Welcome to Everything Croton, a collection of all things Croton--our history, our homes, our issues, our businesses, our schools --in short, EVERYTHING CROTON.
Please take a moment to read a letter, which also appears in the 7/17 edition of THE GAZETTE, from Bob Resnikoff. While lengthy, Mr. Resnikoff raises interesting questions about the mayor's taxpayer funded health insurance. To date, he has not had a response from the village.
A LETTER FROM BOB RESNIKOFF
To the editor and
residents of Croton-on-Hudson:
The ongoing discussion about the Village's decision to pay Mayor Wiegman's
medical insurance premiums prompted me to personally investigate the
requirements of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) with respect to our
mayor. What I have learned is that the ACA specifically excludes
"bona fide" volunteers who work for local governments even though
they may receive some nominal compensation (see below). In addition, if
the worker is not a volunteer and works fewer than 30 hours per week, then that
worker is also excluded from the ACA coverage mandate.
If the mayor believes he is a part-time worker and not a volunteer, then his
compensation of $5000 per year (as set by the Village Code) covers about 12.5
hours of work per week (on average) assuming his hourly wage is no more than
the New York State minimum wage of $8 per hour. This means that the
Village would be breaking NY's minimum wage law by allowing him to work
more than 12.5 hours per week.
My personal opinion is that the mayor (and each trustee) is a volunteer, and
that the $5000 annual compensation he receives is a stipend or honorarium--how
else to explain the low annual compensation compared to other Village
Below is the text of the email I sent Village Manager Zambrano a week ago,
laying out some of these facts and asking for his opinion. As of the
writing of this letter, I have received no response from Mr. Zambrano.
Dear Mr. Zambrano,
As I'm sure you're aware, there is a great deal of strong feeling in our
community about Mayor Wiegman's position that he's entitled to Village-paid
health care. What I've read is that he believes it's mandated by the Affordable
Care Act because of the number of hours per week he works as Mayor of the
However, my reading of the text below (an excerpt from the IRS final ruling
issued 2/12/2014 and published in the Federal Register) indicates that the
Mayor is not required by the ACA to have employer-paid health insurance because
he is a "bona fide" volunteer employee (not a regular employee) who
receives a $5000 stipend. The ruling makes a specific exception for volunteer
employees working for non-taxable entities such as a local government who
recieve a stipend or similar payment.
The Village Code (as published on the Village website) sets the amount paid to
the Mayor, and lists it as "compensation." The fact that the amount
is so low in comparison to other Village employee salaries is a strong
indication that this "compensation" is not a salary but a stipend or
honorarium. In fact, it seems to me that in order for the Village to pay for
his health insurance, the Village Code will have to be amended to raise the
amount currently specified at $5000.
I'm bringing this to your attention because as the Village Manager, I believe
you are the person who has final responsibility for making the decision in this
Fyi, the full text of the IRS ruling in the Federal Register can be found at:
The excerpt below is from section VI of the ruling (you can do a search on
"volunteer employees" in the full ruling text).
Please let me know your thoughts on this.
Excerpt from the IRS ruling as published in the Federal Register dated
1. Volunteer Employees
Commenters requested that hours of service performed in the capacity of a
volunteer for a government entity or tax-exempt organization not be counted as
hours of service for purposes of section 4980H. Under the definition of hour of
service outlined in these regulations, an hour of service is generally defined
as an hour for which an employee is paid or entitled to payment. Accordingly,
hours worked by a volunteer who does not receive (and is not entitled to
receive) compensation in exchange for the performance of services are not
treated as hours of service for purposes of section 4980H.
Commenters noted, however, that some volunteers receive compensation in the
form of expense reimbursements, stipends, contributions to employee benefit
plans, or nominal wages. Local governments, for instance, noted that many
volunteer firefighters or other emergency responders are paid a salary or an
hourly wage, generally at a rate lower than the rate paid to non-volunteers
performing services in a similar capacity. Other volunteer firefighters or
emergency responders may receive expense reimbursements or other fees each time
they respond to a call. Commenters generally expressed concern that volunteer
service would be discouraged if volunteer hours were required to be counted
when determining whether the individual is a full-time employee for purposes of
In response to these concerns, the final regulations provide that hours of
service do not include hours worked as a “bona fide volunteer.” For this
purpose, the definition of “bona fide volunteer” is generally based on the
definition of that term for purposes of section 457(e)(11)(B)(i), which
provides special rules for length of service awards offered to certain
volunteer firefighters and emergency medical providers under a municipal
deferred compensation plan. For purposes of section 4980H, however, bona fide
volunteers are not limited to volunteer firefighters and emergency medical providers.
Rather, bona fide volunteers include any volunteer who is an employee of a
government entity or an organization described in section 501(c) that is exempt
from taxation under section 501(a) whose only compensation from that entity or
organization is in the form of (i) reimbursement for (or reasonable allowance
for) reasonable expenses incurred in the performance of services by volunteers,
or (ii) reasonable benefits (including length of service awards), and nominal
fees, customarily paid by similar entities in connection with the performance
of services by volunteers.
Unless someone brings in a higher up, they don't care. I do appreciate the letter though. I always appreciate letters. The fact is they don't care though and for that reason alone there has to be a change.ReplyDelete
This was I am certain brought up before. They did not care.ReplyDelete
From my perspective, the real issues are legal and political. If their claim is that they're legally required to pay his benefits, then the information in the letter demonstrates that this is not true. Even if their consultant previously stated otherwise, they have been informed in writing and can't claim ignorance. If they pay his benefits, then they're open to the charge of violating Village law (the Code sets the compensation at $5000, not $5000 +22000), cronyism and possibly corruption (using their office to benefit friends). The next step would be to pursue this with the State Attorney General, and would definitely be an issue in the next election.ReplyDelete
What are other towns in NYS (and elsewhere) doing on this matter? There must be precedents being set already. Can town residents request a private letter ruling from the appropriate federal agency (IRS?) on this matter? Will the mayor (small m for emphasis) get a 1099 showing the value of this gift to his family?ReplyDelete
Frankly I don't care what other towns are doing, it's a matter of doing what is right. He needs to pay his own bills the way the rest of us do. We'll also never know about the 1099 because it can't be foiled and freedom of information requests are the only real way in Croton of finding out anything.Delete
Although all of these letters have been wonderful, and the work that goes into researching the issue is VERY much appreciated, the only way something is going to happen is to open an inquiry with a higher authority, as a couple of commenters have mentioned above. Rational, humble people, when constantly presented with proof that what they have done is wrong, will apologize and stop doing the thing that is wrong. But the wrongdoers in this situation appear to be neither rational nor humble. So, go above them.ReplyDelete
Yes it's been time for a long time.ReplyDelete