10/21/2010 Update:

Occhipinti calls on Lenz to return $4500 to taxpayers

Following the Hoboken411 investigation into unelected councilman Michael Lenz’s health insurance scheme, challenger Tim Occhipinti is calling on Lenz to give the money back to Hoboken Taxpayers. Here is a press release from the Occhipinti For Council Campaign:

“Hoboken 4th ward city council candidate Tim Occhipinti called on Michael Lenz to return to taxpayers $4,500 in incentives he receives for opting out of the county health plan and having Hoboken taxpayers pay for his health benefits. Lenz, who, in addition to making $24,000 as a part-time city councilman, makes approximately $70,000 at his county patronage job, switched to the city health benefits plan when he was appointed to the city council.

At last week’s debate, Lenz refused to disclose how much he collected from this scheme. The facts are that Lenz saves $1,000 by not having to pay for county health benefits (the required 1.5% of his approx. $70,000 salary), and then collects an additional $3,500 from the county’s incentive program, which provides such payments to those who choose to opt out of the county health plan.

“Michael Lenz should give that money back to taxpayers,” said Occhipinti. “For a man who preaches to everyone else about ethics, this is especially shady. This cynical manipulation of public benefits is a perfect example of the real Michael Lenz. Give the money back, Mr. Lenz. Do the right thing and write a check to the taxpayers of Hoboken.”

Occhipinti, who holds a private sector job, said he will join several other current city council members and not take city health benefits. “I’ll save taxpayers $23,000 my first day on the job by not asking them to foot the bill for my health benefits,” he said. “Michael Lenz is costing taxpayers close to $115,000 in salary and benefits. On top of that, he gets to put $4,500 in his pocket. That’s not reform. That’s duplicity.”

See the original expose on Lenz’s health insurance switcheroo, and video from last week’s debate on the issue, after the jump!

10/19/2010:

Health benefits switcheroo puts $4500 into Lenz’s pocket

And takes $22,300 from city taxpayers…

The only part-time Hoboken city employees offered full-time health insurance benefits are the nine members of the City Council. Four of them refuse to take them, saving Hoboken taxpayers nearly $97,000 a year. Despite having full health coverage offered to him as a Hudson County employee, unelected councilman Michael Lenz isn’t one of them. Lenz jumped off the plan his job provided and signed on to the city system as soon as he was appointed. Why?

A Hoboken411 investigation finds a familiar motivation: cash money.

Lenz would have to pay a portion of his county benefits

Hudson County requires all non-union employees to pay 1.5% of their salary toward the cost of their health plans. To participate in the county plan Lenz would have to pay over $1000 of his approximately $70,000 annual salary. Lenz pays nothing extra to participate in the Hoboken health insurance plan.

An Open Public Records Act request revealed Hoboken taxpayers foot the $22,300 bill for Lenz’s health insurance. The subject came up at the recent candidates forum:

No answer from Lenz about stipend, Hoboken411 investigates

As you can see in the video, Lenz didn’t answer the direct question about how much money he was actually putting in his own pocket by putting city taxpayers on the hook for his benefits. Unlike Hoboken, Hudson County has a progressive incentive program offering individuals who can show proof of coverage the opportunity to drop their employer provided benefits and receive an annual stipend of $3500. County officials say the change saved a million taxpayer dollars in its first year alone.

Adding the $3500 stipend up with the $1000 co-pay Lenz saves by not opting into the county system yields a $4500 bonus on top of the $24,000 salary Lenz gets for being an unelected councilman. Challenger Tim Occhipinti says he will join four other council members who refuse the full-time benefits for part-time council work.

What do you think about Lenz’s $4500 bonus, and part-time council members getting full-time benefits? As always, your comments are welcome below.

Hoboken NJ

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , ,