In the middle of a controversial shift to a new healthcare coverage plan for county personnel, a state Attorney General’s opinion is pending for one Mobile County retiree who receives family insurance coverage free of charge.
In October 2012, the board of the Mobile County Communications District — commonly refered to as the “911 Board” — passed a resolution extending group health insurance to “all retired MCCD employees reaching the age of 65 who are enrolled in Medicare and to cover the premiums of employees who meet those qualifications.”
For more than a year, the only employee receiving that insurance package was former director George Williams, who retired from the board in April 2013.
When asked about the details of the plan, an MCCD administrative assistant said Williams and his spouse — like other county retirees — are covered under the Local Government Plan, which the county switched to in April.
There is no cost to Williams, but the MCCD pays a monthly premium of $960.
Despite the fact that Williams was only retiree who qualified for the insurance, the MCCD got into a lengthy discussion earlier this year when a motion was made to narrow the qualifications even further.
In a June meeting, board member and County Engineer Joe Ruffer proposed an amendment to the insurance policy that would extend benefits exclusively to Williams.
After there was some uncertainty about Ruffer’s motion, Attorney Bill Wasden clarified the request.
“The motion should read, ‘amend the board’s previous resolution extending group health insurance to all retired MCCD employees reaching the age of 65 enrolled in Medicare; such that group health insurance under this motion by Mr. Ruffer will hence forth be extended only to the immediate past director, George Williams, who is now retired and meets those qualifications,’” Wasden said at the meeting.
The board approved the motion, but not without some discussion.
“We’re doing a heck of a lot for George,” said board member and Mobile Metro Jail Warden Trey Oliver. “We don’t want this to be a case-by-case basis. This should never come up again. We should have a retirement plan that fits everyone put in place. That’s it.”
During the meeting, Oliver also referred to Williams’ insurance as a “special exception” and said some of the board members didn’t realize how expensive it would be at the time it was initially passed.
When asked about the insurance polices in July, Oliver said he, Williams, Ruffer, current MCCD Director Garry Tanner and former Fire Chief Stephen Dean attended a committee meeting a couple of years ago and “benefits were discussed.”
“We passed a retirement plan, and I think none of us realized just how expensive and how liberal the benefits were,” Oliver said. “I think it’s not in line with the way we should manage 911.”
Oliver said he was concerned and disturbed when he found out the results didn’t affect any other employee and said it seemed as if the policy was “tailored” specifically for Williams.
“I don’t think that’s the way the board should do business,” he said. “I truly believe the majority, if not the entire board, feels that way now.”
In June, Wasden told the board an Attorney General’s opinion on the matter was “pending.” As of Aug. 1, Wasden said he had had “yet to receive” a response from the Attorney General’s office. Attempts to reach MCCD Director Gary Tanner via email were initially unsuccessful. The board meets the third Thursday of each month at 8 a.m. at 7340 Zeigler Blvd.