LACONIA — On July 24, 2015, City Manager Scott Myers denied a firefighter’s request for $20 to cover a co-payment for a doctor’s visit.
That decision has cost the city $1,937.50 in legal fees to date.
It sounds like it would have been more economical to just pay the $20, but that ignores the cost of setting a precedent that could cost the city in the future, Myers said.
The issue arose from a physical examination required of firefighters.
When a firefighter went in for his physical, a doctor picked up a medical matter that wouldn’t render the firefighter unfit for duty, Myers said. The firefighter followed up with a personal doctor and incurred the $20 charge.
“It wasn’t just the $20 issue this time,” Myers said. “It was more of the precedent going forward. It could turn into a lot of $20 charges.”
Fire Capt. Jason Bean, vice president of Laconia Professional Firefighters Local 1153, had a slightly different explanation for the issue.
He said the doctor performing the physical told the firefighter to follow up with an eye doctor as required for a Department of Transportation certification, which was mandated for firefighters at that time.
The union sought reimbursement for the $20 co-payment on the basis that costs of the regular physical should be picked up by the city, including any additional follow-up needed for the DOT certification.
City attorneys met with union officers to try to resolve the matter. The city forwarded a memorandum of understanding to an attorney for the union on Nov. 17, 2015, but there was never any final resolution and the matter continues to be listed in the City Council packet under “pending grievances.”
Bean said the tentative solution was that the firefighter involved would get his $20, but that going forward, firefighters are not to receive reimbursement for personal co-pays. He said firefighters are no longer required to receive a Department of Transportation certification, so this particular issue shouldn’t come up again.
Bean said he’s not sure why the matter was never brought to conclusion, but said some paperwork may have been lost.
Myers said the city continues to wait to hear back from the fire union and that there have been no legal fees in the matter in some time. He wasn’t familiar with details of the proposed settlement, or memorandum of understanding.
The city spent nearly $100,000 last year in its budget for legal expenses.