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Toledo council members debate domestic partner benefits

After a heated debate, Toledo City Council members today scheduled a hearing to discuss a proposal to extend health care and other benefits to domestic partners of city employees.

The hearing for 4 p.m. May 30 was set after lengthy discussion among council members, some of whom lashed out at one another - and others who took issue with the Bell administration.

Opponents of the proposal, which would make benefits available to unmarried heterosexual or same-sex partners, cited recent labor negotiations and financial concerns as reasons for their lack of support.

Councilman Rob Ludeman chided the Bell administration for proposing increased spending on employee benefits when it only recently completed labor negotiations in which officials insisted that employees take cuts.

“I find it sad and ironic that within 30 days of the finalization of the last bargaining unit [negotiation], there now appears some funds,” Mr. Ludeman said. “I feel that’s a bit of a slight in the face of those who bargained in good faith.”

Ellen Grachek, acting Human Resources Director for Toledo, replied that the city doesn’t yet know what the cost of the legislation would be, but is estimating it based on the experiences of other jurisdictions with the same policy. She added that extending benefits to domestic partners is intended as a positive offering to employees at a time when the city cannot afford three or four percent wage increases, which are more expensive.

“The administration is coming from a place of intending to benefit the employees,” she said.

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