Why Is Our City Attorney On Our City's Health Insurance?
SEMO.net has confirmed that the City Attorney is included in the City’s health insurance program. We believe 100% of his personal medical insurance premiums are paid for by our city and 67% of his family coverage are paid for as well. How can that be? He’s not a full-time employee.
I called nine other Southeast Missouri city halls (Malden, Dexter, Sikeston, Farmington, Fredericktown, Jackson, Ste Genevieve, Kennett, Charleston) and NONE of them pay their attorney’s medical insurance premiums. One City Clerk told me emphatically over the phone when I asked about medical insurance for their attorney, “Of course not, he has his own private practice!” Our City Attorney also has his own private practice at Duncan & Pierce Law Offices which is allowed by our ordinances. (see Sec 115.090(3) below)[Cape Girardeau has two full-time staff lawyers who do not have private practices and do receive health insurance benefits.]
A health insurance expert I spoke to was very leery of having a part-time employee being paid 100% health insurance premiums. They said 30 hours per week is typically the minimum for someone to be classified as a full-time employee and provided health benefits. Our City Attorney’s salary in 2013 was $25,926. Surely that cannot be considered a full-time Attorney’s salary, especially since our City Clerk is paid over $56,000. And it seems to be a type of professional oxymoron to say “the City Attorney is a full-time position with his own private practice.”
I believe the City Attorney has to be classified as a part-time position and nothing in our ordinances awards the position any employee benefits because part-time employees are not allowed to participate in those benefits. (Sec 120.220)
According to our ordinances, only regular employees are allowed to be provided health insurance (Sec. 102.640). A regular “employee” is defined as “Any person who is working for any department of the City and who is not an appointed or elected official.” (Sec. 120.010) The City Attorney is clearly an appointed official since he holds his office by virtue of an appointment by the City Manager (See below Sec 115.090(1) and Sec 120.010).
Since the City Attorney is appointed and not a full-time employee, he should be barred from receiving health insurance from the city.
There are a couple of places in this section of the Poplar Bluff Code (Sec 115) which even juxtapose the City Attorney with “regular employee”. For instance, when discussing Travel Expenses the City will reimburse expenses for “regular City employees” AND the “City Attorney”. (see Sec 120.280(A) below) The redundancy of terms would be unnecessary if the City Attorney was also a regular City employee. Also, when discussing the extension of Social Security benefits, the ordinances state that they are available for both employees AND city officials (Sec 120.660).
Of course you cannot use these juxtapositions in and of themselves; but when included with the part-time salary, part-time hours and the whole of the city’s ordinances, Insurance Benefits should not be extended to our City Attorney. So the question remains:
Why are we paying for the City Attorney’s health insurance?
And one more question:
If our City Attorney is given a W2 AND is an officer of the City, how is it that his companies “Duncan & Pierce Law Offices” and “Heritage Title Company” are being used by the City without the bidding process?
The City Clerk informed me today that the City Attorney is paid as an employee and “his wages are reported on a W2.” That means those checks were written directly to him in his personal name.
Last year our city wrote checks totaling $23,833.32 to Duncan & Pierce Law Firm for what appears to be a Prosecutor Contract. And it is still unclear how much in fees and/or commissions the Heritage Title Company is receiving out of the multi-million dollars the city is paying to buy up property along Oak Grove and Shelby Roads.
Did the city bid-out these contracts? Or, are we to believe that our City Attorney was precluded from the decision of what firms were to be used for these services?
According to the Missouri Ethics Commission we can only use our City Attorney’s private companies if our city complied with the following:
Public officials or employees, serving in an executive or administrative capacity, may not participate in any matter where they attempt to influence any decision of any agency of the state or political subdivision when they know the result of the decision may be the acceptance of the performance of a service or the sale, rental, or lease of any property to that agency for consideration in excess of $500 per transaction or $5,000* annually to:
Themselves, their spouse, or a dependent child in custody unless the transaction is made after public notice, competitive bidding (other than real property), and the bid accepted is the lowest bid or
Any business with which they are associated unless the transaction is made after public notice for real property and public notice or competitive bidding for other property. The official or employee’s bid must be the lowest received. This includes officers and members of a Board of Directors doing business with the state or political subdivision. (Section 105.454, RSMO)
SECTION 120.010: DEFINITIONS
For the purposes of this Chapter, the following words and phrases shall have the meanings respectively ascribed to them:
EMPLOYEE: Any person who is working for any department of the City and who is not an appointed or elected official.
OFFICER: Any official of the City who holds his/her office by virtue of an appointment by either the City Manager or City Council or both. (R.O. 2007 §26-1; Ord. No. 3521 §4, 3-4-68)
SECTION 120.220: TEMPORARY EMPLOYMENT — GENERALLY
Temporary or part-time employees shall not be included in the provisions of this Chapter and each will be set up on an individual basis as to salary, working hours, work to be performed, etc., by the City Manager. They will not be included in holiday leave, retirement pay, etc., due to the fact that they are only employed part time or on a temporary basis. (R.O. 2007 §26-22)
SECTION 120.280: TRAVELING EXPENSES
A. Scope. This Section of this Article shall be applicable to regular City employees, volunteer firefighters, auxiliary Police, City Attorney, Mayor and Councilmen.
SECTION 120.640: INSURANCE BENEFITS
A. The City shall secure group hospitalization coverage for all regular employees. The City shall pay one hundred percent (100%) of the cost of the premiums for the individual plan and sixty-six and two-thirds percent (66 2/3%) of the premium for the family coverage plan. A new employee shall be covered after one (1) full calendar month of employment by the City.
B. Such coverage shall continue to be paid in full by the City for those employees who retire from employment between the ages of fifty-five (55) and sixty-five (65). Said benefits will terminate upon the employee’s sixty-fifth (65th) birthday. (R.O. 2007 §26-104; Ord. No. 4591 §1, 6-1-81; Ord. No. 7031 §2, 3-3-08)
SECTION 115.090: OFFICE OF CITY ATTORNEY
There is hereby created the office of City Attorney in and for the City of Poplar Bluff, Missouri, who shall have the duties and be subject to the qualifications as follows:
1. The City Attorney shall be appointed by the City Manager and shall serve at his/her pleasure.
2. The City Attorney shall possess all of the qualifications prescribed for a Council person and shall be a qualified and practicing attorney in the State of Missouri.
3. The City Attorney shall not be prohibited from engaging in a private law practice; provided, that such private law practice shall not interfere or conflict with the duties as City Attorney.
4. The City Attorney shall prepare all ordinances, contracts, deeds and other legal documents of the City; the City Attorney shall also advise the City Council, City Manager and other officials on legal questions regarding City business as the City Council shall direct; further, the City Attorney shall represent the City in all courts of this State of record as the Council shall request. The City Attorney shall prosecute all violations of the provisions of this Code and ordinances of the City and shall represent the City in all matters in the Municipal Division of the Circuit Court. Alternatively the City Council may appoint some other person to perform the duties of City Prosecutor. (R.O. 2007 §2-61; Ord. No. 4804 §1, 5-7-84)
SECTION 120.660: EXTENSION OF BENEFITS
It is hereby declared to be the policy and purpose of the City to extend at the earliest date, to all eligible employees and officials of said City who are not excluded by law or by this Article and whether employed in connection with a governmental or proprietary function of said City, the benefits of the system of Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance as authorized by the Social Security Act Amendments of 1950 and by Senate Committee Substitute for Senate Bill No. 3 of the 66th General Assembly of the State of Missouri and amendments thereof, as the same may be now and hereafter in effect. (R.O. 2007 §26-111; Ord. No. 1536 §42.001, 8-6-51)