Three New Albany City Council members sue their own city - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Three New Albany City Council members sue their own city

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LOUISVILLE, KY. (WDRB) -- They ran for office saying they'd serve New Albany -- but now three city council members have served the city with a lawsuit.  The issue is so heated not even a local judge can decide the case.

New Albany City Council Members Kevin Zurschmiede, Robert Caesar, and City Council President Diane Benedetti are suing the city they represent.  They want to have their health insurance coverage restored.  As their attorney Bill Moyer puts it, "Obviously it's affected them a great deal.  They're unable to obtain insurance."

In a 5-4 vote last October, the New Albany City Council eliminated the health insurance coverage option for all of its members, saying they're part-time employees.  Zurschmiede, Caesar, and Benedetti are the only ones affected by the change.

They received the same coverage as full time workers, where taxpayers shoulder 90 percent of the premium.

The trio will only speak through Moyer, their attorney:  "There have been three previous opinions already that says don't pass this ordinance."

The council members stand on the Indiana statute that says an elected official cannot be paid less than the prior year.  They received $10,392 for their position in 2012, plus health insurance.

But New Albany Corp. Counsel Shane Gibson counters, "Their attorney is claiming that this was compensation to them.  However, it's not part of their package, not part of their salary, not part of anything they were normally given or even approved in the budgetary process."

Health insurance only became an option for New Albany Council Members in 2008 after Zurschmiede, Caesar, and Benedetti helped pass a unanimous resolution granting the new benefit.

Digging deeper, WDRB found neighboring Jeffersonville and Clarksville councils do receive health insurance, while Georgetown members do not, though they have the option.

GIbson says, "Hopefully the council members will be able to contain this fight amongst themselves, look at the big picture, and keep things moving forward."

What's really at stake for the public -- according to the ordinance eliminating health insurance for those council members, it will save $80,000 over their four-year term.

A special judge in Scott County will handle the case.  Both parties agreed there could be a conflict of interest in New Albany.  A hearing date is pending.

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