Council discusses post-employment benefits at work session Monday

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

By Karen Hall

Staff Writer

Further legal advice will be needed to clarify the city's position on post-employment benefits for long-serving Lewisburg employees who retire.

This was Treasurer Donna Park's conclusion the morning after an 80-minute council work session Monday night.

Part of the problem is that employees who are retiring now, like Glenn Liggett, who served the city for 40 years, were told one thing in 2007 and another thing in 2013.

In 2007, according to Park, long-serving employees were told when they retired they -- and their spouses -- would have the same insurance they had while working until they were eligible for Medicare, and then they would get a Medicare supplement.

In 2013, a resolution was passed that benefits for the spouse ended when the city retiree died.

Part of the problem, said Park, is that neither of the policies are very clearly worded, and no one who worked in city hall then is working there now.

Four retired city employees were "grandfathered" into the plan, she said, and the cost of their insurance last year was about $160,000.

"The policy is not specific enough," said City Manager Randall Dunn.

"We need to clarify the policy moving forward from today."

Councilman David Orr agreed the policy needed to be clarified and said, "I can't see it's the citizens of Lewisburg's responsibility to pay for spouses' health insurance. It's not the right way to spend the taxpayers money!"

Dunn pointed out the real issue was whether a former employee's spouse and dependents were covered if the employee died before he or she was 65.

Park said she got advice from Municipal Technical Advisory Service attorney, Alicia Hodge, who recommended all 33 employees be grandfathered in.

"I'm getting more confused as we go along," Mayor Jim Bingham said.

"Why were those original four people grandfathered in?"

"They had a letter saying there were lifetime benefits for the employee and the surviving spouse," answered Park.

"Why 33 employees?" Bingham continued.

"The policy says 'all active full-time employees as of April 10, 2007,'" explained Park.

"Those are the ones who are still here."

"We need a policy more well thought out and definitive," concluded Bingham.

Among those in the audience was firefighter Bill Thomas.

"I'm one of the 30-year people," he said.

"All along we were told we would be covered like the original four. I urge you to keep it that way. That's your long-term employees that have stayed all those years."

"We've got to come up with a document that puts closure to this,"said Bingham.

"We've got to nail it down in a policy," agreed Councilman Trigg Cathey.

"We must not pass on an ambiguity to future councils."

"We will try to come up with a comprehensive policy. We will work with MTAS and any other people who can help, and come up with a clear, unambiguous policy that this council wants," said Bingham.