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Council re-approves change to benefits

Posted: November 13, 2012 10:34 p.m.
Updated: November 13, 2012 10:34 p.m.

Over claims that they were trying to undo a past and perhaps illicit mistake, members of the Santa Clarita City Council voted Tuesday to approve a resolution “clarifying” the intent of the council’s decision to change the city’s health benefits package in 2010.

Council members voted to approve changes to the city’s health benefits at a meeting Dec. 14, 2010. But, due to an omission on the part of city staff, the council did not vote on changes in cash-in-lieu benefits at that time.

Cash-in-lieu benefits restrict how much money city employees or council members can receive if they decide not to enroll in a city health benefit plan.

For employees hired or council members elected after Jan. 1, 2011, that amount is set at $214.62 a month, while city employees hired or council members elected before that date can receive $1,016.58 a month.

Councilman TimBen Boydston is the only council member who receives the lower amount of cash-in-lieu benefits. Speaking as a private citizen at Tuesday’s meeting to avoid potential conflict of interest, Boydston raised issue with the idea that the council now gets a “do over” to fix a past mistake.

“This is absurd,” Boydston said. “The action to change council member benefits cannot be done retroactively.”

The two other public speakers on the item echoed Boydston’s views. Diane Trautman raised issue with the legality of the item.

“Ignorance of the law is no excuse,” she said.

City Attorney Joe Montes said the item was meant to reaffirm the city’s desire to adhere to both the spirit and letter of the Brown Act open meetings law. But, Montes said, the original action on the matter was not illegal.

While council members did not vote on changes to the cash in lieu benefits in an open meeting, Montes said they do not have to. Montes also said changes in benefits were made readily and widely available to city employees.

“A whole universe of people knew about the changed benefits,” Montes said.

Montes also said it is not unheard of for a council to go back and retroactively review items, even after years have passed.

The item was approved 4-0. Boydston did not vote on the item.



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