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Hermosa Beach to Release Data Sought in Suit : City Hall Critic to Get Records on Medical Insurance Programs

November 24, 1985|GERALD FARIS | Times Staff Writer

HERMOSA BEACH — Roger Creighton, a frequent critic of City Hall, will get the records he says he needs to determine whether some city employees enrolled ineligible people as dependents in medical insurance programs.

Under terms of a settlement with city officials recently approved by Torrance Superior Court Judge Robert M. Mallano, Creighton will receive the names of all city employees and the number of dependents they have enrolled in city dental and health insurance programs, dating back to Jan. 1, 1984. He also will get information on the premiums paid by the city on behalf of each employee and dependent.

Creighton sued the city in May after City Atty. James P. Lough refused to release the information on grounds it would be an invasion of the privacy of families of employees. In the settlement, both sides agreed that Creighton is entitled to the information and that releasing it is not an invasion of privacy because Creighton is not being given the names of dependents.

No Names of Dependents

Lough said he is satisfied with the settlement because no dependents' names will be released.

Viki Copeland, city finance administrator, said there currently are 139 full-time city employees. In November, the city paid $27,416 in dental and medical insurance premiums for employees and dependents, she said.

Creighton, who has two other lawsuits pending against the city on other matters, sought the insurance information after two incidents came to light last spring involving the possible misuse of benefits by city employees.

In one instance, City Councilman Jack Wood had listed his girlfriend as a dependent on health and dental plans, according to correspondence contained in Creighton's suit. The city's insurance programs allow employees to list only legally married spouses and dependent children.

Wood subsequently removed the girlfriend from the program and said he did not know he was acting improperly when he enrolled her.

A second employee, according to the suit, enrolled an "alleged spouse" as an insurance dependent even though the two listed themselves as unmarried on other legal documents. The employee, though not named in the suit, was identified by Creighton as former Personnel Director Carolyn Smith.

Proof of Marriage

Smith later said she is legally married but acknowledged that she and the man listed themselves as unmarried on various legal documents. She did not provide proof of her marriage and the city never requested it of her.

Robert Blackwood, city personnel director, said Smith voluntarily left city government in July.

Creighton said his campaign began when someone anonymously sent him a list of five people, including Wood and Smith, who purportedly had signed up ineligible dependents for benefits. The insurance information he is receiving will permit him to check the other names.

"I want to come to a conclusion in my mind as to whether these people are properly covered and if they're not, I want the city to recover the costs paid" for premiums, Creighton said.

Blackwood said that last summer, in response to Creighton's allegations, all employees were required to make written declarations that dependents enrolled in their health plans are legitimate.

Copeland said the insurance information should be sent to Creighton this week. He will be billed $78 for copying charges.

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