More than 100 people jammed Village Hall Tuesday to see what Chicago Ridge officials would decide regarding the hot-button health insurance benefits issue.
They came away without a definite answer but one could be on the way soon.
Chicago Ridge trustees moved forward at the board meeting with plans to at least amend, if not abolish, the controversial health insurance benefits offered to part-time elected officials.
Like the board meeting two weeks prior, more than 100 people were in the audience, attesting to the level of community interest in the insurance controversy. It became a campaign issue in April, and Mayor Charles Tokar informed the crowd that, as promised, he had formed a committee to look into the board’s options for solving the problem.
The insurance perk, last updated in 2000, gives eligible trustees access to the same insurance offered to full-time employees. Although the wording of the ordinance is vague, trustees Tuesday agreed unanimously that to be eligible, trustees must have completed two terms. The village covers 80 percent of premiums for participants who have outside jobs, and 100 percent for those not employed elsewhere. As it stands now, trustees can keep the insurance after leaving the board, and pass it on to surviving spouses.
Tokar thanked Trustees Sally Durkin and Fran Coglianese for agreeing to sit on the committee that will look into the legalities of making changes to the insurance program for people already on it. Durkin was elected to the board two years ago, while Coglianese was elected in April. She, along with newly elected Trustee William McFarland, and re-elected Trustee John Lind, were sworn in at the end of the meeting.
The mayor said he had met with three law firms to serve as consultants for the committee, and decided on Odelson & Sterk, which the village already uses for planning and zoning issues.
“This is an ad-hoc committee,” he said, meaning that it will not be permanent. “We hope to get our resolution of this in 30 days.’’
Burt Odelson, who was in the audience, said “I think I can help, and I look forward to sitting down with the committee members.”
Durkin also proposed having Village Attorney George Witous amend the current ordinance, rescinding the insurance benefit “from this day forward.” She said that by removing two parts of the ordinance, the insurance would not be available to anyone not on it already. She noted that she does not yet qualify for the insurance, and never will if the amended ordinance is approved at the next meeting.
“The committee is dealing with what we can do about the past, and this (ordinance change) would deal with the future,” said Durkin. Trustee Amanda Cardin, who also was elected two years ago and doesn’t qualify for the insurance, said she doesn’t want the insurance anyway. Coglianese and McFarland also have said that they would not accept it.
Cardin said the goal of the committee is to study the history of the insurance ordinance with attorneys, and ensure the legality of any changes being considered for people who have the insurance now. “As with any company, we can’t offer something and then just take it away. The last thing we want to do is open the village up to a lawsuit,” she said.