2009-02-28 / Editorials & Letters

'Watchdog' waiting for trustee to reimburse township

Editor:

At the Jan 2009 township meeting, GOB Watkins, or should I say "double dip" Watkins, was again out to belittle and berate Trustee Jeff Chorpenning. Somehow, he still seems to not grasp or understand what double dipping or putting our money in his pockets means. How the heck he ever justified getting "both" the Cadillac health insurance for himself and his wife, plus an additional "reimbursement" for his personal health insurance premiums still amazes me.

Even the previous year's documents presented to the court to show that then assistant county prosecutor Debbie Kinney had somehow indicated this practice may be have been permissible are not clear that this additional perk was allowable. Not having her, the current county prosecutor and one of our local lawmakers subpoenaed into court plus not having a lawyer represent the petitioners was a real tactical error by Chorpenning and probably doomed this case at the onset. Thus in the end the judge was not able to find for the petitioners. But I do have to admire Chorpenning's determination to do the right thing.

Remember, this case was only about the "removal from office" question and had nothing to do with whether reimbursement must be made. That money is still in Watkins' pocket, even though he says he will pay it back.....when he is told to do so! That statement gets right to the matter of his ethics.

Now "Double Dip" Watkins is apparently even working with the township's current Insurance agent to try to get him to convince the county prosecutor that he is actually "saving" the township money by being old and on Medicare. Instead, he needs to take time to read ORC 505.60 and 505.601. These are not long or complicated sections. I had personally requested that he do this early last year, before this whole issue went out of control. Is there any language permitting using a personal insurance plan as "primary" and using the township insurance as a "secondary" provider? Is there anything about also getting an additional "reimbursement" for the primary insurance costs to boot? I don't think so!

The only actual cost savings to the township occurs when someone decides NOT to participate in the township's health plan. There is nothing stated about BOTH; it is a simple "either/or" type situation. Obviously, the biggest savings occurs when a trustee decides NOT to be on the townships Cadillac health plan and that is also when the "reimbursement" issue comes in. This is voluntary and you are not obligated to take the reimbursement. But let's face it, that is never going to happen with GOB Watkins.

Let's look at some numbers and see how this equates to real savings. The monthly costs the township (really taxpayers) has paid for GOB Watkins and his wife's basic health insurance (excluding vision/dental, etc) has ranged from $1,177 a month in 2001 up to to a whopping $1,565 per month in 2007. That works out to a nice perk of $14,000 to $18,780 a year for the last seven years! Now had he opted out in 2005, when he first became eligible for Medicare and the reimbursements started, he would have been allowed up to a $200 a month "reimbursement" check. So that would be, at the most, $2,400 a year versus up to $18,780 a year! That's a "savings" of approximately $16,000 a year! Add that up for the last three years and you can see we are talking real money. That's enough for a new tractor or dump truck. In addition, until March 2007, "Double Dip" Watkins had the most costly policy (by over $200 a month) of any sitting trustee. All while he was also pocketing the additional "double dip" reimbursement check. Amazingly, now that he is finally the cheapest guy thanks to Medicare and Chorpenning's cost is higher, he and his lynch mob decide to make this an hot issue? What a joke!

So what is "Medicare" anyway? It means the government (taxpayers) already pay for most of his health care costs. So I say, let's call it for what it is, it is "health insurance" that is paid for by all of us. To me the Ohio Revised Code was written around the concept that if a trustee or his wife already has health insurance, he/she can then opt out and get some compensation as a "reimbursement" for that savings to the township. Mind you, the actual reimbursement amount is really set by the board of trustees, via a resolution. Thus the board could make the reimbursement anything they like, up to the amount paid out for the insurance by the township!

To me saving money is NOT by the insurance agent making sure he has one more person on the books and thus gets more money out of the township as a result. A insurance agent obviously has a vested interest in keeping folks on the rolls. Yes, I also agree that the township's costs, when someone is on Medicare (remember this is taxpayerpaid insurance) should certainly be lower as a result. But ask yourself, why the heck would this then allow that person to also get a additional "double dip" reimbursement of almost $1,200 a year to boot? That part just doesn't make sense and reeks of blatant abuse. Personally, I still do not see how the past trustees had the guts to approve the Cadillac health care perks in the first place. But it shows that if "we the people" fall asleep, the foxes will certainly come to raid the hen house.

Will "Watchdog" Kern Bowling Green Township

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