Board repeals lifetime benefits

[Kolby Rousseve] Citrus College Board of Trustees members Edward Ortell (left) and Gary Woods (right) must retire or resign next year in order to maintain their lifetime health care benefits.

Two sweeping changes were made to campus policies by the Citrus Community College Board of Trustees at its Nov. 20 meeting.

During the previous meeting of the board Oct. 16, Citrus College Faculty Association president John Fincher presented the board with two ultimatums regarding lifetime health care and use of campus resources.

Current board members Edward Ortell and Gary Woods voted in favor of an agenda item granting board members and their spouses lifetime medical, dental and optical insurance coverage during an April 23, 1998, special meeting of the board of trustees.

The proposal, which passed with a 3-1 vote, was made by then-board president Ortell. He was reportedly motivated by the failing health of Donald Montgomery, then the trustee from Monrovia. Montgomery died of cancer the day prior to the special meeting.

The lifetime health benefit policy had irked members of the CCFA for some time. In October 1999, a similar benefits proposal for faculty did not make it past the negotiation table.

Now, 13 years later, the CCFA can celebrate a victory after the board moved to repeal the controversial policy with a 3-2 vote.

As a result, Woods and Ortell— who represented the dissenting votes—will only be eligible for lifetime health care if they resign or retire by Nov. 30, 2013.

Ironically, board president Joanne Montgomery voted to repeal the same policy that was established in the memory of her deceased spouse. Board members Sue Keith and Patricia Rasmussen also voted to repeal the benefits.

Ortell made an unsuccessful motion to table the proposal until the next meeting, saying that the effects of Obamacare may cause conflicts with current health care plans for Citrus’ full-time employees. He then said that the issue may be settled in the courtroom.

“I think you’re going to run into a lot of legal problems,” Ortell said during the board discussion on the proposal. “You have this problem with an earned benefit . . . and in general, those have been held [up] in favor of earned benefits.”

“I think we’re opening ourselves up to litigation by passing this motion.”

Additionally, the board unanimously authorized college superintendent/president Geraldine M. Perri, Ph. D, to draft a board policy and an administrative procedure to regulate the use of district computer resources by the board of trustees.

At the board’s Oct. 16 meeting, Fincher said that an unnamed member of the board, later revealed to be Ortell, was “abusing the computer privilege.”

From May 5, 2010, to Oct. 5, 2012 personnel from Citrus College’s Technology and Computer Services department made 34 visits to Ortell’s residence.

“For the life of me . . . I cannot think of a reason that anyone would require such extensive, in-home service visits for a computer,” Fincher previously stated.

San Dimas resident Gil Aguirre, who is currently involved in a legal battle with the board over transparency issues, was also in attendance at the meeting, and admired Fincher’s initiative.

“I commend Mr. Fincher on what he’s doing,” Aguirre said. “He’s obviously trying to correct a wrong.”

The next board meeting is Dec. 4 in CI 159.



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