In a special executive session Friday, Liberty Township Trustees discussed the future of the township’s cash-in-lieu of health insurance program established in 2009.
“Everything I have reviewed has lead me to the same conclusion,” said Brad Bennett, an attorney certified in labor and employment law for the firm of Zashin & Rich.
Bennett told trustees the township is non-compliant with the Ohio Revised Code in the matter of cash-in-lieu of health insurance benefits.
“These won’t be very difficult changes to make going forward,” Bennett said.
Denutte hired Bennett when she had discovered the cash-in-lieu program was non-compliant with Ohio laws.
Trustees agreed changes need to have as little impact for employees as possible, but want to correct the issue quickly.
“It affects anyone who is employed with us,” Trustee Shyra Eichhorn said. “If something changes, they would be affected as well.”
“The next step is getting the appropriate players together and start looking at how we can rewrite this program so it has the minimal amount of affect,” Eichhorn said.
Bennett suggested not making changes right away until sitting down with union representatives. “I would suggest that you not make any changes until you have set down and negotiated with them,” he said.
“We want to make sure that all the players that are going to be affected have an ability to attend the meeting,” Eichhorn said. “We need to do that meeting immediately.”
Eichhorn expressed the urgency in scheduling a meeting with the State Auditor’s Office for guidance in the matter now that the board was aware of the non-compliance.
“We’re going to have to move on this thing quickly,” Eichhorn said. “It’s one thing to be out of compliance and not knowing it, but it’s another thing now that it’s been brought to our attention.”
Trustee Tom Mitchell spoke as if the township isn’t out of compliance until ruled on by the State Auditor’s Office.
“We’re advisably, probably out of compliance,” Mitchell said. “Once the State Auditor makes the decision, then we’ll have the confirmation that we’re out of compliance or not.”
Trustee Melanie Leneghan disagreed with Mitchell’s statement.
“I think the statute speaks for it’s self,” Leneghan said. “It’s a judges decision ultimately.”
Eichhorn is looking into the legal possibilities of being non-compliant and the consequences.
“What are the legal ramifications as each paycheck goes out now that we know we’re out of compliance?” Eichhorn asked. “I don’t want to turn anybody’s life upside down and I’m not trying to make any special resolution.”
Eichhorn pointed out a clause in the contract that if there is something in it that is not lawful, it “trumps the contract,” as she put it.
“We passed a resolution as one thing and implemented it as if were another,” Leneghan said. “We made a mistake. Now we need to correct the mistake.”
D. Anthony Botkin may be reached at 740-413-0902 or on Twitter @dabotkin.