An anonymous Facebook page called The Wentzville Watchdogs has posted information that it says identifies Wentzville Alderman Robert Hussey as the only elected official to opt in to the city’s health insurance plan.
Hussey told 70 West Sentinel that he will read a response statement at the September 14 meeting. We will post that statement when it becomes available. The issue is already on the agenda for discussion by the board that evening.
The issue of providing city coverage for part-time elected officials was introduced in a bill in November 2014 after $24,300 was added to the budget for potential compensation increases, and health and retirement benefits. The board voted unanimously against the bill at that time.
A year later, a similar bill for optional health insurance for elected officials plus spouses and dependents was passed. Newly-elected alderman Matt Swanson joined the nay side along with Cheryl Kross and Michael Rhodes. Hussey and Linda Wright–both previously opposed–voted aye, along with Sonya Shryock. Mayor Nick Guccione broke the tie with an affirmative vote.
The issue continued to come up for discussion at meetings, but until recently, was not able to garner enough support for an amendment or recision of the bill.
In one of those discussions (March 9 Board of Aldermen meeting), when Alderman Rhodes said that citizens should be told if an elected official chose to use the city insurance, City Attorney Jim Hettlage responded that such information could be shared.
Then, in early July, Wentzville resident Larry Tucker–who ran unsuccessfully for the Ward 2 Alderman seat in April–sent a records request to the city to find out which elected officials had opted into the city’s health insurance (only newly-elected officials were eligible). He received the reply that the documents requested were closed records under the protected health information law HIPAA. Tucker was able to bypass that decision by instead requesting compensation records for each elected official. The information he was provided appears to indicate that Hussey is the only one of the seven elected officials receiving the additional benefit. (Kross, Shryock, and Swanson will not be eligible for the increased salary or benefits unless or until they are re-elected.)
Tucker provided the information to the Watchdog group, where it was posted on September 2.
The Watchdogs announced Tuesday afternoon that Fox 2 News’ Elliot Davis has become interested in the issue, and will be at Heartland Park on Friday afternoon to talk to concerned citizens.
This comes on the heels of an online petition “STOP free healthcare for part-time officials,” posted on thepetitionsite.com four days ago. The petition now has 34 supporters. However, last names are not displayed, and supporters are allowed to remain anonymous, so it will uncertain if the supporters are actual Wentzville residents.
The issue of health insurance for elected officials is back on the agenda for discussion at this Wednesday’s (September 14) meeting. Also on the agenda is an amendment to the city code about employee benefits (black print is current ordinance language, changes are in red), which eliminates the 60-day waiting period, adds the elected officials, and cleans up language.
Full text of the ordinance, as well as a full agenda for the meeting and supporting documents, are available on the city’s website.