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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:

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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