Lubbock mayor responds to questions surrounding council benefits - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

Lubbock mayor responds to questions surrounding council benefits

Lubbock Mayor Dan Pope (Source: Caleb Holder, KCBD) Lubbock Mayor Dan Pope (Source: Caleb Holder, KCBD)

We have new information on an investigation we began in June.

The KCBD investigative team began asking the city questions about health insurance benefits available to both current and retired city council members.

Those questions prompted a review of the policy by Lubbock Mayor Dan Pope. 

Current city council members are eligible for the city's health insurance package. 

If they serve at least five years, then they are eligible for the retirement insurance package. 

It is a benefit that is costing the city thousands of dollars a month and not available to others, like part time employees.

We asked Mayor Pope if he considers council members full time employees.

"That's a great questions. Our pay stubs say we are. It says we work 40 hours a week at a very reduced rate," Mayor Pope said.

That reduced rate is $25 a month for council members and $75 a month for the mayor. 

Plus, council members are offered a city cell phone or a cell phone stipend an an auto allowance. 

"Other than that, the only other benefit as such is the healthcare that is offered to city council people with the ability to add your family at the city rates," Mayor Pope said. 

The KCBD investigative team requested those rates and learned while current and former council members are contributing, the city is still paying thousands of dollars a month for these packages.

"It's a lot of money. It's not like we've got some Cadillac plan," Mayor Pope said.

One former councilman for example, is paying nearly $900 a month for health and dental insurance for himself and his family. The city is contributing more than $2,000 a month. 

"It's a significant benefit," Mayor Pope said.

The city said Gary Boren, Todd Klein, Alex "Ty" Cooke, and Jim Gilbreath are all former council members accessing the city's medical coverage. However on Thursday, Mayor Pope said that list could actually be longer.

We asked Mayor Pope if this is creating a special class who receives a valuable benefit that others, like part time city employees, cannot access.

"It's interesting, it's a good question. I went back this morning and did some research," Mayor Pope said.

He said he found state representatives, senators and congressmen all have a similar vesting period.

"I don't know if it's a special class or not. I don't think we are out there on a limb by ourselves, I guess is what I am saying. I imagine when they did this 20 years ago, 20 plus years ago, that they took some of those things into consideration," Mayor Pope said.

However, he said there will be a legal review and city staff will consult with healthcare experts to make sure they are not violating any local, state or federal laws. He also said they may end up seeking an opinion from the attorney general's office.

We asked former Lubbock Mayor Marc McDougal why he decided against taking the health insurance package when he left the council.

"That is not something I agreed with when that was done. I don't think we go serve at the city to piggyback their health insurance forever," McDougal said. 

Mayor Pope has requested this be placed on a council agenda no later than October 13.

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