East Ridge City Attorney Says Bethune Eligible For Health Insurance Benefit

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

East Ridge City Attorney Hal North has written a letter saying Vice Mayor Jim Bethune and other council members are eligible for the same health benefits as city employees.

Attorney North said, under state law, the city could pay up to 100 percent of the cost of insurance for council members.

Commissioner Larry Sewell has raised an issue about a $13,800 item in the budget this year for the insurance coverage for Vice Mayor Bethune and his wife.

Councilman Sewell said, "I don't begrudge him the insurance. I just don't think the way that they went about it was right."

He said former City Manager Tim Gobble did not take the matter to the council for a vote, though the Bethune benefit was above his $10,000 approval limit. The first-year cost of the Bethune insurance last year was $12,000.

Councilman Sewell also said the city charter says council members can receive pay and expenses, but does not say anything about benefits.

He said when former Mayor Mike Steele got city health coverage he paid all the costs for himself and his wife.

Vice Mayor Bethune said the same insurance coverage was offered last year to all the council members. He said, "I was the only one who took it. I was retiring and was looking for insurance at the time. When this came along, I said, 'Sign me up.'"

He said he does contribute to the cost of the coverage, paying the same amount as other employees do. He declined to say how much he pays every month.

Noting that he and Councilman Sewell have often been on the opposite side on votes and that now he is with the majority on many issues, Vice Mayor Bethune said, "This is about sour grapes. He is just trying to gig me."

He said East Ridge resident Brian Williams, who has written numerous emails to East Ridge city officials about the issue, is a nephew of Councilman Sewell. Councilman Sewell said Mr. Williams called him about the issue - not the other way around.

Freida Wheeler, interim city manager, told Mr. Williams in one email, "Vice-Mayor Bethune is the council member legally covered by health insurance per TCA; the same benefit provided to employees of the City of East Ridge.  Vice-Mayor Bethune pays the same amount on health premium as other employees pay for the health coverage.  Then City Manager Tim Gobble notified each council member of their eligibility for health insurance per TCA; Vice Mayor Bethune opted to subscribe to the benefit.  Other council members were also offered the same coverage, but I understand they already had ins coverage at the time.  This benefit continues to be offered to Mayor and Council at insurance enrollment.

 

"When each budget is approved by council, all line items included in that budget are approved at the time the budget is passed, as the 2012/2013 budget.  If our proposed FY2013/2014 budget is approved on second reading, all items are approved at that time."

Ms. Wheeler added, "At this time, staff has attempted to answer your questions but you refuse to accept our answers.  I now consider your relentless questions and emails as harassing behavior." 

Former Mayor Steele said about 2008 or 2009 he looked into the city benefit after his wife lost her insurance benefit at her job.

He said he was told by then-City Manager William Whitson that he was eligible for the coverage, but that he would have to pay 100 percent. 

Mr. Steele said, "It was good insurance, and I thought that was fair. I didn't think the taxpayers should have to pay for it."
  




Latest Hamilton County Jail Booking Report

Here is the latest jail booking report from Hamilton County: ANDRES, SYLVESTER G  1704 S GREENWOOD AVE CHATTANOOGA, 37407  Age at Arrest: 24 years old Arresting Agency: Chattanooga AGGRAVATED ASSAULT DOMESTIC POSS.OF FIREARM WHILE IN COMMISSION OF FELONY --- BAILEY, AVEUS MARQUEL  5005 18TH AVE CHATTANOOGA, 37407  Age at Arrest: 24 years ... (click for more)

Alexander: The Best Wanted To Play For Pat Summitt Because She Was The Best

Senator Lamar Alexander on Wednesday paid tribute on the Senate floor to legendary Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt, who passed away  Tuesday . Senator Alexander’s floor remarks follow: Senator Corker and I have come to the floor to introduce a resolution honoring the life and achievements of Pat Summitt, the former University of Tennessee basketball ... (click for more)

A Disturbing Trend At Exit 11 - And Response (2)

So, am I the first to notice a trend?   How many wrecks does exit 11 need before anyone asks "whats up with that?"  I have lost count of the wrecks that continue to happen, even after last year's awful loss of life (which I believe 51 percent of the blame should fall on the THP officer on duty).  The problem with this section of interstate are sight lines ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: A Story You Won’t See

In a puzzling time when the big daily newspapers have veered strongly away from “all the news that is fit to print,” allow me to share a story that you very likely will not see on CNN, ABC News, or in the big media conglomerates that influence the way you think, the way you react and – as a result – easily warp our common senses. This story is very true. Late last Sunday afternoon, ... (click for more)

Hensley Succeeds Henry As Soddy-Daisy Athletic Director

Soddy-Daisy baseball coach Jared Hensley has added a new role to his duties. Hensley, who has coached the baseball Trojans for eight years with a 177-111 record and state tournament appearances in 2011 and 2015, is the school’s new athletic director. Hensley takes over for Steve Henry, now the school’s principal. “With coach Henry now the man in charge at our school,” ... (click for more)

Unbeaten Fairyland Clinches Red Division Swim Title

Members of the Calhoun swim team were set and ready to compete on the pool deck at the Fairyland Club Monday night, but they never got wet as the meet was postponed by lighting, thunder and the overall threat of stormy weather. They made the long trip back about 24 hours later and the second time around wasn’t nearly as productive as 21 less swimmers made the trip to the top ... (click for more)