City, EM forced to defend changes made to retirees’ benefits

By GABRIEL GOODWIN
Sunday Times Newspapers

ALLEN PARK — A lawsuit was filed by the Allen Park Retirees Association in an attempt to reverse the changes made to their benefits by the city’s emergency manager.

The lawsuit was filed in the 30th Circuit Circuit of Ingham County in Lansing because it names the city of Allen Park, Emergency Manager Joyce Parker, the state of Michigan, and the Department of Treasury as the defendants in the case. Responses, by the state and city, are required by Nov. 22.

Circuit Court Judge Rosemarie Aquilina will preside over the case. She has to decide whether Parker, in her capacity as the emergency manager, breached any contract the city had with the retirees, a third party attorney said, and if that violated the retirees’ constitutional rights.

The lawsuit asked the court to declare whether there was any wrongdoing by the state and prevent the current changes made to their contract.

The association alleged the state, through the actions of the emergency manager, terminated all health insurance contracts for retirees that were bargained for by the respective collective bargaining unions, terminated personal contracts with the city that provided health insurance to retirees, imposed higher-cost health insurance, and increased yearly deductibles from “little or no cost” to the retirees to the “$500 to $1,000” range.

The association’s lawyer, Mark Porter, said all the actions taken regarding the the retiree health insurance were “flatly illegal and cannot be severed, revived or saved by the fait accompli executive order of April 12, 2013.” He said the bottom line for the state was to create a balanced budget for the city.

“The state is concerned about the money. It gave Parker the authority to implement the modification or termination of an existing collective bargaining agreement.” Porter said. “All they want is a bunch of zeroes at the bottom of the page, and they don’t care how that is done.”

The retirees’ association is comprised of about 150 retirees from the city. City officials said there are about 220 retirees total. Due to a potential conflict of interest, Councilman Larry Templin and Treasurer Maureen Armstrong are excluded from the lawsuit.

Templin, who is a retired police officer, and Armstrong are currently employed by the city either by direct employment or an elected position, which prevent them by association bylaw from being included in the benefits of the lawsuit.

(Gabriel Goodwin can be reached at ggoodwin@bewickpublications.com.)

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