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Jul 31, 2012 4:42 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Four Former Westhampton Beach Trustees Are Covered By Village's Health Insurance Policy

Jul 31, 2012 6:27 PM

Four former Westhampton Beach Village trustees are currently receiving full health insurance benefits from the village, a perk that they are happy to have even though two said they did not know they would be eligible when originally running for the Village Board.

Arma “Ham” Andon, 93, who served as village mayor from 1986 to 1994 and as trustee from 1994 until 1996, is the oldest former board member still receiving health coverage through the village. He is joined by Ora Belle “Ridgie” Barnett, 84, who served as trustee from 1985 until 2007; Alexander Nagle, 91, who served on the board from 1967 until 1977; and Harold Williams, 83, who served as trustee from 1998 until 2004.

Their health insurance packages, which do not include dental coverage, are now costing the village a total of approximately $33,000 a year, according to Village Clerk Rebecca Molinaro. All four former trustees were older than 55, the state retirement age, when they finished serving their terms, and therefore never had to pay into their coverage plan. All four are covered by the New York State Health Insurance Program and utilize their village policy as secondary insurance.

In three years, former Village Trustee Toni-Jo Birk, who lost her reelection bid last month after serving on the board for six years—or one more than required for her to continue receiving health coverage from the village—will become the fifth former board member to be covered under the village’s insurance plan. Ms. Birk joined the board in 2006, about a year before it agreed to double the amount of time, from five years to 10, that a trustee must serve before qualifying for health coverage after leaving office—a change that Ms. Birk voted in favor of.

And because she is only 52, Ms. Birk must pay her entire premium—estimated to be about $20,000 a year—until she turns 55, according to Ms. Molinaro.

Village law now states that the mayor and Village Board members must serve at least 10 years before being eligible to receive health benefits, the cost of which will be completely covered by the village. That law applies to board members elected to serve after July 1, 2007. Unlike the four other former board members, Ms. Birk stopped serving on the board before turning 55, meaning she must continue to pay for her own coverage for the next three years.

Ms. Birk’s decision to support doubling the service time requirement while in office, and then opting to continue receiving benefits even though she does not meet the specifications of the new law, has prompted one fellow former board member, Village Trustee Hank Tucker, to demand that she discontinue her coverage.

“I am following the law,” Ms. Birk said this week. “I am going to keep them. I am paying for it, but I am no longer on the board. If the board should make a decision affecting previous elected officials, whatever they decide, I will follow.”

Up until the late 1960s or early 1970s, the village required that board members serve at least 10 years in order to receive health insurance when they left office. The term was reduced to five years for the next four decades, until the board reversed course in 2007. Ms. Birk, who is currently unemployed, said she plans to keep the village coverage as her primary insurance.

Mr. Andon, who served as mayor for eight years and then a trustee for another two, said he never knew he qualified for such a benefit until serving his ninth year of office, when someone mentioned that he was eligible. Ms. Birk also said she was not aware of the health benefits available to village trustees when she first ran for the board.

“When I ran for office, the furthest thing from my mind was what benefits I was going to be able to get from the village,” said Mr. Andon, a World War II veteran. “I wanted to serve my village.”

Mr. Andon added that he agrees with the board’s decision to increase the qualification time from five years to 10, though he noted that all former trustees who qualify should be given health benefits.

According to Ms. Molinaro, it costs the village $6,229.68 per trustee to insure Mr. Andon, Mr. Nagle and Ms. Barnett, all of whom are under the single coverage plan. Mr. Williams is under the family plan and, therefore, costs the village $14,106.84 per annum. In total, the village will spend $32,795.88 this year to insure all four former trustees; Ms. Molinaro said she does not yet know how much it will cost the village to insure Ms. Birk once she turns 55.

Westhampton Beach Mayor Conrad Teller said health benefits are a perk that all five former trustees—Ms. Birk included—have earned. He said even though she has not served a full 10 years, the law is being followed and he sees no reason to deny her coverage. “The State of New York, in its infinite wisdom, made regulations that allow towns and villages to give to people the right to have health benefits,” he said. “I don’t see the necessity for this village to immediately jump up and throw that all out.”

