February 23 2016

Motion to End Health Insurance Benefit for Elected Officials Defeated Without Discussion at BoS

By: Rich Hosford

A proposal to end the practice of offering health insurance to elected officials who work less than 20 hours per week on a regular basis failed to pass during Monday night’s Board of Selectmen meeting. 


The motion was made by Chairman Mike Runyan, who had proposed making this change before. Most recently he brought it up for discussion in August of last year, but at the time other members of the board said they were not ready to vote on it at the time or spoke against the proposal.  


Runyan’s motion was to stop offering health insurance moving forward, meaning that the 13 people (9 active, 4 retired) who currently take the benefit will be allowed to continue to do so. He also made clear that under Massachusetts General Law 32B any elected official who can demonstrate they put in over 20 hours a week on a regular basis must be allowed to apply for the benefit. 


The measure was defeated without any discussion Monday night. No other member seconded the motion so Runyan was shot down by a 1-4-0 vote by default. 


About 10 Town Meeting members were at the meeting to weigh in on the motion but were not given an opportunity to speak. Before making the motion Runyan said there would be no public participation on the matter. 


“I do not intend to take any testimony on this, it is for the selectmen and the selectmen only,” he said. “This is what we’ve been voted in for.” 

He did point to background information provided to the board, including the cost of offering the benefit (estimated to be $176,998 in 2016, which is roughly 0.17 percent of the budget), newspaper articles stating the many other municipalities have ended the practice, case law and letters to the board had received from residents. 


He also made mention of a Town Meeting vote on a non-binding resolution that stated it was the will of the body to recommend to the selectmen that they end the practice that passed by a vote of 54-30 in the September, 2015 session. 


After the vote failed some of the members said they were unhappy with the process. 


“Being locked out was a [expletive] move,” Larry Way, of Precinct 5, said. “They didn’t want to hear any more on it but it is a legitimate way to save the town money.” 


“At this point only one-third of municipalities in the state continue to allow this benefit,” Precinct 1 Town Meeting member Adam Senesi said. “And Town Meeting gave the board political cover to act courageously and we feel this comes off as a bag job.” 


After the meeting Runyan said that the Town Meeting members’ arguments on the proposal had already been heard, were part of the backup material, and that he didn’t see the need to air them all again during the meeting. 

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