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Galt City Council questions request for benefits

Attorneys say Curt Campion is following the law

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The Galt City Council has set a special public meeting next week to discuss Councilman Curt Campion’s request for health care benefits as an elected official.

It’s a request that at least one council member feels may be improper, because Campion already gets money for health care under a severance agreement he struck with the city when he left employment in 2011.

Vice Mayor Mike Singleton said he suspects Campion may take health insurance as part of his council job and pocket the $1,700 he is receiving under the severance pact for health coverage. Under the agreement, he can request and receive the direct cash payment if he’s receiving benefits elsewhere.

However, Campion said Friday he has no plans to do that.

“I believe the mayor put it on the agenda for transparency ... there’s nothing to hide here. I have no problem with the transparency,” he said.

Because there were questions regarding the overlapping benefits, the city council hired Sacramento attorney Jonathon Hobbs, who apparently determined the practice would be legal. A copy of Hobbs’ report was unavailable, as it is protected attorney-client privilege.

Still, some council members are questioning whether it is ethical and have set a special public meeting Monday to discuss the issue.

“There’s a thing called ethics,” Singleton said, adding that he’s eager to hear Campion’s side of the issue next week. “When I ran for election, I always said we are here to watch out for taxpayer money. I didn’t get into the office for the money.”

Mayor Marylou Powers declined comment until after Monday’s meeting. Campion said he will not attend, on the advice of the city attorney.

Under the severance package Campion received when he left the city just shy of two years ago, he gets $1,788 per month for insurance premiums for himself and his wife through July 2015.

Once the period runs out, he will have collected $85,824 to cover health insurance.

Singleton questioned Campion’s motives.

“This tells me he’s in the office for the wrong reason. It ticks me off when someone’s used their office for the wrong gains. It’s lying to the people. It was just for his gains,” Singleton said.

Campion strongly refuted the claim.

“That’s wrong,” he said. “That’s not the case.”

Campion also pointed out that Singleton approved the severance contract, and Campion feels entitled to the money the city council approved.

“I ended my career with the city, and that (health care allowance) is my money. If I had taken that money as a lump sum, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation,” Campion said. “I could have taken a lump sum, but we agreed to do it on a monthly basis as part of the separation agreement. That payment is available to me, but I haven’t taken it yet.”

Instead, he said he “likely” wouldn’t take it and instead plans to leave the $1,788-per-month in the insurance account the city oversees.

Although Campion has requested the health benefits as a councilman, he has yet to receive them, according to the city’s Human Resources Office.

When asked why he would seek benefits as a council member when he’s already receiving benefits from another source, Campion responded that he’s entitled to them, as he’s no different than any other current council member.

All elected officials are eligible to receive the same group medical, dental, life and vision insurance for themselves and their spouses that is offered to city employees. Only one, Councilman Mark Crews, currently makes use of the full benefits.

Campion’s community development director position was cut two years ago along with two other management positions, in order to save the city an estimated $550,000 in salaries and benefits by keeping the jobs unfilled.

He was eligible for retirement at the time, and received not only the severance, but also a two-year retirement service credit allowing him to apply early to the California Public Employee Retirement System.

He worked for the city for 27 years.

Singleton said he felt bad for eliminating Campion’s position, but that the city is in better financial shape now, partly due to the council action.

At Monday’s special meeting, the city council plans to discuss in open session possible action and direction to staff concerning health care benefits available to Campion under the prior settlement agreement.

They will also receive a report from Hobbs. City Attorney Steven Rudolph recused himself from the discussion as he helped write Campion’s settlement agreement, according to Singleton.

The special city council meeting will be held at 3 p.m. Monday in the city council chambers at City Hall, 380 Civic Drive, Galt.

Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at jenniferb@lodinews.com.

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