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Saturday, February 23 , 2019, 4:19 am | Fair 39º


Ex-Councilwoman Jean Blois Gives Goleta a Check to Pay Off Her Health Insurance Overpayment Debt

After former Goleta City Councilwoman Jean Blois learned she had a 13-year-old debt of $110, she showed up at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting with a check.

Former Goleta City Councilwoman Jean Blois hand-delivered a check for $110.04 at Tuesday’s City Council meeting to settle the debt she owed from the city’s mistaken overpayments of her health insurance premiums. The city never informed Blois of the debt. Click to view larger
Former Goleta City Councilwoman Jean Blois hand-delivered a check for $110.04 at Tuesday’s City Council meeting to settle the debt she owed from the city’s mistaken overpayments of her health insurance premiums. The city never informed Blois of the debt. (Blois family photo)

As Noozhawk first reported Sunday, Blois was one of four council members the City of Goleta had mistakenly overpaid for health insurance benefits during a six-year period between 2007 and 2012. The excess payments totaled nearly $40,000.

After the city realized the mistake in late 2012, staff generated invoices for the four: Blois, who owed $110.04 and had not served on the council since 2008; Councilman Roger Aceves, who owed $9,114.44; former Councilman Ed Easton, who owed $269.04; and now-Mayor Paula Perotte, who owed $22,676.16.

Aceves, Easton and now Blois have all paid back what they owed.

Perotte is paying the city $20 per two-week payment period. As of late February, she still owed more than $20,000, according to city records obtained by Noozhawk through a California Public Records Act request.

At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Blois said she was unaware of her debt until Noozhawk called her for comment about it last week.

Among the records Noozhawk obtained is a handwritten note on the original invoice generated for her instructing city staff, “Do not attempt to collect. City attorney is handling. Per Tina,” referring to former city finance director Tina Rivera.

Blois said she never received an invoice. She confirmed the debt with city staff and brought a check to the meeting.

“Thank you for this opportunity to prove I’m not a deadbeat after all,” she said to laughter in the room.

Blois then walked over to City Clerk Deborah Lopez and handed her a check.

As Noozhawk has reported, Goleta was paying 100 percent of its council members’ health insurance premiums and, in some cases, the payments exceeded the allowance amount that the city’s rank-and-file employees were getting, which is not permitted under state law.

The overpayments occurred every year between 2007 and 2012, and the $110 overpayment to Blois was from 2004, according to the records reviewed by Noozhawk.

Aceves and Easton had previously paid off their balances, and Perotte had paid $1,780 of her debt as of late February, the records show.

Council members currently are paid $585 a month for their service.

After the overpayments were discovered, the city changed the 100-percent premium payment health benefit structure to a monthly allowance, the same allowance that the city’s employees have.

Joe Armendariz, executive director of the Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association, spoke during the public comment period at Tuesday’s meeting to call on Perotte — who he never mentioned by name — to pay off her debt as soon as possible.

The city’s mistake was unfortunate, he said, but the low repayment rate of $20 every two weeks is problematic.

Goleta resident Richard Foster had the opposite view, saying he believed the city was entirely responsible for the mistake and should forgive Perotte’s debt.

Perotte and City Manager Michelle Greene have told Noozhawk they are satisfied with the current repayment agreement, and will work out a new one when Perotte is no longer on the city payroll.

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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