Saying that Galt City Councilman Curt Campion would be committing a perfectly legal but unethical act, the council agreed to pay him a cash benefit for health insurance if Campion requests it.
Mayor Marylou Powers and council members Mark Crews and Barbara Payne said at a special meeting Monday afternoon that they felt stuck with a settlement agreement that wasn’t worded strongly enough when Campion was laid off as community development director in May 2011.
Sacramento attorney Jonathon Hobbs said that Campion has the legal authority to collect city health insurance benefits as a councilman in addition to the $1,788 per month he currently gets for health insurance as part of the severance package.
Under the severance package Campion received when he left the city, he receives $1,788 per month toward 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.
Under the package available to city council members, Campion is entitled to an additional $948 per month, Hobbs said.
Hobbs issued his legal opinion in place of City Attorney Steve Rudolph, who recused himself from the issue because he helped write Campion’s settlement agreement. Rudolph and City Manager Jason Behrmann were absent from Monday’s council meeting due to a potential conflict of interest, Hobbs said. Campion was absent because of his financial interest in what transpired at the meeting, Hobbs added.
Calls to Campion’s home and cellphone after the meeting went to his voicemail. However, he said last week he “likely” would leave the $1,788-per-month in the insurance account the city oversees and not cash it out as is permitted under his retirement agreement with the city.
“We gave this gentleman a very, very good settlement package,” Powers said. “I could double-dip, but I don’t. I don’t think it’s right.”
Paula Islas, Galt’s human resources director, told the city council that Campion asked her the day after the election whether he could collect cash in lieu of health benefits for which council members are eligible. However, Campion has not made a formal request because he would have to fill out en enrollment form, Islas said.
Vice Mayor Mike Singleton, who cast the lone dissenting vote, said, he has a problem giving Campion an extra cash payment because he’d be collecting additional taxpayer money.
Crews said the council’s only alternative is to hire another attorney and get another legal opinion.
“Legally, we’re obligated,” Crews said. “To me, it’s double-dipping.”
Powers added, “I think we’re caught between a rock and a hard spot.”In making the motion to accept Hobbs’ recommendation and not seek another legal opinion, Crews said, “I’m not saying it’s OK. I’m saying it’s the lesser of two evils. We’re basically throwing good money away.”
Singleton, who is not an attorney, voted against allowing Campion to collect the money, saying he doesn’t agree with Hobbs’ legal opinion. He said he would have preferred that Campion would agree to renegotiate the settlement with the city.
Crews, a retired Galt police officer, said that courts usually side with the employee.
“Trust me,” he said.
Contact reporter Ross Farrow at email@example.com.