EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the last of a three-part series by the Mining Journal in Marquette that details the city of Ishpeming's overpayment of health insurance premiums for two and a half years during the tenure of Jered Ottenwess, currently the city manager for Traverse City. Ottenwess fired the police chief referred to in this story.
ISHPEMING - The city of Ishpeming continued to pay the health insurance premiums for two former Ishpeming Police Department officers, including those of former Ishpeming Police Chief Jim Bjorne while he was in the process of suing the city.
Bjorne, who was terminated in September 2011, filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the city that December. He and the city settled the suit in August.
Bjorne confirmed to The Mining Journal that he was one of the former police officers described in the report. The city could not comment on whether Bjorne was one of the officers, due to protections of the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
The city paid for Bjorne's health insurance from his termination in September 2011 until December 2012, just after the Ishpeming City Council discovered at the end of that November that the city had overpaid a total of almost $200,000 in health insurance premiums for Bjorne and seven other employees over a period of two and a half years.
Bjorne and another Ishpeming Police Department officer, who retired in May 2010, were covered by benefits provided under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act.
COBRA provides continuation of health coverage at group rates for up to 18 months after an individual has been voluntarily or involuntarily terminated from his or her job or has had hours reduced.
In the case of the police department retiree, the city was supposed to provide nine months of city-paid coverage, as stipulated in the union contract.