Miami-Dade County

Miami-Dade clerk accepts union request to audit county’s health insurance reserves

 

crabin@MiamiHerald.com

Miami-Dade Clerk Harvey Ruvin announced Thursday he will conduct a financial audit to address concerns of several county unions that the administration is hiding a “slush” fund in a health insurance reserve account.

In a letter responding to a plea from police, healthcare, and water and sewer union chiefs for an independent review of the county’s Internal Service Fund, Ruvin said that even after being assured by the county that the fund has been properly handled, he will conduct an audit.

“The issue, in general, has been at the heart of a growing atmosphere of distrust, as reflected in the tone of the call for the audit,” Ruvin wrote, while acknowledging an audit cannot address policy decisions made by the mayor or the county commission.

Still, he said, “It can provide all parties with a greater comfort level and mutual confidence in the financial data as the county moves forward.”

Last week, incensed the county is carrying a $74 million surplus in its health insurance reserve account while asking union employees to continue contributing 5 percent of their base pay to health insurance costs, labor union chiefs John Rivera, Martha Baker and Emilio Azoy ratcheted up the rhetoric before a rowdy crowd outside County Hall as commissioners met inside.

Rivera, the police union head, Baker, who represents some Jackson Memorial Hospital workers, and Azoy, from water and sewer, noted that the surplus is $42 million more than the minimum that county-hired health insurance consultants have advised is necessary.

County Budget Director Jennifer Moon said surpluses are carried over each year to help avoid potential health insurance budget shortfalls that could result in benefit cuts.

Mayor Carlos Gimenez said last week said it would be “totally irresponsible” to do away with the 5 percent insurance contribution because it would mean adding $33.5 million on top of an existing $50 million general fund budget gap heading into September’s budget hearings.

Deputy Mayor Ed Marquez said Thursday that his office spoke with Ruvin about his decision to conduct the audit. “Our administration is pretty transparent. Whatever he needs, we’ll be happy to provide it,” Marquez said.

The unions asked Ruvin, the county’s clerk of the courts, to conduct the audit because he is an elected official and independent of the mayor’s office.

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