Thursday, Apr 26, 2018
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Health-benefit law returns to city council

City of Toledo employees in domestic partnerships could have a second chance next week to receive the same health-insurance benefits extended to spouses of legally married city employees.

Toledo City Council on Tuesday reviewed legislation for the domestic partners of city employees -- one week after a tumultuous council debate and 8-4 vote to amend Mayor Mike Bell's original benefits proposal by including a clause allowing Toledo's main firefighters' union to reopen negotiations on its health-care contract with the city.

The mayor vetoed that amended legislation the next day.

The mayor put it back before council without the firefighters clause.

During council's agenda review meeting Tuesday, which is held in advance of next week's regular council meeting, Councilman D. Michael Collins argued that it is discriminatory against firefighters who would have qualified.

Local 92 is the only city union that manages its own health-insurance fund. He said extending health benefits to more people could put a strain on the union's finances.

"I am going to vote against it because of its discrimination and dishonesty in collective bargaining," Mr. Collins said. "They had the responsibility to tell the firefighters [during negotiations in March] this is what they were going to do."

Mr. Collins said the rank-and-file firefighters union now has a dilemma: either pay to extend that insurance benefit for its members without additional help from the city or go without it while other city employees receive it.

Ellen Grachek, human resources director for the city, said the city has no knowledge of the financial health or any details of Local 92's health plan and added that approving the legislation does not require that bargaining unit to extend those benefits to its members.

"If we open the contract on this issue, we are going to be subject to open it on a number of other issues," Ms. Grachek told council.

The city pays $916 per employee monthly to that firefighters union because it is approximately the equivalent of what is paid for city employees in the city's health plan.

Council needs at least nine votes to override the mayor's veto and keep the amendment intact.

Mayoral spokesman Jen Sorgenfrei said the amendment violates city law.

Council President Joe McNamara said council probably should not override the veto, although he said he agreed with both Mr. Collins and Ms. Grachek on both their points.

Complicating the strained relationship between the mayor and the 12-member council was a memo Tuesday from Mr. Bell to all councilmen directing them to send any constituent complaints to one of four deputy mayors in the mayor's 22nd-floor suite at One Government Center rather than any city department director or other municipal underling.

A number of councilmen blasted that request, saying it would create a bottleneck of complaints.

"I would hope that this is not in direct retaliation for the domestic partnership benefits debate," said Councilman Lindsay Webb.

Councilman George Sarantou said it appeared the Bell administration was trying to fix something that was not broken.

In other business Tuesday, council reviewed a new contract for red light and speed limit cameras that increases the percentage of the fines the city will receive.

The first agreement between the city and Redflex Traffic Systems in June, 2000, had a sliding scale beginning at 25 percent for the city and 75 percent for Redflex or 55 percent for the city and 45 percent for Redflex, depending on the number of violations paid.

A 2008 agreement specified the shares for a $120 fine at 54.2 percent for the city and 45.8 percent for Redflex. Under the new terms, the city gets 75 percent and the Arizona-based company gets 25 percent.

The city now has 33 red light and/or speed cameras. Redflex plans to install 11 more cameras in Toledo at its own cost.

The new sites include northbound Secor Road at Alexis Road, eastbound and westbound Alexis at Whitmer Drive, northbound and southbound Reynolds Road at Bancroft Street, northbound and southbound Cherry Street at Delaware Avenue, eastbound and westbound Dorr Street at Collingwood Boulevard, and northbound and southbound Anthony Wayne Trail between South Avenue and the Toledo Zoo.

Contact Ignazio Messina at: or 419-724-6171.

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