Incline district to review decision on domestic-partner benefits |

Incline district to review decision on domestic-partner benefits

Kevin MacMillan / North Lake Tahoe Bonanza

INCLINE VILLAGE ” A review of a recent vote that revoked health insurance benefits for domestic partners of Incline Village General Improvement District employees is on the board of trustees agenda for its next meeting.

The IVGID Board of Trustees will meet at 6:30 p.m. on March 11.

According to the meeting agenda, General Business item K-1, titled “Request for review by Trustee (Bea) Epstein ” change in health insurance coverage to allow for coverage for legal spouses, regardless of gender, and domestic partners,” will be on the agenda, and the board could take action on it.

IVGID General Manager Bill Horn said district legal counsel Scott Brooke will assist the board in the review process at the March 11 meeting, adding that the board isn’t required to take action on anything.

“Scott is going to review the action taken in August, the action taken last week, and offer guidance or comment on the review process for a past agenda item,” Horn said. “This doesn’t call for an action ” Scott will help the board through the review process.”

The board voted 3-2 (with John Bohn, Gene Brockman and Ted Fuller in favor; Chuck Weinberger and Bea Epstein opposed) at its Feb. 25 meeting to revoke domestic partner benefits to district employees. In August, not long after the district’s insurance provider allowed for domestic partner coverage, the board voted 3-2 (with Weinberger, Epstein and then-trustee Bob Wolf in favor; and Bohn and Brockman opposed) to allow domestic partner coverage to its employees.

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The issue has gained steam since that meeting, as The Associated Press and other national media outlets have published reports about the trustees’ vote. The issue also is circulating through various national civil rights communities.

Lee Rowland, Northern coordinator for the Nevada Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, offered her comment on the IVGID vote.

“This is quite a tragedy,” Rowland said. “Frankly, I think it’s a poor decision. It’s unfortunate, not only because we are in a fight for domestic partner equality, but it’s particularly tragic when you vote to remove those rights when those rights existed in the first place, and then were taken away.

“To actively decide to turn back the clocks and take away life from them, it’s tragic. We wish the board will reconsider this and do the right thing.”

As of Thursday, Rowland said the ACLU was not considering any lawsuits against IVGID; however, she said things could change depending on any action taken at Wednesday’s board of trustees meeting.

In a Wednesday interview with the Bonanza, Chris Eddelson, state legislative director for the Human Rights Campaign, said he was disappointed with the Feb. 25 vote.

“We’re certainly disappointed to see this; I really don’t understand why equal benefits would be taken away from domestic partners,” Eddelson said.

“It’s not a big cost issue, but it does matter to the employees. Taking away these benefits in a time of economic crisis doesn’t make much sense.”

HRC is a grassroots organization of more than 750,000 members that dubs itself as the “largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization,” according to its Web site.

According to IVGID, the Feb. 25 decision affected two district employees. Furthermore, eliminating domestic partner benefits saves the district about $1,500 in benefits expenses, the estimated amount the district would have paid through the end of the fiscal year, which ends June 30. The district is looking to cut 5 percent from its $47 million budget for the next fiscal year, staff has said.

With the benefits no longer available, it eliminates the possibility of abuse of district policy, such as if a friend or roommate of a district employee tried to gain domestic partner benefits, one of the concerns for Bohn and Fuller.

Lois Paynter, senior director of operations for St. Mary’s, said earlier this week that the insurance company never has had an instance of someone trying to abuse the domestic partner portion of its policy.