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Bjorne kept on city insurance at no cost
Terminated in September 2011, former police chief used Ishpeming health coverage until December 2012 - while he proceeded with city law suit 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. Former Ishpeming Police Chief Jim Bjorne was one of the city employees left on the city's health insurance after his retirement. Bjorne continued to use the health coverage during this time and while he was suing the city. (Photo courtesy Ed Anderson) BJORNE 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. Bjorne was entitled to enroll in COBRA benefits and did so, but was not billed, nor did he make any payments for his health insurance. Because he was not a retiree, the city was not responsible for any of his premiums - but paid them for 15 of his 18-month eligibility. The report stated that Bjorne "should have been aware that he was responsible for payment since he was using the health care coverage," but said his "receipt of city-paid health insurance after his employment ended has not been addressed." "When I left the city - when I was fired - on the 23rd of September, I knew what COBRA was and how it worked and I intended on taking advantage of that for health care until I could figure out what I was going to do," Bjorne said. Bjorne said he emailed Keto and asked her what was the situation with his health insurance, because he wanted to make certain that he was still covered. He said that he got an email back several days later saying that he would be contacted, but never was. "Time continued, I would still get explanation of benefits (notices) and when I'd go to the doctor they'd still accept my Blue Cross (Blue Shield) payments, so I just felt that the city was going to pay those until my (lawsuit) was resolved," Bjorne said. "I felt I did my obligation to say, 'Where do we go with this?'" Bjorne also said after his initial contact with the city about his COBRA benefits, he consulted his lawyer, Jonny L. Waara, who was representing him in his lawsuit against the city, about what he should do next. Waara's advice was to "sit tight" and wait for the city to respond, which Bjorne said is exactly what he did. In December 2012 Bjorne said he received a letter from the city stating that they had paid his premiums for the past 15 months and that if he wanted to continue his benefits, he would have to submit premium payments to the city in the monthly amount of $1,482 for the next three months of his eligibility. He did so through April 1, when his COBRA eligibility expired. In August, Bjorne settled his suit with the city for $70,000 - which was covered by the city's insurance - and an agreement to accept a transfer of Bjorne's retirement benefits from his three years working at the Marquette County Sheriff's Office, though Bjorne is required to pay for any deficiencies in the county benefits out of his own pocket. The Marquette County Board voted unanimously Tuesday to allow Bjorne to transfer his benefits from the county to the city.
A Conversation With Ishpeming City Police Chief Jim Bjorne
September 8, 2011 at 11:29 am | Marquette County, Upper Michigan News - Posted by walt | Add Your Comments Jim-Bjorne-WKQS-Studio-906-228-6800 Ishpeming City Police Chief Jim Bjorne. MARQUETTE, MI - Great Lakes Radio News - Ishpeming City Police Chief Jim Bjorne is questioning the Ishpeming City Council about his denied request for transfer of service years for retirement and his pending termination. Bjorne requested the combination of 4 years of service in the County Sheriff's Office with his 22 years of service in Ishpeming into the city's retirement system to allow him to retire with a full pension. That request was denied in March by the City Council. Bjorne, who is currently working limited daily hours due to a spinal condition, has filed a complaint against the city with the Michigan Civil Rights Commission claiming discrimination because of his disability. He also says he has heard of plans by the City Council to terminate him, possibly by the end of the month if he does not return to full-time duty.
Very soon the residents of Ishpeming will have an opportunity to make their voices heard in the unjust and unfair treatment of my brother, former police chief Jim Bjorne.
Is Jim less deserving than all the others before him who were granted transfers and early retirements? When every day that he went to work, he put his life on the line to protect the residents of the city? When the city was without a manager from September 2009 to March 2010, Jim was asked to step in and help. He worked 10 hours a day, six days a week as interim city manager and police chief and was commended for his leadership and dedication to the city. He sacrificed a great deal, did his duty willingly and without complaint and this is the thanks he gets.
Former Ishpeming Police Chief Jim Bjorne has finally done what most of us would have also, had we been wrongfully discharged from our job with 21-plus years of seniority and having been denied a transfer of nearly four years of retirement credits that would have allowed us to retire with a full, well-earned pension: He has filed a lawsuit against the city.
Chief Bjorne prepared a fact sheet which was presented to council members and city staff. Another fact discovered by Chief Bjorne is that in 1998, a former fireman was granted an early retirement with a full pension due to a disability, even though he did not meet the IPFRS requirements of 50 years of age and 25 years of service.
ISHPEMING - The issue of a retirement transfer for former Ishpeming Police Chief Jim Bjorne, who was fired in September, has caused controversy in west end community, and continues to cause controversy among members of the city council.
Bjorne had requested the transfer of nearly four years of retirement credit from the Marquette County Sheriff's Department to the city of Ishpeming, which would have given him 25 total years of service in April, allowing him to retire at age 50 with a full pension of $37,243 annually . In April, he was eligible to retire and start drawing his city pension based on 21 years and 10 months of service, which would have come to $31,573 annually. At age 60, he would be eligible to draw his county pension through the MERS retirement system of $4,771 annually. An unfunded liability of $25,283 associated with Bjorne's pension from the county is not the same as the "cost" to the city. "My bottom line is just that the council was well aware this is going to cost us a lot of money," said Mayor Pat Scanlon, referencing pending lawsuits brought by Bjorne against the city following his termination. Bjorne supporters have filed recall petitions against Racine and fellow council members Claudia Demarest and Mike Tall. the recall language states the three should be recalled "for failure to vote for the transfer of retirement credits for Police Chief Jim Bjorne."