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Glen Cove paid $500G for ineligible retiree health coverage, audit finds

Mayor Tim Tenke, shown on Oct. 24, 2018,

Mayor Tim Tenke, shown on Oct. 24, 2018, said the city will continue paying health care premiums for six ineligible retirees through the end of May. Credit: Jeff Bachner

Glen Cove has paid more than $500,000 in health insurance costs for six retirees who aren't eligible for coverage, a recent audit found.

The report by Manhattan-based Marks Paneth Accountants & Advisors analyzed the employment files of 191 retired city employees receiving New York State Health Insurance Program benefits. 

The city paid $490,834 in premium payments for the ineligible retirees, including two former city attorneys and a former councilman, according to a report by the city controller based on the audit. The city also issued $125,697 in Medicare Part B reimbursements to the former employees from 2007 to 2018. Glen Cove, as a state health insurance program member, is required to reimburse enrollees and their dependents for the cost of Medicare Part B premiums. 

The audit and the report by controller Sandra Clarson were circulated in February to the mayor, city council and city attorney.

“None of the people accepting health care benefits were doing anything dishonest or fraudulent,” Mayor Timothy Tenke said in a statement. “They were advised by the city that they were entitled to these benefits, which have been provided to them willingly throughout their retirement.”

The duration of the coverage for each of the men varies based on when they retired. 

Tenke said the city council is working on resolutions “to address some of the issues that gave rise to where we are today.” He said those measures will likely be introduced at the next council meeting, but declined to provide details or comment further. 

The city may be reimbursed by the state health insurance program for six months of the incorrectly paid premiums, totaling $28,693, Clarson wrote in her report.

Tenke said the city will likely cover the former employees' health insurance payments until the end of the month. 

Clarson recommended the unqualified retirees be removed from the health insurance plan and that the city submit documents to the state to try to recoup the six months of premiums. She also suggested consulting attorneys "to recover any premium payments beyond six months," the report reads. 

According to the audit, three retirees don’t meet the minimum requirement of having five years of service to receive health benefits. Leonard Baron, a provisional building department administrator, worked 2.6 years for the city before retiring in 2008. Anthony Maurino, a building department administrator, worked 4.8 years and retired in 2000. Francis Deegan, a city attorney under former mayor and current Rep. Thomas Suozzi, worked 4.1 years and left the position in 1998.

The city has paid $184,000 in premium payments to cover Deegan and a dependent, according to Clarson’s report.

Gilbert Gallego, who worked six years in public information and retired in 1973, didn’t meet the minimum requirements of working at least 20 hours a week, making at least $2,000 a year, or being elected to serve, according to the audit report.

Former employees Anthony Jimenez and Vincent Taranto don’t qualify because of a resolution passed in 2011 that suspended health benefits for city council members, the city attorney and the city historian, according to the report. The city paid $43,000 in premiums for Jimenez, a city councilman for 14 years who lost his re-election bid in 2014; and $55,000 in premiums for Taranto, a city attorney for seven years who also served until 2014.

Jimenez declined to comment. The five other retirees could not be reached or did not return a request for comment. 

The auditors reported they couldn’t determine the eligibility of some other retirees because they didn’t respond to a letter the firm sent requesting supporting documentation.

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