Personnel policy passed with extra benefits to legislators

Montgomery County legislators passed a personnel policy Tuesday that applies to all non-union employees, but not before discussing whether or not to include an extra stipend for legislators who are appointed to chair committees and whether to extend health care benefits to part-time employees.

District 7 Legislator Barbara Wheeler, who chairs the Personnel Committee and who was responsible for writing the policy, removed an item from the policy before Tuesday’s vote that would have granted the extra stipend to committee chairs, which would total $8750 divided over seven committees.  She also removed an item that would extend health insurance coverage to part-time employees as well as legislators. Legislature Chairman Thomas Quackenbush introduced an amendment that restored the two items to the policy.

Wheeler defended her removal of health coverage for part-time workers citing the additional cost to the taxpayers. “Remember who we’re supposed to represent,” said Wheeler.

In regards to the increase to the legislators’ compensation and benefits, District 8 Legislator Joe Isabel said, “We all ran for this position, we knew what we were going to make when we ran for that position. I don’t think we should add to it at this point.” Later he said, “I think we are doing just exactly, Mr. Chairman, what we said we weren’t going to do. I can’t support it.”

Quackenbush spoke in support of the extension of benefits to part-time workers and said, “I support the County Executive and his policy that he created. He’s really trying his hardest to create a part-time workforce, and it is appreciated and all the hard work they put forth. So many times in the past years we’ve neglected to see just how important they were…I feel strongly that it’s the right decision.”

After the meeting, County Executive Matt Ossenfort said he was neutral on the contested items.

The amendment to the policy passed by a 5-3 margin; District 6 Legislator John M. Duchessi, Wheeler and Isabel voted no. District 4 Legislator Ryan B. Weitz was absent.

The resolution adopting the policy as amended passed by the same 5-3 margin; Duchessi, Wheeler and Isabel again voted no.

The policy is retroactive to Jan. 1, 2013, and remains in effect until Dec. 31, 2016. It applies to employees who are not represented by recognized bargaining units.

(John Becker and Tim Becker both contributed to this article)