In a statement read during the Oct. 19 regular CSD board meeting, CSD Attorney Dan Schroeder addressed the issue of benefits – and who is eligible – in response to the board’s December 20, 2010 vote to extend medical and ancillary (dental and vision) benefits to town staff.
“The issue is: may board members participate in the medical benefits program with SDMRA (Special Districts Risk Management Authority)?” said Schroeder. “The answer is yes, and here’s why. On December 20, 2010 at a board meeting, staff had requested that the board approve the medical benefits plan contained in an MOU (memorandum of understanding) that accompanied the agenda packet and was attached to the staff report … on page one, paragraph four of the MOU, it identifies who the participants would be under your plan. It includes active and retired employees and public officials; that is, you.”
Schroeder’s comments came on the heels of a series of complaints from residents who contend that the board was being dishonest when it did not publicly state that they too were eligible for benefits when they voted to offer the package to staff.
“That’s not what was voted on in November,” said Don Flint. “And it’s not what was discussed.”
On Nov. 17, 2010, the CSD board agreed to offer medical and ancillary benefits to the town’s 11 full-time and one part-time employee through the Special Districts Risk Management Authority’s (SDRMA) medical program.
According to General Manager Rick Howard, following the Nov. 17 meeting, a board member asked if directors were also eligible for the benefits package.
“I said I would look into it,” said Howard of the board member’s inquiry. “I called SDRMA and asked, and the answer was yes. So I sent an e-mail out to the board asking if anyone wanted the coverage, and nobody signed up for it.
“My intent was not to deceive anybody. In terms of the process, could it have been done better and do I feel badly about it? Absolutely. Was there any intent to deceive anybody? Absolutely not.”
Directors Ray Tetreault and Chris Steele did, however, sign up for the dental and vision package. “Let me just say for the record,” said Tetreault, “that I believe we did handle this wrong … we should have said it included directors; we knew it. And for the record, I am taking $40 a month (in ancillary benefits). I don’t feel bad about it, but I do feel we should have handled it differently.”
According to CSD President Kevin Graves, the issue was handled appropriately. “The bottom line is this,” said Graves. “State statute allows for this to occur. The minute that we voted for benefits for the town, it automatically included public officials. We didn’t pass anything for ourselves, we didn’t do anything for ourselves, and it was a trigger that allowed that to occur. That’s as simply as I can put it.”
Resident Mark Doran believes Graves was missing the point. “It’s not about who has the coverage and who doesn’t have the coverage,” said Doran. “It’s about transparency.”
Steele agreed. “We need to do a better job of communicating and being more transparent,” he said. “That’s my comment.”