The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

October 24, 2013

City insurance vote ends in a tie

By Katie Dahlstrom Herald Assistant Editor
The Clinton Herald

---- — CLINTON — Deadlock in the Clinton City Council has once again stalled changes to the city of Clinton's health insurance plans for non-bargaining employees.

Two 3-3 votes during the Committee of the Whole meeting Tuesday night stalled the city's implementation of changes to health insurance plans for non-bargaining employees as well as an amendment to those plans that would require a 2 percent employee contribution.

This is the second time a tie vote has kept the insurance plan from going forward. Council members during their last council meeting expressed concerns about the non-union employees being subjected to the changes in 2014, a year earlier than union employees.

City Adminstrator Jessica Kinser came back Tuesday with a proposal that would implement the changes to a preferred provider option and a high deductible plan in Jan. 1, 2015.

The city's labor attorney pointed out to Kinser the city technically didn't have a plan to present during the collective bargaining process. He also advised the city's position in arbitration would be strengthened if the plan design was approved for the non-bargaining employees.

"As he stated, and (City Attorney Jeff Farwell) might be able to state it better than I could, how is he supposed to bargain on something that you, as a group, have not authorized him to bargain with?" Kinser said.

The city hopes to start negotiations with the three unions this December in order to prepare for next year's budget.

"You can't go in and try to bargain in good faith by telling the union that 'well, we want to change the health insurance provisions in the contract, but the city hasn't actually approved what those are,'" Farwell said.

At-Large Councilman John Rowland pushed, as he has in the past, for the employees to contribute.

"I think we really need to have an employee contribution of some kind to these health plans," Rowland said.

He suggested the city ask employees to contribute 2 percent to their health care for five years that would offset the city's cost.

This year, the city paid $9,012 per single and $21,840 per family and Kinser expects those costs to rise based on the city's claims.

However, Rowland's amendment didn't garner enough support to pass or enough opposition to fail.

At-Large Council members Jennifer Graf and Charlie Mulholland and Ward 3 Councilwoman Bev Hermann voted against the 2 percent contribution. Ward 1 Councilwoman Maggie Klaes recused herself and Rowland, Ward 2 Councilwoman Julie Allesee and Ward 4 Councilman Paul Gassman voted in favor of the 2 percent contribution.

A 3-to-3 vote also stalled the medical plan without the contribution from being approved, though the line up was not the same. Rowland, Allesee and Mulholland voted against the plan as it was presented. Klaes again recused herself and Graf, Gassman and Hermann voted in favor of the plan changes.

The deadlock means both items will automatically be placed on the next Committee of the Whole agenda.