Monday, February 9, 2009

Mayoral Candidate Challenges Mayor's Health Plan Offer

Common Council member, and candidate for mayor plans to deliver this letter to the office of Mayor Sebastian Giuliano this morning.

Mayor Sebastian N. Giuliano
City of Middletown
Dekoven Drive
Middletown, CT 06457

Re: Suspension of Free HMO Progam for Future Retirees

Dear Mayor Giuliano,

Recently, I received a copy of the above referenced memo, dated January 23, 2009, prepared by Director D. Milardo and distributed to all city employees. This letter explains that the city "...has offered free HMO medical programs to those who retired from service...and... is above what is contained within their Collective Bargaining Agreements." There was a logical explanation for the original basis for the benefit to move more employees into the HMO plan for health insurance because of the anticipated savings. Director Milardo pointed out that the City can no longer continue the 100% health care costs for retirees, dependents and employees eligible to retire. Employees were notified they must decide by March 1, 2009 if they will retire to retain this benefit. Employees retiring after this date will receive health benefits under the terms and conditions of their collective bargaining agreements (the 100% option will no longer apply). This letter mandates that employees notify the City before March 1, 2009 and leave by March 1, 2009 if they wish to retain this health benefit option.

One key question is how many employees choosing to retire before March 1st will need to be replaced. I’m told that school crossing guards, BOE business officials, several police officers and firefighters and other key city positions are considering retirement because of fear of losing this benefit. Crossing guards are critical for safety and I don’t think it is wise or sound financial use of police officers to cover crossing guard posts. Further, for essential positions needing to be replaced, the City will now be paying two health insurance benefits, one for the retiree and one for the new hire. Both Chief Baldoni and Superintendant Frechette should be evaluating this issue.

With this letter, I request the financial impact of your decision be provided to the Common Council. How many taxpayer dollars will be saved by discontinuing the free HMO in respect to future retirees that choose to remain in the PPO health benefit versus the free HMO. Also, what is the saved wages benefit in comparison to replacement salaries, cost of duplicative health insurance, as well as, the personal impact on employees and services they provide?

I am also extremely concerned that the March 1 deadline will cause serious disruption in the functions of various departments. The notice was sent to employees the end of January ! Employees were surprised by this memo and it will likely take several weeks to come to decision for many. This leaves only 2-3 weeks to determine how a loss of staffing will be properly coordinated and managed. It is my understanding that refilling of positions will be offered to city employees first within the bargaining units. This could create a compounding or domino effect of service disorder to other departments. It is my firm belief employees should notify the city of their retirement decision by March 1 but that the transition to retirement be treated on a case-by-case basis with all eligible employees being required to leave by June 30, 2009 if it is truly a financial savings. With this approach, departments can plan accordingly, cross train replacement employees if necessary, implement succession planning and limit disruptions for the employees, taxpayers and citizens of the city.


Ronald P. Klattenberg, Councilman
Chairman, Finance and Government Operations


Middletown One said...

Its sad to see that Ron is playing politics at a time when this city needs all the elected officals to come togheter... Shame on you Ron!!

Anonymous said...

This is what happens when you run for Mayor and exactly why Giuliano will get an easy win.

Anonymous said...

Well how interesting is this. For 11 years, Mr. Klattenberg is silent. As he runs for Mayor, now he decides to speak up. Ronny, most of us see right through you.

The time to stand up was when the Mayor chose to call in the Unions, and Council people to discuss budget shortfalls, and work together on solutions. This was an incentive to allow employees a change over, to save the City money on Health Insurance. It caused employees to choose an HMO, which saved the City money. Now the program has run it's course, and the Mayor has ended it.

It turns out in tough economic times, it comes as a godsend to both employees, and the City. We see employees saving money on health care, and the City being allowed to close budget gaps by attrition instead of layoffs. A win win situation for the taxpayers and government officials.

But Ron, plays politics by writing the Mayor a letter, demanding information be provided to him. Now you care Ron? Where were you when you could have stood up and made a difference when it counted? Many people claim that democrats are beholden to Labor groups. In Middletown, democrats are beholden to their own best suited needs, depending on who's complaining or running for office.

