Supervisors spar over family health insurance

EMA director apologizes for calling supervisors ‘deranged’ in private email made public

What started out as a typically mundane Chickasaw County Supervisors meeting, regarding department reports and budget discussions, took a sharp turn toward the worst late in the morning on Monday.

By the end of the day, board members had exchanged cross words, provocative remarks in a department head’s private email had been made public, and that same department head released a statement of apology to the press.

The emails were intended to promote awareness on proposed changes to the EMA Commission Representative within the agency,” Austen Seely, the Emergency Management Agency (EMA) Director for Chickasaw County, said in a statement made exclusively to the Tribune on Monday afternoon. “I offer my sincere apologies to those that were offended by the email. Since I began in February, I have faced many difficulties in promoting positive change to emergency management and 911. It is my only intention to have positive working relationships with everyone and work positively moving forward in capabilities of Emergency Management and 911.”

The scrum started at about 11:45 a.m., when supervisor Steve Geerts was presenting his update on the EMA and 911 meetings from Wednesday, Jan. 3, to the board.

Geerts’ report was interrupted by chairman Jacob Hackman, who aggressively questioned Geerts regarding his vote at the EMA meeting to have the county pay 70 percent of the premium for family health insurance coverage.

“Did you represent yourself, or did you represent this board?” Hackman asked Geerts.

“Myself,” Geerts replied. “I feel — and I’ve always felt — that taking family medical insurance away from the employees just isn’t right, it isn’t the right thing to do. I think I’ve been on record as saying that.”

Hackman implied that Geerts was mistaken.

“We never took it away. That’s a misprint, the paper should never have said that, it’s a misprint,” Hackman said. “They should correct that. We never took family medical insurance away, we just don’t pay for it.”

Technically, Hackman is correct. The county didn’t literally “take away” family health insurance, it simply changed the formula so that each family will have to pay $6600 more per year for health insurance.


For more of this article, see Friday's Tribune.

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