Mayor: ‘Despicable’ move for health benefits won’t stand
WARREN, Mich. (AP) — City council members in a Detroit suburb granted themselves lifetime health insurance coverage, but the mayor said the perk won’t stand.
Warren City Council unanimously voted in September to pass a measure allowing current and former elected officials, who served at least eight years in office, to be vested for lifetime health insurance provided by the city.
Warren Mayor Jim Fouts called the move “probably one of the most despicable, underhanded actions that has ever taken place” in city government.
“This is the ultimate in dirty tricks based on one thing: greed,” said Fouts.
Six of the seven council members who voted to pass the measure left office after the Nov. 5 election. Warren council members are paid $31,000 a year, among the highest salaries in Michigan for a part-time council job.
Former council member Scott Stevens said Monday that he and his fellow members were prepared to vote on renewing health and dental coverage for city employees on Sept. 10 when then-secretary Robert Boccomino introduced an amendment to the measure that secured the lifetime benefits shortly before the meeting started.
"It was one page, but the print was very small. ... I remember it being very hard to read, and it was lengthy," Stevens said. "I couldn’t make heads nor tails of it. ... My mistake. I should’ve objected to it being implemented or given out at the table, but (other council members) had done that so often over the last eight years, where everything was last minute."
Council member Ronald Papandrea, who held onto his seat this year, echoed Stevens.
"I didn’t really think about it," Papandrea said. "I made a bad decision. I should have realized this could have ramifications. ... We’re all human. We all make mistakes, sometimes with good intentions. I'm sorry I voted for this."
September’s meeting offered a reading of the resolution’s brief description listed on the meeting agenda before council members approved the measure without discussion, according to video footage posted on the city's website. The outgoing council approved the measure in 29 seconds.
City administrators maintain that they were not aware of the perk.
“We will never implement this,” Fouts said repeatedly during a conference call interview Monday.
Council member and president Patrick Green said Monday the issue will be discussed during the council’s regular meeting Nov. 26.