For years, Newtown Township residents Regi Siberski and Nate Glazer called attention to what has now been deemed the improper taking of medical benefits by the Newtown Township supervisors. For years, Regi, Nate, and others were told by township officials that the benefits were properly taken and allowable by law.
Now, with a new solicitor looking into the practice, residents were told at the last supervisors’ meeting that they had been right all these years. In fact, for years, the taking of medical benefits by the supervisors, which cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars was improper.
But, here is the latest “catch’ that the supervisors and solicitor are stating as to why they are allowed to have this very rich benefit. According to the solicitor, Rich Sokorai, the supervisors' vote to accept the annual budget which includes a line item for the cost of supervisors' health benefits is his explanation of how they have been properly authorized. Additionally, Sokorai explained that those supervisors that were part of the initial group taking benefits are no longer on the board.
I don’t buy it and I especially don’t buy the explanation that this makes everything taken previously allowable. And, I do believe that the explanation Sokorai gave as to why they were now being properly authorized is inaccurate.
Pennsylvania law does not allow a sitting supervisor to raise their compensation in their current term. They would have to vote for this benefit in the current term, to take effect after their election to a second term. To my way of thinking, authorizing cost in a budget is not authorizing an increase in compensation. Like other issues of compensation, this item should have been voted on in public via resolution. That still has not been done.
Additionally, Supervisors Vice Chairman Dr. Ross Lambert stated that this is common practice. In fact, a survey by Nate Glazer of surrounding towns shows that providing medical benefits (and in Newtown this includes prescriptions too) for supervisors is not common practice.
Of the 11 municipalities surveyed, eight don't provide the benefit. These eight include Marple, Upper Providence, Radnor, Middletown, Easttown, Edgmont, Tredyffrin and Westtown Townships. Malvern borough allows their officials to participate as long as the official pays the premium. Two that were contacted have not yet responded to Nate's request for information.
Lambert states that he does not take the benefit. Yes, this year, for the first time in many years, Lambert does not take the benefit but he has benefited for many years prior. As of Dec. 31, 2011, taxpayers paid $88,150.32 for supervisors’ Health Insurance for the 2011 year (according to the attached budget). This year, $40,000 was budgeted for this benefit.
I find it curious that some of these supervisors were vehement to hold accountable employees for using the township Fedex account for personal transactions. Yet, these same supervisors do not seem to want to be held accountable for what has been deemed the improper taking of medical benefits. It is time for this improper practice to end.
Let the Board of Supervisors know that they should stop taking this benefit now!