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Debate over commissioner benefits rages on in Washington County

The debate over whether county commissioners should be offered health benefits heated up last week at the county CIA committee meeting.
Commissioner David Tomita initially requested the issue be put on the October agenda for the full commission to consider, but then requested it instead be referred to the CIA committee for further review and a recommendation to the full commission.
The issue of health benefits was noticeably absent from the CIA committee’s agenda last week, but that did not stop committee member Ken Lyon from bringing it up during the last few minutes of the meeting.
“We were asked to take a look at this and I think we need to take action on it,” Lyon said. “I make a motion that, effective the first of the year, we do away with commissioners’ health insurance.”
Fellow committee members Mark Ferguson, Greg Matherly, Richard Shadden, and David Shanks remained mum following Lyon’s motion, which died on the floor due to a lack of a second.
“We were asked to do a study on that and we’re going to do it,” said Ferguson, chair of the committee. “We’ll get around to looking at it in this committee.”
Ferguson said the CIA’s agenda for the month was already too full to address it at last week’s meeting, adding that the committee needed to start by looking into what other counties in the area do regarding health insurance for commissioners.
“I don’t care what other counties do,” Lyon retorted. “We’re Washington County. We’re individuals. I personally don’t think it belongs.”
Following the meeting, Tomita, who had attended to see what action the committee took regarding the issue, said he was disappointed in the way it was handled.
“Either they recommend changing it or they have the courage to at least bring it out into the public,” Tomita said. “We’d like to do this the right way, but if we’re going to get nasty about it, I guess we’re going to get nasty about it.”
Tomita said he did not intend to drop the issue and planned to bring it back up at another full commission meeting if the CIA committee was not going to do what it was charged to do.