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Asharoken's health cuts for retired employees upheld

The Village of Asharoken's decision to discontinue health care coverage for retired employees and officials, including the former mayor, has been upheld by a State Supreme Court justice.

Justice Jeffrey Arlen Spinner last week dismissed a lawsuit brought by the former mayor, William Kelly, former Village Clerk Dorothy Aiello and Ellie Fauser, the widow of a former trustee, after they were dropped from the village's health benefits plan in 2008.

Spinner dismissed the case, saying the village had the authority to "terminate post-retirement health benefits" because the plaintiffs did not have a contract providing such coverage.

The former officials and employees "decided they were entitled to this because 'we gave it to ourselves,' " village attorney Kenneth Savin said Tuesday, "and the village board said 'no way' and the judge agreed."

Kelly declined to comment. Fauser could not be reached and Aiello and Jim Clark, their attorney, did not return phone calls.

"We're saving a lot of money," Savin said. "In the first year we've saved $17,200."

Seven former employees, appointees or officials had been participating in the health care plan, he said.

A statement issued by the village said some of the recipients "were never employed by the Village or had a no pay, no duties appointment with a title" and some "were never eligible to participate in the health plan even when they were active appointees of the Village."

In 2008, the village board ended health care coverage for current appointees as well as former elected officials and retirees except for police officers covered by a contract.

The lawsuit claimed the state Department of Civil Service has jurisdiction in making such determinations.

Savin said the village argued that civil service law only set minimum eligibility requirements for participation in the health care plan.

He added that no Asharoken Village board had ever created a policy for elected officials, designated employees or retired elected officials.

The village's policy now says current employees are eligible for health care coverage, as are active and certain retired police officers.

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