County Fronts $54,000 to Cover GPD Health Insurance

From the Geauga County MapleLeaf



Geauga County Commissioners approved a nearly $54,000 loan to the Geauga Park District to cover the cost of health insurance for its 46 employees June 29.

Geauga County Commissioners approved a nearly $54,000 loan to the Geauga Park District to cover the cost of health insurance for its 46 employees June 29.

The vote came a day after GPD severed fiscal ties with the county in a move Geauga County Prosecutor Jim Flaiz told county commissioners was done in a “reckless and irresponsible manner.”

“First of all, they lied to us. They told us it would be July 1,” Flaiz told county commissioners. “They don’t even have health insurance lined up for their employees.”

GPD Executive Director John Oros said the park district has asked the county to determine whether park employees can remain in the County Employee Benefits Consortium of Ohio pool. In a phone interview June 30, Oros said the GPD board passed a resolution May 10 signaling its intent to remain in the CEBCO pool, and emailed county commissioners to ask for assistance with that process.

“We are looking at our other options, just in case, but to answer to your question, we may not (have health insurance) in the short term,” Oros said.

Flaiz said he and Assistant Prosecutor Laura LaChapelle have been working since learning of yesterday’s vote to determine whether allowing GPD employees to stay in CEBCO would be possible, but in the meantime, park employees will lose access to their current insurance.

Flaiz said GPD employees will be extended health coverage under COBRA, a federal law that allows them to maintain access to their group health plan, adding the move had to be made immediately to be effective in time for employees to have access by July 1 without losing coverage.

The GPD Board of Commissioners originally told the county the transition date would be July 1, but signed resolutions effective June 28, leaving the county scrambling to deal with the impact on GPD employees, Flaiz said.

“I’m beside myself. I know (Geauga County Auditor Chuck Walder) and I are worried about the employees, we’re worried about them getting paid. We’re trying to get the money over to their account. I mean, they didn’t even have the account information to me until 9:30 this morning,” Flaiz said. “To flip the switch like this and not have payroll lined up and not have health insurance lined up for the employees is — it’s an inexcusable dereliction by the park board. I don’t know how else to say it.”

County Commissioner Tim Lennon asked how the county would memorialize the loan to GPD.

“So are we just doing this on a handshake?” he asked.

County Finance Director Adrian Gorton said the county can send an invoice to the park district and that GPD’s attorney, Bridey Matheney, assured the county there would be no issue getting the money back.

“I mean, you’re taking their word for it, Tim,” Flaiz said. “I don’t have an agreement.”

Oros said GPD would be happy to work with county commissioners on any type of written agreement to ensure reimbursement and look at healthcare options for the future.

“I think just it being said on the record in the minutes here today and that we’re memorializing with a resolution, I think that would be good, you know, good enough as far as making sure it’s on record that we get paid back,” Lennon said.

“Tim, I think they would … I would hope they would pay us back,” Flaiz said. “But I could pursue them for money. I mean … you’d have a valid legal claim against them for the money.”

Oros told county commissioners GPD, which operates 27 parks, is also running without phones or internet service.

“That’s a concern,” Lennon said. “I don’t know how it got to this point, you know. This is something that I know the park board has been working on for a long time, correct?”

“That’s correct. We started talking about it in January,” Oros said.

The GPD made a mistake in not recognizing the difference four to five days would make in impacting the services of the county, he said.

“I’ve got a job to do and I respect the authority of the prosecutor and the auditor to do their job,” Oros said. “I guess in our mind, and holding a special meeting, that the difference of four or five days in terms of June 28th versus July 1, that we simply would have had a better plan for transition.”

Oros said the GPD petitioned to continue contracting IT and phone service through the county even after fiscal separation, but that provision was not granted.

Walder, who was present at the meeting, explained while some townships contract with the county for IT services, the ADP board voted unanimously against allowing the park district to remain connected to the county without oversight of what equipment was being connected to the county’s network and because of the amount of public Wi-Fi connections available in the parks, which are all potential sources of data breach.

“In a perfect world, what I would have expected to happen is they bring up their phones independent of ADP, they bring up their email independent of ADP, and then they bring up their internet independent of ADP and then they consider the switch. That’s what I would have recommended,” Walder said.

Oros said services should be back online when GPD funds are transferred from the county, depending on the availability of vendors and third-party contractors.

Flaiz told county commissioners he was able to contact the county treasurer during an earlier portion of the meeting to facilitate the wire transfer of roughly $9 million from the county to the new GPD account later that day.

“So they’ll have their money,” he said. “But yeah, with the phones, I mean, they have all their equipment. … It’s just bewildering. I mean, they could have had a phone guy in there last week and got the phones switched over.”

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