An amendment to eliminate health insurance benefits for elected officials and decrease their salaries by $500 was approved by the Wentzville Board of Aldermen Wednesday night after a vote to forego the usual procedure of having two readings at two different meetings.
The debate over health insurance for Wentzville’s elected officials goes back to 2014:
READ MORE: Wentzville Board of Aldermen Votes Down Board Member Benefits (November 14, 2014)
Despite an initial thumbs-down, opinions changed. Another vote a year later resulted in a tie, and Mayor Nick Guccione voted yes to benefits. Another bill that raised elected officials’ salaries passed 4-2. The changes were to go into effect after the April 2016 election.
READ MORE: Wentzville Passes $71.5 Million Budget, Raises and Insurance for Mayor, Aldermen (November 22, 2015)
The issue was brought back several times for reconsideration after an outcry on social media and criticism from local bloggers.
READ MORE: Wentzville Alderman ‘Outed’ for Accepting City Health Insurance (September 13, 2016)
READ MORE: Emotions Run High as Wentzville Board of Aldermen Discusses Insurance Benefits (September 16, 2016)
READ MORE: Mayor Breaks Tied Vote to Keep Health, Dental, Vision Insurance for Elected Officials (November 15, 2016)
“As a board, we made this mess,” Aldermen Michael Rhoades told 70 West Sentinel, explaining why he asked for the item to be placed on the agenda. “We had an opportunity to fix it and move forward.”
City policy states that an issue cannot be brought back, once decided, for six months unless there is a significant change. Bringing the ordinance back with a decrease of $500 in the mayor and aldermen’s salaries, Mayor Nick Guccione said, was the significant change that allowed the reconsideration.
Alderman Rob Hussey, in a subsequent motion, asked that aldermen’s salaries be completely eliminated and the funds reallocated for a drug abuse prevention program for the elementary and middle schools. That motion failed.
The board voted to break with its usual policy and hold both readings of the bill and conduct the final vote all in one night. Usually, a first reading takes place, and the second reading and final vote come up two weeks later, in order to give citizens more time for input.
The board, however, was eager to finish the matter and put it behind them. “Of all the great things we’ve been doing, this is all you’ve been hearing about,” Alderman Sonya Shryock said.
The amendment passed unanimously.
City Administrator David Gipson confirmed to 70 West Sentinel that the change will apply only to those elected in 2018 or later. The mayor and current board members Hussey, Rhoades, and Linda Wright still retain the option of accepting city health insurance. (Hussey is the only one to have done so.) The three board members who were elected earlier this month–Matt Swanson, Brittany Gillett, and Bryan Harr – will also be allowed to opt in to the plan.