Murray town attorney says no overpayments to highway superintendent

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 12 April 2017 at 10:07 am

MURRAY – The town’s $4,985 annual payments to Ed Morgan, the highway superintendent, in lieu of health insurance are “proper,” Town Attorney Jeff Martin told the Town Board on Tuesday.

The board on Feb. 14 was urged to look into the payments by resident Joe Sidonio, who believed the payments were too high.

Sidonio said Morgan should only be getting $2,000 a year for not taking a two-person health insurance policy through the town.

The $4,985 amount was set for employees hired before 2012. The local law said if there was a break in service for a longer-term employee, the health insurance payment would drop to $2,000 and not $4,985.

The Murray local law states that current employees receiving the the stipend shall be considered new employees at the lower stipend level if they have a break in employment by not getting reappointed, not being re-elected “or otherwise.”

If they then return to employment with the town, “such employees shall be regarded as a new employee and subject to the limitations on payments in lieu of health insurance applicable to new employees,” according to the town law, which Sidonio read from on during the Feb. 14 meeting.

Morgan has served as town highway superintendent since Jan. 1, 1990. He has been elected to seven 4-year terms.

Morgan “retired” for a one day, Dec. 31, 2013, to be eligible to begin collecting his pension through the NYS Retirement System.

Sidonio said that one-day retirement should represent a break in service, with Morgan considered a new employee when his new term started on Jan. 1, 2014.

Sidonio said Morgan may have been overpaid $2,985 annually for three years for the health insurance stipend.

But Town Attorney Jeff Martin said Morgan never had a break in service. Morgan didn’t resign. He never submitted a letter of resignation.

The town law requires an elected official to take the oath of office within 30 days of the start of a new term. Morgan took the oath on Jan. 2, 2014, the first day the town hall was open to start the new term.

Martin said Morgan never left his office, and only took off a day to be eligible to collect his pension, which Martin said is common for many long-term elected officials in New York.

“He has had continuous service since Jan. 1, 1990,” Martin said. “The payment is proper. We’re not in violation of our own local law.”

Sidonio attended Tuesday’s Town Board meeting and thanked Martin for looking into the issue.

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