Two weeks after Lenoir City Municipal Court Judge Robin McNabb voiced concerns to Lenoir City Council about an ordinance change tied to her position, she returned Monday to discuss the position’s medical insurance.
“Looking at the materials Ms. (city administrator Amber) Scott sent me when you all were considering amending the judge ordinance for residency requirements, I did read the section of the (ordinance) that Ms. Scott sent me and it provides that the city judge’s medical insurance, family medical insurance, is supposed to be paid 100% by the city,” McNabb said. “When I became judge I was told that I would need to pay part of that and I was quoted the price for that and after discussing that with my husband we decided not to proceed with getting that medical insurance based on the cost.”
She requested the city reimburse medical insurance premium costs for the 4 ½ years she has been judge.
The city purchasing/budget committee met Thursday and denied McNabb’s request for medical premiums dating to the beginning of her judgeship when elected in 2016.
Tony Aikens, Lenoir City mayor, pointed to two ordinances, one from the late 1990s for the judge and another that went into effect January 2011 for all city employees.
“The difference was the ordinance was in place for the judge and the ordinance was in place for all city employees to start Jan. 1, 2011, if you were hired after that, so the budget committee felt like that we was meeting in the middle,” Aikens said. “That even though city council certainly can rescind that ordinance eliminating that language, we felt like the fair thing to do was to say, ‘OK, if you want on insurance, yes, it is written and that you can get on it at no charge.’
“Of course, the other city employees they have to pay,” he added. “But anyhow, that’s where we’re at. The budget committee made that decision to allow her to get on the city’s insurance but not to receive any back pay.”
Aikens said the controversy about McNabb’s insurance wasn’t placed on council agenda because the matter was considered a “dead issue” after the purchasing/budget committee decision.
Councilman Eddie Simpson asked McNabb if she planned to go on the city’s insurance.
McNabb said she was, adding, “I don’t know anybody who would turn free medical insurance.”
“I personally feel like that if we’re going to give to it to her we should back up and give it to every employee hired after 2011,” Aikens said.
Simpson said that wouldn’t be a “good decision” for the city.
“What we’re saying, and what I’m hearing right, is that there was two ordinances in place,” Aikens said. “One in ‘99 or whatever it was dealing with ... 100% insurance coverage for the city judge, but in Jan. 1, 2011, city council voted for all employees hired after that date, and you was hired after that date, you was elected by the citizens of Lenoir City, to pay 20% of the insurance coverage. We’re saying we’re giving you the benefit of the doubt and agreeing from this day forward you’re certainly welcome to that. But I don’t hear any — and somebody correct me if I’m wrong — I don’t hear any concessions as far as paying you any type of back pay.”
“I believe if you would check with the city attorney he would tell you that under the principles of statutory construction that if there is a specific ordinance addressing an issue, it is not superseded by a general ordinance that’s passed afterward,” McNabb said. “I also have case law here, which I will I guess share with MTAS because that seems like the next logical place to go before a lawsuit, that would reaffirm the right to have compensation when an employer misrepresents benefits to which the employee’s entitled.”
Aikens asked McNabb if she planned to sue the city.
McNabb responded that Aikens didn’t need to “misstate anything.”
“I’m not misstating, you’re the one that brought it up,” Aikens said. “Are you going to sue the taxpayers?”
“I’m not saying that, but I’m also not going to roll over and play dead when I don’t have 4 1/2 years of insurance that you were supposed to pay either as the city council,” McNabb said.
Turn lane coming
A turn lane into Harrison Glen subdivision will soon become reality after council unanimously approved the lone project bidder, Whaley Construction Inc., at $296,450.
Simpson and councilman Jim Shields motioned and seconded, respectively, with the vote passing 5-0. Councilman Douglas “Buddy” Hines was absent.
“Tomorrow morning I’ll be making contact with Whaley Construction Inc., and I will be setting a contract with them as well as getting a schedule in place,” Amber Scott, city administrator, said. “But we hope to do it very quickly. Of course a lot of that has to do with the contractor’s schedule. ... We hope that we could begin obviously tomorrow, but more likely probably within a month.”
Scott said the city would pay about $96,000 and the remainder would come from a settlement with former developer Harrison Glen Partnerships.
“Well, it’s needed for two reasons, just to make it safer for people coming up and down that hill and having to stop to get in turned in, etc., and we did have an agreement with the people that bought in there that we would have a turn lane,” Simpson said. “I want to fulfill our promise to them that we would do it. For safety reasons it needs to be followed up on.”
In other news, Lenoir City Council:
• Agreed to bid residential waste collection. The current contract expires May 31.
• Approved full-time employment for Lenoir City Police Officer Jamie Ketner.