At a time when government perks are coming under scrutiny, Concord council members are deceptively touting their plan to supposedly end elected officials' lifetime health care benefits.
But the overly complex scheme, which the City Council will vote on Tuesday, would only affect future council members and city treasurers. It conveniently doesn't cover the incumbents.
Councilmen Tim Grayson and Ron Leone, who are seeking re-election Nov. 4, are assuming the plan will pass because they recently submitted ballot statements bragging about ending the perk.
Their statements don't mention that they aren't giving up their benefits. If council members are serious about doing away with retiree health care for elected officials, they should start with themselves. It's time to walk the talk.
They and city staff offer multiple diversionary excuses why it can't be done. None hold up to scrutiny.
They blame state laws controlling CalPERS, which provides the city's employee health coverage. Those rules say the city can't provide lifetime health coverage for already retired elected officials without also offering the same to the current ones. The solution: Buy the health insurance elsewhere and only offer lifetime benefits to those already retired.
City officials also warn of potential litigation from one of the current officeholders denied a benefit that had been promised. Yes, theoretically, one of them could sue the city. But think about the silliness that council members won't eliminate this lifetime perk because one of them might sue.
Alternatively, for those who are risk-adverse about litigation, the current elected officials could simply individually choose to waive any rights to future retiree health benefits. That was never even considered.
Of course, that's not the agenda here. The goal is to score political points at election time without having to personally give up anything.
It's particularly insulting to see Leone campaign on this issue. His 2012 claim to lifetime health benefits for his previous tenure on the Mt. Diablo Health Care board held up for months the transfer of the nearly defunct hospital district to the city of Concord's control.
Resolution required payment of $150,000 to purchase an annuity for Leone and his wife. Ostensibly, it was to cover their future health insurance premiums but there is no restriction on how they use the money.
Now Leone has yet another taxpayer-funded source for his lifetime health care. If elected to a second City Council term, he would reach the five-year mark, making him eligible for retiree health care benefits from Concord.
It gives new meaning to double-dipping. It's insulting that he and his colleagues try to portray themselves as reformers.