Trustees want long-term disability changes
July 06, 2011 - Until Independence Township Supervisor Dave Wagner applied for it, trustees didn't know the township's short-term disability insurance applied to elected officials.
To find out what else they don't know, they set up a Disability Study Group.
The group – Clerk Barbra Pallotta, Trustee Neil Wallace, and Human Resources Director Carol Gabris – will look at short- and long-term disability coverage for the township's three full-time elected officials.
According to state law, elected officials receive full pay "whether they show up to work or not." For unelected township employees, disability insurance pays 70 percent of their wages, Wallace said at the June 21 meeting
Also, the township cannot make an insurance claim when an employee is disabled – the employee does that, he said.
"We're in situation where we're carrying this insurance, but we as a township have no ability to make a claim," he said.
One solution is to offer disability insurance to full-time elected officials when they come into office. If they choose not to take it, than they would forego pay in case of long-term absence.
If the insurance company determines an official is on long-term disability, the township could also require resignation, he said.
"We don't want them collecting long term disability and monies from the township (at the same time)," he said.
With Wagner absent from the board for the past three months, the board needs to take action, Wallace said.
"If somebody is on long term disability, such as for 13 weeks, they have been unable to function in their role and they do not resign, it seems to me it would be incumbent upon this board to do something because it isn't simply just a matter of money, it is also a matter of getting the work performed," Wallace said.
Treasurer Curt Carson said there was a difference between disabled and incapacitated.
"Someone can be disabled at home and able to work," he said. "This is a tough thing for anyone or a board to decide you're not in a position to do your job anymore. There can be point where someone is incapacitated and doesn't have a chance to come back and we have to address it (then)."
Trustee David Lohmeier thought it wise for the board to have "this discussion."
"I think the whole idea about putting some structure around the mechanics of how you do disability application is smart," he said. "I like the direction we're going."
Lohmeier also said the board needs to be clear and legally consistent when it comes to asking someone to step down.
Trustee Larry Rosso agreed.
"There has to be a strong level of fairness that we don't discriminate against and elected or against anyone," Rosso said. "I think there is obviously more work to be done and I'm sure that the committee has been charged what to do."
Carson said disability insurance for both the elected and non-elected is needed. However, he struggles with resignation in order to receive long-term disability.
"I don't think an elected official should be required to resign to receive the benefit the township offers not only to the elected but to every employee in the township."
Wallace said he will take the board's comments back to the group and perhaps "draft something for the board to look at and sink its teeth into."
Trevor graduated with degrees in English and communications from Rochester College. He wrote for his college and LA View newspapers before joining The Clarkston News in May 2007.