Springfield city worker civil union benefits again in question

Downtown Springfield, Ill. Photo: Springfield.il.us

A Sangamon County judge has ruled that the city’s Joint Labor/Management Health Care Committee violated the Open Meetings Act, when they voted Jan. 10 to approve insurance benefits for city workers in civil unions.

Bruce Rushton, a reporter for the Illinois Times, filed a lawsuit last month charging that the committee violated the Open Meetings Act and that the decision of the committee to grant benefits be declared void, as we previously reported.

Associate Judge Brian Otwell of the Circuit Court for the Seventh Judicial Circuit, Sangamon County issued his ruling in favor of Rushton Wednesday, declaring all decisions made during the Jan. 10 meeting are void.

Springfield city workers in civil unions may not be granted insurance rights March 1, as previously planned, according to Anthony Martinez, executive director of The Civil Rights Agenda.

“Although we are very supportive of the Open Meetings Act, it is unfortunate that this ruling has the effect of invalidating the City of Springfield’s decision to grant benefits to city workers in civil unions,” stated Martinez. “Because Judge Otwell has stated that the Committee’s vote to extend the health benefits cannot be acted upon, we are very concerned that the benefits will not be available to civil union couples.”

Martinez, though, told Chicago Phoenix that the committee could vote again on the issue during a meeting open to the publica that would be valid.

“We strongly urge the members of the Joint Labor/Management Health Care Committee to act swiftly and hold a public meeting pursuant to the Open Meetings Act and re-vote to extend the benefits to city workers in civil union,” he said.