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Fleecing of the Village. These people should be ashamed of themselves. But then again I guess we taxpayers let them get away with it but I dont remember this being public knowledge. All WHB Village officials should vote this out asap if not it will be made an issue at the voting booths.
By realistic (472), westhampton on Aug 3, 12 8:54 AM
Three of the ones identified have between 10 and 22 years of public service, I'm not sure they have anything to be "ashamed" of.
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Aug 3, 12 9:48 AM
Of course they have medical for life they are entitled just like welfare recipients and other lazy members of society. What happened to serving the public by politicians? It's called serve themselves, free medical, patronage jobs, and a bunch of other illegal perks. If you want insight of where our town, counties, and villages are headed just google San Bernadino California and you will see the answer. The unions and politicians think they are slick with their perks. The problem is they probally ...more
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Aug 3, 12 10:22 AM
The village is not being fleeced-all these trustees, including Ms Birk are entitled to this benefit under the law when they were elected. Realistic is way out of line. He should be thanking all those who served the village.
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Aug 3, 12 10:46 AM
Thanking them for what? This Village is one of the only ones out of the hamptons who is still stuck in time. Look at the Police Chief and his compensation package. My Village taxes went up more then 10% this year and for what? For the lifetime benefits of the elected officials and a sign on bonus for the Chief who sits in his office all day long and cant control his force? I should tank them for how they handles the law suits? Are you kidding. The cost to this town for their failures will be paid ...more
By realistic (472), westhampton on Aug 3, 12 11:21 AM
aREN'T THESE FORMER TRUSTEES ALSO COVERED BY THEIR PREVIOUS EMPLOYER'S RETIREMENT PACKAGE , WHICH WOULD INCLUDE HEALTH INSURANCE IN MOST CASES. ( please excuse the CAPS button ) ? Why should they suck more money out of the Village coffers if they can acquire it elsewhere for free ?
By Bill in Riverhead (190), Riverhead on Aug 3, 12 12:07 PM
Chief Dean deserves every dime he is paid. His contract is not out of line with others in NY.
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Aug 3, 12 1:42 PM
I could not agree more. Chief Dean is an asset to the Community. He brought us cops who lie about lost guns, and those who steal them. He brought us the Kabot debacle - and the still mysterious calls to ATH & PBA morons. Cops in borrowed sports cars cruising Main St, others sleeping in the Squad cars. He covered up the Ex-QuoguePD Chiefs 7-11 rampage too. He brought us continued selective enforcement and a general Keystone Kops feel to the Village. It may be more expensive than cable - but it sure ...more
By G (342), Southampton on Aug 3, 12 2:11 PM
1 member liked this comment
Thank you G-where else can you get all that for under $200m per year
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Aug 3, 12 5:24 PM
Chief Dean is the highest paid Village Police Chief on Long Island if not statewide. Not only does he have an enormous salary, which just got 8% higher this year, he is the only Village Police Chief that receives an annual executive differential payment of +$12,000. Most Town Police Chiefs don't even receive this outrageous perk. All this money and what do the taxpayers have to show for it? The Police Department is still not accredited. while the Quogue Police force earned it several years ago! ...more
By beachgirl11978 (18), Westhampton Beach on Aug 4, 12 9:52 AM
1 member liked this comment
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Phadreus1340 (144), Southampton on Aug 4, 12 10:22 AM
Yes Chief Dean will receive a large lump sum payment when he retires along with his lifetime monthly pension and medical benefits. The point is Ray earned those payments and deserves them. As for Toni's medical insurance-under the law she is owed benefits when she turns 55. Beachgirl is just jealous of those who do well in life. We need to pray for someone that sick.
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Aug 4, 12 3:16 PM
On what basis have you determined that Chief Dean "deserves" this level of pay and benefits?

It sounds like you're saying that because he gets it, he deserves it.
By RealityFirst (597), Bridgehampton on Aug 4, 12 8:47 PM
East End i have come to the conclusion that you or a family member is a cop or municipal employee. There is no way anybody that works for the village should make what chief Dean makes. In fact the village police is not even needed and has become a perk which will bankrupt the village.
In the article Conrad Teller sees no problem with these benefits. Considering he has been a leach of goverment for decades how could he see any problems with these freebies. A trustee by definition is suppose ...more
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Aug 4, 12 5:48 PM
We disagree about Mayor Teller-I have lived here 23 years and only know him to be a deicated employee who has served the Village well. More citizens should do as good a job and stop complaining. Again you are a very jealous individual.
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Aug 4, 12 7:54 PM
Your only retort is that everyone who takes issue with these enormous pay packages is just jeleous.

Did it ever occur to you that this money comes from other members of the community? Don't they have a right to demand that they get good value for the money, or do you just throw your plumber $25,000 to fix a leak because he "deserves" it?

PS: and yes, it's quite obvious that you or someone in your family has their snout in the taxpayer funded trough. Why don't you just admit it ...more
Aug 4, 12 8:50 PM appended by RealityFirst
jeleous=jealous
By RealityFirst (597), Bridgehampton on Aug 4, 12 8:50 PM
If you only knew the truth
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Aug 4, 12 9:18 PM
The truth is the guys a disgrace. Beach girl said it well.
By realistic (472), westhampton on Aug 4, 12 9:29 PM
I've retired from commenting-the truth is they got their nice contracts and lifetime benefits and all your complaining can not change that. And just so you know-Toni Jo will get her benefits also.
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Aug 4, 12 10:26 PM
Jealous/ Is that all you can say? People are outraged how can a police chief in a sleepy village make more than the governer of NY? Actually we can change these so called life long perks. It's called municipal bankruptcy, and the county, villages, and towns will be forced to file in the next decade. This will make it possible to renegotiate pensions for pennies on the dollar. The last laugh will be on the pigs at the govt trough.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Aug 4, 12 11:39 PM
2 members liked this comment
Ignoring all of the emotion, rhetoric and invective in the comments above --

