By Bonnie Adams, Managing Editor
Marlborough – Mayor Arthur Vigeant insists he is not trying to take away insurance benefits for firefighters or police officers who have had to retire because they have been injured on the job.
What he is trying to do, he said, is to have city officials review possibly eliminating a 40-year old statute that pays for extra expenses not covered by the employee's insurance. His request was presented to the city council Jan. 13 and immediately drew criticism from the city's union officials who attended the meeting to protest.
In an interview Jan. 17, Vigeant spoke about the issue and what led to him asking the council to review his request.
Since 1973, the city has had three employees who have utilized a statue under Chapter 41, Section 100B of Massachusetts General Law. Under that provision, the employees would first submit claims to their insurance companies. If anything was rejected, they could then submit it to the city.
“This provision is a local option – municipalities can either accept it or not accept it,” Vigeant said. “Not a lot have accepted it. We are trying to compile a history of those who still have it or repealed it.”
Claims are supposed to be reviewed by a three-person panel composed of the chair of the retirement board, the city solicitor, and a physician. But historically past claims have all been paid without the board ever having even met, Vigeant noted.
But recently a labor attorney has submitted a claim on behalf of a fourth employee. And that is what has him concerned, he said. He feels the city could face a potential onslaught of additional employees who utilize legal representation to get additional expenses paid.
“Once you get an attorney involved, what does it open the door to?” he said.
“No one is going to go without benefits,” he reiterated. “We are not looking to take away benefits. We just want to make sure we are protecting the city.”
The request is now being reviewed by the Operations and Oversight Committee.