RARITAN TWP. – The Township Committee voted Tuesday night to end paid health insurance premiums for a commissioner of the Raritan Township Municipal Utilities Authority.
The RTMUA has been footing the bill for the insurance for commissioner Pete Kinsella, a former member of the Township Committee. The premium costs about $25,000 a year, according to Township Committeeman Lou Reiner; the commissioner’s job calls for him to work about eight hours a week.
The committee has haggled for months over the insurance, which was approved years ago by the RTMUA but never authorized by Township Committee.
“It’s our responsibility to represent the many over the few,” Reiner said at Tuesday night’s committee meeting, referring to taxpayers. Reiner said the RTMUA providing the insurance “usurps the authority of this governing body,” which he says has sole authority for setting the compensation of township employees.
The word “compensation” is where the debate reigns regarding the insurance. Whether “compensation” includes insurance benefits is an ambiguous area of the law, according to township attorney Jeffrey Lehrer, because of conflicting state rules and township ordinance.
Working with the RTMUA and its attorney Gregory Watts, Township Committee sought without success to have Kinsella voluntarily forgo the insurance.
With Committeeman Craig O’Brien absent, the committee voted unanimously to direct Township Administrator Jerry Giamis to send a letter to the RTMUA directing it to cease paying for the policy effective July 31.
In weighing the decision, Township Committee has considered the possibly that ending the coverage could spark a lawsuit by either Kinsella or the RTMUA.
“I don’t want a fight with the RTMUA,” Reiner said in an interview. But he added he’d be willing to “pursue all measures” if the RTMUA doesn’t comply.
Giamis told the committee it does have some leverage in the dispute, noting that officials could withhold some of the funds it earmarks for the RTMUA budget.
Mayor Karen Gilbert said, “No one wants that to happen.”