NEWTOWN SQUARE–Just before 10 p.m. during a Board of Supervisors meeting on Monday evening, a discussion regarding Supervisor Linda Houldin's dual insurance coverage from the township and her former employer, the county's tourism bureau, were questioned by Supervisors Chairman Joseph Catania which resulted in Houldin leaving in the middle of the preliminary budget portion of the meeting.
"My suspicions led me to investigate a little bit," said Catania, who filed an Open Public Records Act request on Nov. 23 about Houldin's medical benefits from the county. "And I found something that was disturbing."
According to Catania, Houldin was under the townwhip's insurance plan at the same time while she was under her employer's, the Brandywine Convention and Visitors Bureau, insurance plan. "It was the same plan as the township," said Catania and stated it was described as the "Cadillac plan."
But Houldin disagreed and stated that the two plans were not the same.
"It's not the same plan," stated Houldin. "I didn't realize it at the time. I thought I was only getting here the prescription plan and the eyecare. That's the only thing I asked for and that's what I thought I was getting.
Houldin said that Jim Sheldrake, the former township manager, "must've kept me on" and that there "must've been a mistake." Houldin also added that the insurance coverage was just for herself and not anyone else.
"If there was a mistake, it wasn't done intentionally." –Linda Houldin
"I really didn't know I was on both plans at the same time to be honest with you. It wasn't done intentionally, all of it," said Houldin. "There was a two-year or three-year period where we didn't know what we were doing. I knew I was on it for a couple of years because I thought we were going to go off it–I was afraid because I have a bad health condition but I thought I was really only on the prescription and the dental."
Catania said the township had been apparently covering Houldin's medical benefits from January 2005 to October 2009, costing the township approximately $12,000 a year, which continuously went up every year, while she was under the county's insurance plan as well.
"I think you owe us the money back," responded Catania after Houldin asked what she could do about it. "I don't know what to make of it. I just don't understand what the benefit was of taking both insurances."
Supervisor Vice Chairman Dr. Ross Lambert suggested looking into Blue Cross Blue Shield refunding the township back with the money while Houldin was on dual insurance coverages "since the same agency was covering her twice," he said. Supervisor George Wood agreed that this suggestion was sufficient.
Regi Siberski, a long-time resident of Newtown Township, who has previously vocalized her stance on supervisors receiving any type of medical insurance said no previous authorization was taken place of supervisors officially receiving medical insurance coverage when she first discovered it in 2000.
"She's discussing whether or not we should have insurance in the first place and here you are sitting with two plans." –Joseph Catania
"What bothers me, still, and I'm being as open as I can possibly be, we've had those discussions here in this room and the whole time from 2005 to October 2009, Linda [Houldin], you're on our plan and you're on someone else's plan," addressed Catania to Houldin.
Wood addressed Siberski and stated that, "Up to this point, the records show that the Board believed that they were doing the right thing relative to coverage. It had been passed and the Board has ratified that year after year after year by undertaking for the paying of the coverage."
Houldin, who continually reiterated it was an honest mistake, shared her last words before leaving the meeting and alluding to the situation as a political grandstand.
"That's it–I'm over it as of today. I'm not going to sit and take another beating. This is my hurrah." –Linda Houldin
"It just seems like everybody is out to get everybody. I'm not doing anything illegally. I'm getting tired of getting beat up here. I've worked hard for this township for 25 years," shared Houldin to the public. "You know what, I won't come to anymore meetings. I would never do that to my township. This will be the end. You will never see me again. I'm done."
Stay tuned for the budget story, where Newtown Township supervisors voted 4-0 for its 2012 preliminary budget.