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Belmont City Council ‘perk’ turning into political issue
October 16, 2013, 05:00 AM By Bill Silverfarb Daily Journal

A “tiny comment on a little blog” as Belmont Councilman Dave Warden describes it, has prompted Vice Mayor Warren Lieberman to disclose what he will do with the nearly $1,600 a month in deferred compensation he receives for serving on the council in lieu of accepting medical benefits — he will gift it to the city when he steps down.

Lieberman suspects he has accrued nearly $100,000 in deferred compensation and planned all along, a decision he made with his wife, to make a significant contribution to a city-related initiative such as turfing the fields at the Belmont Sports Complex or for fixing a road, he told the Daily Journal yesterday.

Warden criticized Lieberman for decrying the perk and wrote on an online blog “it must be such a burden to not want the money and still cash the check every month.”

Warden questions why Lieberman never made the fact known in the eight years he has been on the council that he intended to donate the money to the city, especially considering he is seeking re-election for his council seat in just three weeks.

The City Council recently tied council compensation, however, to its mid-managers in labor negotiations so that all new councilmembers will only receive about $450 or less in medical benefits per month on top of the $390 monthly stipend they get.

Back in October 2011, Lieberman first suggested that the City Council eliminate a lifetime health insurance benefit for councilmembers who serve up to 12 consecutive years but the council opted instead to look at its complete benefits package, adopted in 1997, for possible changes.

Since then, the city has reduced greatly its benefits package for new hires but has not eliminated the lifetime health benefit for long-serving councilmembers, something Lieberman plans to tackle right away if he is re-elected to the council, he told the Daily Journal.

Lieberman plans to announce at the next council meeting his intentions to gift the deferred compensation to the city.

Warden is tickled a bit that one online blog post would cause Lieberman to make the disclosure.

“It is a little weird,” Warden said. “But if he writes a check to the city, I can’t criticize him. I love the city getting money. Maybe the city can buy more open space.”

Lieberman told the Daily Journal he and his wife had even discussed making the donation an anonymous one.

“You know, I’m not in the habit of discussing my personal financial decisions with Dave Warden,” Lieberman told the Daily Journal.

The $1,587.14 medical “perk” for councilmembers cost the city about $96,000 a year now. The current batch of Belmont councilmembers also receive much more in deferred compensation than their counterparts in other cities. In Burlingame, the perk is $200 and in San Carlos it is $324.44.

The Belmont City Council meets 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 22, City Hall, 1 Twin Pines Lane, Belmont.

(650) 344-5200 ext. 106



Tags: lieberman, council, warden, compensation, councilmembers, belmont,

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