Your job Mr. Councilman is to decide on what programs benefit Middletown, and choose fiscally responsible programs and budgets that deliver services to her residents. The Mayor's job is to run government which includes the departments and their leadership.

It's easy to comment after the fact, but its difficult to be a visionary who actually has a plan for reducing costs in City government, and working together to benefit the taxpayers.

James Streeto said...

ok, maybe its just me, but....

isn't asking questions and clarifying issues what the council is SUPPOSED to do? Middletown One, I'd suggest you re-read that letter--Ron's asking for clarifications and data. This is critical to an informed decision on the budget (which is the council's primary function).

It isn't "playing politics" to ask for detailed data which will effect the numbers in the budget, any more than it was "playing politics" for several councilmen, democrats AND republicans, to ask for clarifications on teh status of aetna as a taxpayer. I just wish I'd thought to ask for this data myself.

Anonymous said...

Dear Middletown One & others,

I have to say it makes me squirm when I read a letter like the one that Ron Klattenberg sent to the Mayor.

I think it is because it seems like such a change in character from the way that he has operated during his many years of public service. If he was a confrontational kind of person, or even the kind of person who always wanted to find out all the ins and outs before making a decision, then this would not seem like such an off-note. But it feels kind of self-serving to publish that such a letter was sent, or to have the demanding kind of tone.

But that's politics isn't it? Ron has to show us what he thinks it means to be a leader, not just someone who cooperates with the direction the tide is flowing. Then we get to decide if 1) we like that kind of leadership and 2) if we think he is capable of delivering it.

I would always want my council people to question things -- try to understand the long term implications of an action, and consider the impact on city employees. On its surface, that is all that Ron is asking. And maybe Ron has always played this role behind the scenes, and now he has to make it more public.

But part of me is reminded of John McCain's campaign for President. As many people have noted, the very things that people like about John McCain -- his character, honesty, straightforwardness -- were the first things he seemed to throw overboard as he ran for office. He presented himself as worse than he was!

I feel like this might be a wake-up call for Ron. If you deserve to be our Mayor, then tell us more about who you are, and what you have been doing all these years on the council. We are listening. But listen to your gut too -- don't get persuaded to "play politics" -- it's the fastest way to lose.

-Undecided Voter

Anonymous said...

The people who are criticizing Ron Klattenberg for questioning the Mayor's plan to strip employees of health benefits are way off base. All he's asking for is information and to give the affected employees adequate time to make the very difficult choice between retiring early to keep their benefits or staying on the job with reduced benefits. Put yourself in their shoes - the Mayor's action puts tremendous pressure on these employees. Also, if a lot of these employees are forced to retire - and the City hires new people to replace them, it may actually cost more. And worse, if we don't hire people to replace them, we may see a loss in City services. All Ron wants is a fuller explanation - and he asked about this at the last Council meeting and the Mayor just ignored him and didn't answer. Wake up, Middletown - this Mayor thinks he can do whatever he wants. Got your tax bill?

Ron Klattenberg said...

In response to the blog comments suggesting my letter was political gamesmanship. At the February Council meeting, I brought this exact issue up with the Mayor and explained my concerns about the retirement deadline(s) and potential impact on employees and city services. I received no response from the mayor. Repeat…Absolutely no response! If the reaction was different, this letter would not have been necessary. My letter simply tries to responsibly clarify my position and request financial impact information before the plan is implemented. Had I not sent the letter to the MiddletownEye probably nobody would know this was important. I understand the consequences of perception vs. reality and how some place this letter in the category of politics, however, it is also important that I convey where I stand on city business. If I said nothing and some city services ran amok because of a poor management decision or the cost to the city increased by the plan, I wouldn’t be doing my council job. In truth, if problems arise because of Mayor’s decision only he would be blamed...not me. As a mayoral candidate, I have an obligation to let residents know what I’m thinking. The MiddletownEye is one way to reach a large Middletown audience. I hope the Mayor also shares his ideas in the Eye. As far as the comment “it's easy to comment after the fact, but it’s difficult to be a visionary who actually has a plan for reducing costs in City government, and working together to benefit the taxpayers” My letter and many of my ideas have done just that: championing Middletown as a Clean Energy Community, use of the fuel cell at the new high school to save utility costs, having Middletown become the first in CT to receive free solar panels for the former VOAG building, serving as liaison to the Army for the Cucia Park site, long time advocate for open space, farmland preservation, supporting community efforts to promote the landfill for energy, organizing a hugely successful road race in Middletown and co-founder of the recent Community Conversations event are visionary and forward thinking. I have no lack of ideas for Middletown, but it will take determination and help to move the city forward especially with the city and state budgets in such horrible shape.

