbitrary decision to rescind. Simple.
Russell Madden July 08, 2012 at 07:21 AM
Brentwood's elected officials were self-serving several years ago when they awarded themselves unwarranted pay hikes and health-care benefits. Mayor Kelly's salary jumped from $8,700 to $14,400! These 9 people only work for us part-time and are not even classified as City "employees." Most earn good salaries and benefits in their other careers. And Brentwood only has 1.9 square miles of land and 8,000 residents, down from 12,000 residents in the 1960s. These officials held public votes on the pay hikes, but not on the health benefits. For the latter, it appears Mayor Kelly simply went to City Administrator Seemayer and asked him to create this perk. No City official has been able to present any evidence to the contrary. Sadly, this can happen in cities that are (a) flush with cash, (b) governed by opportunists, and (c) filled with apathetic residents who don't monitor the opportunists. Bravo to Alderwoman Saunders for her valiant effort to end this health-care perk. Interested residents should attend the next aldermanic meeting on Monday, July 16, to support Alderwoman Saunders.
CHERYL EMERY July 08, 2012 at 06:42 PM
Well said Russell. I encourage all Brentwood residents to attend the next Board of Alderman meeting on July 16th. We need to continue to let our city's officials know that we are paying attention, and we are not going away until this administration proves to be transparent!!!

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