Just when you think you’ve heard it all, you go to a meeting of Manchester Board of Mayor and Aldermen, or one of its subcommittees. Last night at the meeting of the board’s Committee on Human Resources and Insurance, a request by Mayor Ted Gatsas to audit the city’s health insurance program to ensure that all who were covered by the benefits were eligible to receive them ran into a roadblock.
After a brief presentation by the mayor, in which he said an audit by the state of New Hampshire of its plan found that six percent of the covered dependents covered were ineligible for coverage, Ward One Alderman and mayoral Joyce Craig asked Gatsas whether or not he’d contacted the city’s employee unions to see whether or not quote “they had any concerns with this.”
Gatsas said he didn’t think checking to see that those receiving benefits were eligible to receive them was a union issue.
Craig continued to oppose the proposal, complaining the city didn’t know what it would cost to have the audit done and wondering whether or not an email could be sent to employees stating the city was considering an audit and asking employees to make sure they weren’t covering people who shouldn’t be covered by the plan. Gatsas said if six percent of those covered by the city plan were ineligible for coverage, as was the case with the state, that would be one hundred eighty people receiving benefits that shouldn’t. That’s a lot of dough.
Human Resources Director Jane Gile said the city had sent emails to the employees in the past. She also said once they do the initial eligibility verification of an employee and their dependents, it’s impossible to know if dependents remain in eligible, saying employees don’t always tell the city when they get divorced or separated or go through other changes that would render dependents, who sometimes aren’t really dependents, like the children of a significant other, ineligible for coverage.
Rather than go out for a Request for Proposal (RFP), which Gile said would likely be necessary to provide the committee with the cost and process information it was looking for, the committee, at Craig’s urging, referred the matter to the Human Resources Department. Craig again asked about sending another email to employees to see how many would come forward voluntarily and remove ineligible dependents, to which Gile said, if that’s what the committee wanted her to do, she would, especially since she was unsure what she was supposed to do given the committee’s prior action, which was to get information that an RFP would get without doing an RFP. Craig’s email motion passed.
The committee also punted the mayor’s request that it make recommendations on how to handle health and dental benefits for the aldermen to the full board, where no discussion was had. It will likely end up on the next agenda as a report from the committee.
News from our own backyard continues after this.
Also at last night’s meeting of the board, the complaint filed by Robert Tarr against Aldermen Ron Ludwig of Ward Two, Barbara Shaw of Ward Nine and Normand Gamache of Ward Eleven for voting on the teachers contract despite the conflict of interest provisions in the city’s charter was tabled at his request. That came after a lot of wrangling, however. Mayor Ted Gatsas vetoed Alderman at-Large Dan O’Neil’s motion to receive and file Tarr’s letter. O’Neil said the matter was in court and complaint was nothing more than an attempt to embarrass multiple aldermen. Oh My HEAD!
The board also authorized the expenditure of up to fifteen thousand dollars for outside legal counsel to represent the city in that court action. Last night the board learned that the preliminary injunction sought by the plaintiffs will likely be withdrawn because the contract had already been authorized. After the meeting, Girard at Large learned that School Board Vice-Chair Sarah Ambrogi signed the contract, enabling its execution. Interesting. Who knew she had authority to sign for the city?
Attorney Brandon Ross told us last night that the lawsuit will still proceed with the goals of invalidating the votes, which would likely render the contract null and void and preventing aldermen from voting on contracts where immediate family members, as defined by the charter, are involved. Given that Ludwig and Gamache both have sons working for the Manchester Fire Department and that those contracts are under negotiation, that is not a small issue.
There was OOOHHH sooo much more and it’s all in our Live Blog Forum. Be sure to check it out. We’ve linked to it.
More fireworks in Derry as the newly scheduled October thirteenth election on the eight petitions submitted to overturn the Town Council’s budget cuts nears. Residents complained that Americans for Prosperity was making calls to town residents urging them to vote against the petitions and preserve the spending and tax cuts enacted by the council.
Those protests brought a sharp rebuke from Councilor Mark Osborne who asked why that was such a problem when union firemen from all over New England were dressed in their helmets and knocking doors all over their town? Osborne said he’d received calls from senior citizens complaining about their door knocking tactics. He also questioned why nobody was investigating how a group that collects and spends thousands of dollars for political purposes gets away with not reporting its activity to the A G or the Secretary of State as a PAC or a non profit. Apparently, that riled some folks in the room. I’m sure we’ll get more on that story, too.
The Londonderry Police Department announced yesterday that the town will celebrate Halloween on Saturday October thirty first between the hours of four and seven PM. They say the hours have been chosen to optimize the safety and enjoyment of all participating in the holiday. Police asked residents to exercise enhanced caution and safety measures on the road during the outlined times and to report any suspicious activity immediately.
That’s news from our own backyard, Girard at Large hour ___ is next