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Council wrangles with composition of new Health Benefits Trust board

By Staff | Jun 5, 2019

The city of Cape Coral moved forward Monday with an ordinance that would create a new Health Benefits Trust and board.

With three Council members out on excused absences — Mayor Joe Coviello, who was in China, as well as Councilmembers Rick Williams and Jessica Cosden — the bare-quorum board finally agreed that the health trust board of five would include two city members, two union members and a fifth member with financial expertise upon which the first four could agree.

With Coviello out, Mayor Pro Tem John Carioscia presided over the first public hearing.

The city and members of the city’s general union were in disagreement regarding the composition of the Health Benefits board. The city has wanted three city leaders on the board with two union members, while the union sought a “neutral party” for the fifth member seat.

Council members were also in disagreement among themselves, with two competing motions being considered.

Councilmember David Stokes was in agreement with what he called the “2-2-1” plan.

“It’s a sound practice. It’s worked for years here and it should work now,” Stokes said, adding he would like to see retirees placed in those roles.

However, when Stokes made the motion, he found no second, meaning it died.

Moments later, Councilmember Marilyn Stout made a motion for the original ordinance to be passed. While she and John Gunter agreed, Stokes, Jennifer Nelson and Carioscia voted no with the motion failing3-2.

City Attorney Dolores Menendez said as the board was created through a collective bargaining agreement, there needed to be some kind of consensus.

Gunter was on the right track with Stokes by suggesting a fifth person, but suggested another council member or someone on the school board, someone City Council could appoint.

Eventually, it was decided the four Health Benefits Trust board members would agree upon the fifth member with experience as either a financial advisor or a CPA.

That motion passed unanimously, even though some concern was expressed that the hiring of a financial advisor could be expensive.

There was also a companion resolution that approved the declaration of the trust which also passed unanimously. However, since the ordinance had changed, the resolution also needed to change, which Council first neglected to do.

Menendez alerted Council of the error and walked them through the process of correcting the misstep.

They needed to make a motion to reconsider and vote again for the same resolution, which failed unanimously, before voting for the edited resolution, which passed unanimously.