Arbiter says village must insure
A grievance filed by a former Granville Police officer has resulted in a potentially costly decision for the Village of Granville recently.
Village officials confirmed Friday the result of a binding arbitration decision means former officer Gregory Bourn will continue to receive health insurance coverage for the remainder of his life as called for in the police collective bargaining agreement.
“We’re just going to move forward with this and pay what is due to (Bourn),” Mayor Brian LaRose said Friday.
Asked if he was disappointed in the decision, LaRose said no.
“I don’t think that’s our position. It is what it is. The (arbiter) made his determination and now we’re bound by it,” he said.
The issue came about when Bourn took a job with the National Guard following his retirement from the police department in 2010.
A provision in the police contract provided the retired officer could stay with the same health insurance plan even if he took another job, provided the new job’s health insurance coverage was not ‘equal to or better than’ the police department’s Empire Plan coverage.
Village officials said Bourn approached them regarding keeping the police plan following taking the new job, but the decision was eventually made to deny him that coverage.
Former mayor Jay Niles said the decision was made during his term and was based upon a comparison prepared by an outside law firm the village hired to examine the two plans.
The law firm determined the plans at least equivalent and the decision was made to deny the continued coverage, Niles said.
Bourn contended, and the arbiter agreed, the coverages were not the same, ruling the village must reinstate Bourn to the Empire plan.
The arbiter cited the letter provided by the law firm retained by the village Bond, Schoeneck & King where the firm, while determining the plans were equivalent also said all “health insurance coverages are inherently different, making it difficult to do a direct comparison between programs” adding in a footnote “we further note that we are a law firm, not health plan actuaries, and therefore cannot compare the insurance options on the basis of actuarial value.”
At the time of his retirement Bourn paid nine percent of his health insurance costs for a family plan with the village covering the other 91 percent of the cost; because of the decision that will continue.
After the denial, Bourn filed a grievance which was eventually brought before the arbiter and resulted in the recently issued binding decision.
All five current full-time police employees could also have the plan in retirement as it was a clause in the last police contract. As an administrator, Police Chief Ernie Bassett, Jr., is not covered under the agreement.
Niles said at the time the benefit was placed in the police contact it was affordable, adding there was no way any municipality could have foreseen the current economic climate.
Anticipating the possibility the arbiter could rule against the village, Niles said he included the cost of having Bourn on the village health insurance plan in the last budget. The cost of having Bourn on the plan is about two percent of the budget or $17,107, he said. A cost estimate developed by the village shows the cost of the plan per individual costing $187,308 for eight years and $30,873 during the eighth year, using a growth rate of 8.8 percent. According to the estimate, the cost of the program per officer could be over $2 million at the end of 32 years, assuming the average life expectancy of 77 years.
The former mayor said the police union has expressed a willingness to talk about this benefit during negotiations for the next contract.
“The PBA has always supported this community and we have always worked cooperatively with them to solve any problems so I’m confident they’ll be able to solve this issue for the future,” Niles said.
The current police contract expires on June 30.
Granville Police Benevolent Association President Sgt. David Williams referred comment on the decision to the New York State Union of Police Associations NYSUPA attorney James Duckham, who represented Bourn in the action. Duckham did not call to comment prior to deadline.
Retired officer Bourn did not return calls seeking comment for this story.