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Judge orders county to reduce premiums for police retirees

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A court has ordered Baltimore County to reduce the health insurance premiums it charges hundreds of retired police officers.

Baltimore County Circuit Judge Michael J. Finifter gave the county 10 days to comply with the order. The ruling is the latest in the legal dispute between the Baltimore County Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 4 and the county government over what proportion of the retirees' health insurance premiums the county pays.

A county spokeswoman said Thursday the county's attorneys are reviewing the order, but declined to comment further.

The dispute involves about 400 officers who retired between 1992 and 2007, when the county shifted more health care costs to retirees. Finifter's ruling means the county must start paying a greater share of the premiums than it has been paying since then.

The union says the county violated its contract when it shifted the costs to the retirees. The state's highest court ruled in favor of the union last year, finding the county had charged the retirees too much.

County officials say they they strongly disagree with the decision by the Maryland Court of Appeals and will continue to fight the case.

In August, Finifter ordered the county to repay the retirees within 20 days, but county officials asked him to reconsider.

The judge ruled this week that his previous orders for the county to repay the retirees would not take effect until damages are calculated. A hearing is scheduled for January.

The union says the county owes the retirees nearly $1.6 million. President Cole Weston said he hopes the litigation will stop dragging on.

"I think there should be some closure to this situation with regards to this small group," Weston said. "At least three [retired officers] have passed away since this has been in litigation."

alisonk@baltsun.com

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Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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