10:00 PM PST on Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Press-Enterprise

Redlands City Council members no longer will be offered life insurance and some medical benefits when elected, but it will take four years to completely eliminate the benefits package.

The council voted 4-1 earlier this month to eliminate the benefits, with Councilman Pete Aguilar voting against the proposal.

Dental, vision and life insurance will not be offered to newly elected, re-elected or appointed council members. But the council will have to vote again in June to remove the medical benefits, which are provided through the California Public Employees Retirement System, said Councilman Jerry Bean, who first proposed ending the benefits in October.

CalPERS benefits can be ended only during the program’s open enrollment period, which comes up again in June, he said. That means council members who take office in December could opt to receive the medical benefit for the next four years, but under CalPERS rules the city would be obligated to pay only $397 per month, Bean said. The council member would have to pay the remainder, he said.

Bean said he proposed ending the benefits because council members work part time for the city and shouldn’t receive the benefits of full-time employees.

“You should be here because you want to serve the city and have an agenda for how you want to do that,” he said. “You should not be here to get benefits.”

Aguilar, who is self-employed and receives the benefits through the city, said their availability could encourage diversity on the council. Young people and small-business owners may not have health coverage and might be encouraged to seek public office if they could receive it while they serve, he said.

“People don’t run for public office to take advantage of a benefit like this, but I’d just like to ensure that we have a diverse mix of folks,” he said.

William Cunningham, a former mayor who held public office in Redlands for 26 years, said he was concerned about the change.

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