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By Carmen Ensinger
Earlier this summer, when the County Board voted to change insurance carriers, after they had already signed a contract with the Fraternal Order of Police, which represents the employees of the Sheriff’s Department, the FOP filed a grievance against the County.
That grievance eventually went into arbitration and the county lost this arbitration. Two stipulations that came out of this arbitration was that the County had to abide by the union contract and create a committee including FOP members to discuss any insurance issues. A further stipulation was that the County had to appoint a point person at the courthouse that employees could go through to be in compliance with the arbitration. County Clerk Debbie Banghart was appointed the point person.
“It is my understanding the employees wanted someone on the county level to communicate with other than Anne Clayton or Snodgrass with the health insurance group,” Greene County State’s Attorney Caleb Briscoe said. “We have to have someone to do it to be in compliance with the arbitration and Debbie will be that person.”
Banghart said she had just one stipulation – she would not deal with Snodgrass or Clayton – she would only deal directly with the insurance company.
Evidently, the courthouse employees do not like dealing with Snodgrass and Clayton either.
“It is my understanding the employees do not like having to deal with the third party,” Board Member Chris Elliott said. “With this situation, they could contact you (Banghart) so then you would be the person dealing with the third party to figure things out rather than them dealing with it.”
The second part of the arbitration stipulation is that the county must provide any benefit to the FOP that they would have received under the previous insurance that isn’t provided under the current plan.
Banghart said that she still has ties to the Steelworkers’ Union, which previously held the insurance policy for the county, so it should not be a problem to find out what benefits are not offered in the current plan.
The county is locked into the current insurance plan through June 30, 2022. At that time, Briscoe said, per the arbitration, the county is to discuss getting back to a plan to get back to the FOP contract the county approved when this insurance term ends.
This includes forming a committee with the FOP that would have input on insurance, something the county allegedly failed to do when they changed insurance carriers this summer, thereby violating the contract.
Elliott was a little confused about something.
“I didn’t think we had to get back to as close to the same policy – I thought we just have to have a committee that allowed them to have input on insurance,” he said.
Briscoe said that wasn’t the case.
“If we can’t get back to that plan, we still have to come up with an equitable agreement that is comparable to that,” he said. “I think to start we start this committee and have a representative and give them a meaningful voice at whatever table we have.”
Elliott said it sounds good, but what if they don’t care about the taxpayer’s dollars.
“My question is – what do we do when their voice is what it has been before,” he said. “Which was, ‘we don’t care what it costs – we want this – we don’t care – we want it.’”
According to Board Member Andrea Schnelten, in just six months, the employee’s new insurance has already saved the county $75,000.
Briscoe said they should just take first things first and create the committee and work with them by setting up the committee and starting the conversations.