Mark these two words of chief1 IMO:

"municipal bankruptcy"

Southampton Village is another village hurtling toward financial failure, perhaps years or decades from now. The actuarial curves of rising labor and legacy retirement/benefit costs (all fixed) will eventually exceed receipts (variable over time). A knowledgeable accountant could dig into this and shock us all IMO. We might differ about ...more
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Aug 5, 12 6:33 AM
1 member liked this comment
The contract just reached between SC Exec Bellone and the SCPBA will set the tone for future aggreement throughout the island. It was just a matter of time before one of the "big guys" reached a different type of contract than what we have been used to hearing about. Smalller depatments throughout Long Island willl follow suit.
By Phadreus1340 (144), Southampton on Aug 5, 12 3:08 PM
Thanks for the heads up.

The press release dated 8/2/12 can be found by Googling "Bellone Suffolk PBA game changer." Not sure if 27east will delete the URL so please see next post.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Aug 5, 12 3:36 PM
http://www.suffolkcountyny.gov/SuffolkCountyPressReleases/tabid/1418/itemid/503/amid/2954/bellone-suffolk-pba-announce-new-contract-is-game-changer.aspx

By PBR (4956), Southampton on Aug 5, 12 3:36 PM
Typical of Chief1, ranting like a headless reactionary, He is the expert on all printed here.
You don't even live in the village, yet want us to believe that you have the know how to fix al that is wrong in municipal government. I would imagine you haven't attended a town or village board meeting once in your life. The village is no where near bankruptcy and probably never will be. All of you rants are critical, NONE are ever positive on how to make things better.
Go back to your hole.
By Phadreus1340 (144), Southampton on Aug 7, 12 10:59 AM
Mayor Teller admits that he has received some complaints about Birk's health insurance but states that those who complained "are not reasonably minded people". He also stated that there are some people out there who would ruin the Village. Look in the mirror Conrad, because it is you and your political crony Birk who are going to bring the Village to financial ruin. Birk's lifetime family medical benefits could end up costing Village taxpayers millions of dollars. Didn't you just lay-off 3 employees ...more
By surfer (3), westhampton beach on Aug 5, 12 2:25 PM
Well Mayor Teller,you are wrecking our village with these give aways. First you give our do nothing police chief a contract that makes him one of the highest paid chiefs in the state and now you want to give a 6 year trustee health benefits for life.You should be ashamed of yourself. I have to work 30 years to get health benefits and now you want give away MY tax dollars for this political payback. This Must STOP!!! I wonder what other shady deals are going behind closed doors in Village Hall. ...more
By whb paul (3), Westhampton Beach on Aug 5, 12 9:43 PM
Conrad Teller will be remember as the man who saved WHB
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Aug 6, 12 4:25 PM
Eastend68. My bet is you are either the Mayor or very close to him.
By realistic (472), westhampton on Aug 6, 12 6:37 PM
East end 68. The only way to save our village is to get rid of the corrupt mayor. The crazy building inspector and police chief need to go too. Both cost our village far more then they are worth. We should disband the police department and give the building inspector functions to someone who can perform them professionally.
By whb paul (3), Westhampton Beach on Aug 6, 12 9:55 PM
Taxpayers should know where there tax money is going, a dismissed alleged sign code violation that was then appealed and the 300 potential fine dismissed in village court was unnimously approved by the board to fight this dismissed case to the appelate division in Brooklyn, a fine that was already dismissed has accrued over 3000 in bills and the clock is still ticking ,thats a waste of our money, my tax money going to fight what ?
More and more of this will continue, the taxpayers need to ...more
By Shock (48), on Aug 7, 12 7:25 AM
Wow. I supported both Tony Jo and Conrad and now I see that they were only out for them self’s. I can’t believe that they think that it is OK to spend our tax dollars to give lifetime benefits to Tony Jo. I hope the trustees can stop this giveaway before Conrad bankrupts the village.
By wingman11978 (2), Southampton on Aug 8, 12 1:39 PM
HANG IN THERE CONRAD. IN ALL YOUR MANY YEARS OF PUBLIC SERVICE YOU HAVE NOT TAKEN THE KIND OF ABUSE YOU HAVE BEEN GETTING IN THEN LAST YEAR OR SO. YOU HAVE MY CONTINUED RESPECT AND ADMIRATION......YOU HAVE MORE FRIENDS THAN #()*&%$#...
By unclemilt (57), southampton on Aug 11, 12 7:25 PM