Gulfport Council Reverses Retiree Insurance Decision - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

10/06/04

Gulfport Council Reverses Retiree Insurance Decision

City leaders in Gulfport were faced with a group of high profile retired employees Tuesday, who feel their years of loyalty to the city have been paid back with a knife to the back.

About two weeks ago, they and other retired city employees were told it was no longer legal for the city to supplement their health insurance premiums. That caused their out of pocket expenses to skyrocket.

So Tuesday, they challenged Councilmen to reverse that decision and keep, what they say, was a promise made to them for their service.

"I put 26 years in. Some of them retired with 20 years, some of them 24, 25. But that's a long time to dedicate your life to a city who tells you one thing, that they're going to do one thing, and then all of a sudden, bingo,"Retired Gulfport Police Chief Haywood Hargrove said.

In making their decision, city leaders cited a state attorney general's opinion regarding a similar case in Clarksdale. They say it turns out it's not legal for them to contribute to retiree insurance plans. But the retirees say it's time to seek a second opinion.

"We can produce legislation possibly in the next legislative session that could change this and make it a concrete issue to where we as employees, no only those that are being retired but also those that are now standing the line, they can receive those same benefits," Retired Police Captain Joe Langenbacker said.

"We've all given up something in order to work for the City of Gulfport. And everyone here was proud of what they were doing, otherwise they wouldn't have stayed," Retired Police Detective Stanley Vance said.

The council never voted on the controversial change. They say after hearing the retirees side of the story, they plan do everything they can to reverse it, before the November 1st deadline.

"I may even take a trip to Jackson, see if we can get an appointment up there and talk to the right folks and see if we can't work this out," Council President Rick Dombrowski said.

Ward 1 Councilman Jimmie Jenkins agreed.

"These people have served the city well and we're going to do what we can, within the law of the city, to resolve this problem."

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