[KHTS] – With a 3-0 vote in closed session, Santa Clarita City Councilman TimBen Boydston abstaining due to an obvious conflict, City Council members voted Tuesday to deny Boydston’s claim of damages.
City Councilman Frank Ferry was absent from the meeting and from the closed session that preceded it, when the claim was discussed.
Boydston filed the claim Oct. 21 claiming damages in the amount of $9,632.50 for compensation he said he was owed from his first 12 months of service as a city councilman.
City Council members approved a change in benefits for all employees hired after Jan. 1, 2011, as an adjustment to the midyear budget for the fiscal year 2010-11.
The move came after a recommendation from city staff members who were asked to find cost-cutting measures.
However, Boydston said that because the move was not done through the proper channels, that his fellow City Council members should either all take the same pay cut, or pay him the same wage that they are making.
“Basically, procedure was not followed according to state law,” Boydston, said. “The change in benefits was never addressed (publicly), and that change in benefits, in my opinion was not legal.”
After Boydston made an initial complaint meeting at a council more than 12 months ago, Santa Clarita City Council members voted 4-0 to keep a “two-tiered” health care system for city employees Oct. 24, 2012.
The move basically says all employees hired starting in 2011 are eligible for about $800 a month less than those hired before in cash-in-lieu payments — if the employee decides to take cash instead of their health care benefits in the city’s “cafeteria-style” plan.
However, a change in compensation should have been discussed openly and published in a newspaper of record, Boydston said.
“The city of Santa Clarita claims that they changed the level of ‘cash in lieu’ of health benefits
on Dec. 14, 2010, but did not actually include change of ‘cash in Lieu’ in the changes,” according to Boydston’s claim. “The changes that were never done, were supposed to have been effective Jan. 1, 2011. On Oct. 23, 2012, the City Council claimed to have “clarified” their “intent” of a Nov. 23, 2010, closed session by passing Resolution No. 12-72 to say that they had actually changed the benefits of future Council members on that date.”
This change in benefits, which affected all city employees hired after Jan. 1, 2011, was done without taking the proper steps, such as a publication notice in a newspaper of record, Boydston said.
“This is about the principle,” Boydston said. “I’ve stated this before — I thought the correct solution was that if this was a true desire from our council to save money for the taxpayer, then it should be equal pay for equal work.”
After receiving a large amount of feedback, both support and criticism, Boydston said he would donate the money if the city did pay out his claim.
During the Oct. 23, 2012, City Council meeting, City Attorney Joe Montes was questioned by City Councilwoman Marsha McLean as to whether Boydston was eligible for the same benefits packages as the rest of the council members, under the current law.
Boydston’s medical benefits are essentially the same, Montes said, however a difference in benefits takes effect if Boydston chooses to take a cash payout instead.
The cash discrepancy between the two tiers of the plan comes out to the amount filed for in Boydston’s claim.
Back in October at the City Council meeting, City Attorney Joe Montes explained that it wouldn’t be possible to satiate Boydston’s request the way the rules are set up, unless the city decided to create a special category for employees who worked for the city left and came back, or if the city would have to adjust the pay benefits for all 32 employees the city has hired since the rules were changed.
Boydston served on the City Council in 2007 on an interim basis, completing the term of Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, who left for the Legislature.
Now that is looks like his compensation won’t be re-adjusted, Boydston was advised by city Attorney Joe Montes that he shouldn’t talk from the dais, or as a City Councilman, about the compensation.
Boydston has yet to indicate whether he will file a lawsuit, which would likely be his next step in pursuing the claim further.