County retirees sue over health benefits

AUBURN — More than a dozen retired Androscoggin County workers,
including two surviving spouses, are suing the county over health care
benefits.

In May, county commissioners sent a letter to former county workers
notifying them that the county would no longer pay lifetime health care
insurance premiums to husbands and wives of deceased retirees starting
in July.

In the civil suit, filed last week in Androscoggin County Superior
Court, former county workers said they agreed dating back to 1966 to
lower pay raises and, in some cases, no raises at all in exchange for
the benefit. All but two of the 17 plaintiffs are retired and have
living spouses. The remaining two are surviving spouses of county
workers: Muriel C. Hamann, widow of Laurier Hamann, and David F.
Goodwin, widower of Florence A. Goodwin, both of Lewiston. Hamann
worked for the county for 43 years; Goodwin, 22 years.

The plaintiffs include a retired sheriff, judge, commissioners and emergency management director.

Commissioners said last spring the benefit had never really existed.
They reviewed and interpreted the county's benefit package anew, then
informed retirees and their surviving spouses. Local attorney Bryan
Dench, who represents the county, advised commissioners that the
county's health care provision was never meant to extend to spouses
following the death of county retirees.

Commissioner Randy Greenwood on Monday referred inquiries about the
lawsuit to Dench, who could not be reached at his local office for
comment. The county has not yet filed a formal response to the suit.
Greenwood said he expected the legal action would be reviewed at the
commissioners' next meeting Wednesday.

The suit alleges the county breached its contract with former county
workers because it stopped providing the negotiated benefit for the two
surviving spouses and would not provide that benefit in the future for
the other 15 spouses of retirees. The county should pay damages,
including attorney's fees, the suit says.

Plaintiffs also allege violation of their constitutional rights,
including 5th and 14th amendments to the U.S. Constitution, which
protect against depriving citizens of property without due process and
compensation. The suit seeks to have the court restore the benefit and
reimburse plaintiffs for their costs that should have been covered
under the benefit.

The suit also seeks to have the court stop the county from refusing to provide the benefit to retirees' surviving spouses.

 

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 's picture

I don't blame them. Poorly

I don't blame them. Poorly thought out action by the Commissioners.

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