ELLSWORTH — Hancock County Treasurer Janice Eldridge has brought a civil suit against the Hancock County Commission alleging that the county owes her retroactive payments as part of a “health insurance buyout” plan.
Just how much money is at stake is not clear, according to the parties involved.
Bangor attorney Charles Gilbert III of Gilbert & Greif, who represents Eldridge, said that Hancock County employees are eligible for “several hundred dollars a month” in the buyout program.
“It adds up,” he said.
Hancock County Administrator Scott Adkins explained the “health insurance buyout” policy.
Adkins said if a county employee has health insurance coverage through a spouse or some other source, the county will pay the employee a percentage of what the county would have paid to provide the employee with health insurance.
“This is typical with many companies that are large enough to offer health insurance benefits,” Adkins said.
Eldridge has been on Medicare throughout her employment with the county. She did not need to participate in the county plan. The contention of the lawsuit is that she should have received buyout compensation dating back to the start of her employment in 2011.
The complaint was filed in Hancock County in June but Gilbert has since moved the case to the United States District Court.
The complaint alleges that Eldridge found out about the “buyout” benefit via happenstance. The county began paying Eldridge the “buyout” effective Jan. 1, 2017. But, the county treasurer alleges she is due monthly “buyout” payments dating back to 2011.
The complaint states “defendants materially breached its agreement by failing to timely offer and make available the buyout payments to plaintiff from the beginning of her employment when she first became eligible for them.
“Plaintiff should have received a payment each and every month for the buyout, which she did not receive due to defendants’ material breach of the contract,” Gilbert wrote in the complaint.
Eldridge brought the issue to the board at least twice, at meetings on Feb. 7 and Feb. 21, according to meeting minutes.
The board was divided during those meetings about what course of action to take.
Commission Chairman Antonio Blasi stated, “We should come to some kind of settlement with Eldridge for the period of January 1, 2011 through Aug. 31, 2015, at which point she opted to take Martin’s Point [health insurance],” according to the minutes.
Commissioner Bill Clark had recommended the county recognize Eldridge’s request as of the Feb. 21 meeting and “not to recognize any before today to pay the buyout from this time on and Eldridge would pay her own Martin’s Point Insurance.”
Ultimately, the board voted 2-1 to take no action on Eldridge’s request for buyout compensation, according to the minutes. Clark and Commissioner Percy “Joe” Brown voted in favor of taking no action. Blasi voted against.
Requests for comment from Hancock County were referred to attorney Peter Marchesi of the Waterville law firm Wheeler & Arey. Marchesi could not immediately be reached for comment.