Anonymous said...

Wow! This is great. Where else can you get so involved in community affairs than in The Eye? And how much more lively and current a format than the old-fashioned "letter to the editor" kind of dialogue! This willingness to engage in open and transparent discussion of substantive issues is sweet music to my politically jaded ears.

Anonymous said...

Hooray Ron! Now I understand where you are coming from on this, and it makes more sense. Thanks for jumping in.

-Undecided Voter

Anonymous said...

Lots of information which will never reach the taxpayers here. Lets look at these issues, one at a time. The fuel cell at Middletown High, yes, 2 million for a cell which feeds one, I didnt typo electrical panel. Huge savings there. But it does not surprise me, a man who worked for Northeast Utilities, pushing for a cell..that Northeast Utilities provided. As far as solar panels, yup, If I remember correctly, Domenique Thornton won that one, not you Ron. Liason for the Cucia Park thing with the Army? Nice of you to get involved AFTER the fact that it is their intention to choose that site.

You delivered the letter to the blog first, thats political gamesmanship, period end. Typical Democratic tactic, being tough in the paper, when in reality, you say nothing. Let me remind you, the City budget is YOUR responsibility Mr. Klattenberg. You the democrats passed this previous budget. If we are in trouble, then it is you who drove us there. Let's not blame the Mayor, as you could have CUT because the council has final say.

Again, a visionary for Middletown, not in her politics, but in ways to save her money. All the things you quote are great tree hugging aspects, but we are beyond feel good measures. You, as a Mayoral Candidate was missing from the meeting on budgetary issues with the City Unions.

You voted down contracts for City Unions, which would fix costs, and give you hard numbers to determine your budgets. Fire, Police, and now Public Works, all had their contracts voted down by you. I'm not sure about the Managers, but I'm sure the one upmanship by the democrats pulled that one off too.

I wonder, did you worry about services provided the taxpayers as you voted down fire, police, and public works contracts? My recollection says no. But now, with you running for Mayor, these issues become important. Like I said, which you choose to ignore, now employees and services are important to you. I'm sorry, I just wanted to clarify that.

I suggest you stop defending here on the blogs, and you concentrate actually doing some work for the taxpayers. It seems the Board of Education budget will be an issue for the council again. Or did you even know, the Board is playing games on the request to come in with a lower budget. They are ignoring dates, and coming up with plans to dupe the council and Mayor. Instead of writing letters to the mayor, maybe you should be watching things on public access. Or better yet, ask questions of the people who ignore the taxpayers and continue to run rampant. Or maybe MM-H has not pulled that puppet string yet.

I choose anonymous, because we in Middletown, know the fear of political retrobution!

Anonymous said...

Ron- I second the last comment- where were you when discussing Unions?

Anonymous said...

This is the kind of topic and letter that Ron Klattenberg would concern himself with regardless of whether or not he was running for Mayor. He is not writing this for "political gamesmanship" as some right wing anonymous poster stated. Mr. Klattenberg is one of the few people that I have ever met who's interests and concerns are truly on what is best for the city of Middletown. When he sees an issue that can or will have a negative affect on the city he identifies it. He is NOT a "go with the flow" kind of guy and should be admired for standing up for those topics he believes in.

-A Former Republican Middletown Voter