Commissioner retirement benefits analyzed in Annapolis prior to local discussion

Commissioner retirement health care benefits continue to cause strife between county leaders and the local delegation, most recently with Carroll’s representatives bringing up the topic during a legislative discussion in Annapolis on Friday.

Del. Susan Krebs, R-District 5, has been bringing up the topic publicly for weeks, asking the Board of County Commissioners to address the issue. Krebs said Friday morning that the commissioners were set to discuss the topic Tuesday and, when the commissioners’ Tuesday meeting agenda was released Friday afternoon, it was included.


Krebs has said previously, and reiterated Friday, her issue is with commissioners becoming eligible for the retirement health care benefits after being elected to just two four-year terms. She said the rate of payment for benefits for retired commissioners is “very favorable” and is different than that of what county employees receive.

The issue was brought to her attention last February, she said, and, while she asked the commissioners to address it, nothing has been changed.


“I just thought it was problematic,” Krebs said.

Krebs publicly brought up the item when commissioners and the delegation held a joint meeting.

Commissioner benefits — specifically retirement health care — has created friction between local delegates and the Board of County Commissioners.

If the retired commissioner is younger than 50 years old, they are only eligible to stay on the plan until they reach Medicare age, or until they are eligible for insurance through another employer plan, Winebrenner said. If the commissioner is 50 or older, they can stay on the county’s insurance plan, but the county’s liability becomes secondary once they reach Medicare age, and Medicare becomes the primary payer.

There are three retired commissioners and spouses enrolled in health care coverage — Donald Dell, Julia Gouge and Dean Minnich. Former Commissioner Robin Frazier is the only retired elected official with family health care coverage, and there are also two spouses of deceased retired commissioners — John Armacost and William Lauterbach — who are currently enrolled, she said.

Krebs said retired commissioners shouldn’t treat themselves better than county employees are treated.

State Sen. Justin Ready, R-District 5, echoed Krebs’ concerns and said, while she’s taken the lead on the issue, it’s one they all have interest in.

Krebs said they need to figure out what to do for current people on the plan, those currently in office who will soon be eligible and also for commissioners moving forward after the 2018 election. Then, she said, it needs to be codified into law.

It’s unclear whether legislators have the ability to change the health care benefits, or if that is the purview of the commissioners. While the change was made at the county level originally, Krebs has said retirement benefits should fall under compensation, and commissioner compensation has to be voted on by the General Assembly.

Prior to September 1999, there was not a specified term requirement in the retiree health care policies. The policy specified an age plus years of service requirement. In September 1999, the policy was amended to specify the two-term requirement, and in May 2005 — the latest revision of the policy — the elected official age requirement was reduced to 50 to receive retiree health care benefits post Medicare, Winebrenner previously told the Times.

While delegation members from District 5 have made the issue a priority, other members of Carroll’s delegation, which share representation with Frederick and Howard counties, weren’t completely on board.

State Sen. Michael Hough, R-District 4, said the commissioners should address the issues and deal with it on their own.


“I’d rather be doing other things,” he said.

Others expressed concern about changing the health care of those who already have the retirement benefits.

Del. Warren Miller, R-District 9A, said it’s easy to make a change for the next commissioners who come into office. But the real question is what to do about those with the current plan.

“What’s the fair way to move forward?” he asked.

Del. Kathryn Afzali, R-District 4, echoed those concerns. Whether they agree with the policy doesn’t change the fact there are people who currently get the benefits, and who have financial plans around the current benefits package.

“I do have questions about whether that’s right for us to take that away,” she added.

In addition to discussions over commissioner retirement benefits, the delegation also voted on a number of Carroll-specific bills, including a handful of bond bills and the repealing of a few laws.

The delegation approved the bond bills for Carroll County Veterans Independence Project, the Boys & Girls Club of Westminster, Gamber Fire Company and Public Facilities. The delegation also voted to repeal a Sunday prohibition law in relation to gaming, a law in relation to pinball machines and a law in relation to unlicensed junk vehicles and parts.

They also voted to allow gaming at fraternal organizations, and to allow the Carroll County Board of Education student representative to have a scholarship and get reimbursed for expenses, though the delegation voted on a $3,5000 scholarship, down from the requested $7,500 scholarship.

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