Wicomico Health Care Change’s Goal To Assist Hilliard Family

SALISBURY – County officials say they will begin exploring ways to expand health care benefits to families of employees fallen in the line of duty.

On June 13, just two days after Wicomico County Sheriff’s Deputy Glenn Hilliard was killed in the line of duty, the Wicomico County Council met in a special session to discuss health care benefits for a service in the line of duty death.

“We’re looking into contractual and cost analysis to see what we can do regarding health benefits of the survivors and family of those law enforcement officers, what that definition might be and what we can do in our current health care contract to take care of the survivors of a fallen law enforcement officer,” said Acting County Executive John Psota.

Officials told the county last week they were looking to amend the Wicomico’s personnel manual to expand health care benefits for the families of county employees who die in the line of duty. Human Resources Director Jaclyn Curry noted that while the manual allowed families of county employees eligible for retirement to continue receiving benefits, it did not address employees who are not eligible for retirement.

“So if a deceased employee was not eligible for retirement and continuation of benefits, the spouse and/or eligible dependents may retain their health insurance under appropriate and applicable state and federal laws, which means COBRA coverage,” she explained. “If any of you are familiar with COBRA coverage, it’s very expensive.”

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Curry said an amendment to the personnel manual would assist those family members.

“It would be in a non-active, post-tax group that we already have in place that would offer that option to eligible surviving spouses and dependents of employees that are not eligible for retirement,” she said.

Major Tod Richardson of the Wicomico County Sheriff’s Office urged council members this week to make the necessary changes before July 31, when Hilliard’s health care benefits are set to expire.

“Currently the family is covered until July 31 under this current situation,” he said.

Councilman Joe Holloway questioned if the proposed changes would apply to family members of all county employees.

“If we had a county roads employee get killed along the road, or we had someone get killed a few years ago working out at the landfill – he got electrocuted on the job – would this include them?” he asked.

Curry said it was something officials would consider as they did research on the proposed manual changes.

“That’s something we’re looking at, what the coverage would include.” she replied.

Council President John Cannon questioned if the proposed changes could even be made before July 31, as a legislative bill to amend the personnel manual would require two meetings and a public hearing.

“Would this fall under emergency legislation?” he asked. “The key is how quickly can we act if we choose to do so?”

County attorney Paul Wilber said the bill would likely not meet the definition of emergency legislation.

“I think it would be tough to categorize it under emergency,” he said.

After further discussion, the council agreed to have staff complete a cost analysis and develop proposed manual changes.

The council last week also voted to transfer $454,101 from contingency to the county’s death benefit account to fully fund the $500,000 death benefit to Hilliard’s family.

“From our agreement with the Fraternal Order of Police, we have a benefit under Article 10, Section C to pay the beneficiary $500,000,” said Deputy Finance Director Charles Schmechel. “The term life death benefit currently only has a $45,000 balance to it, so we are asking to move the remainder of the funds from contingency.”

With no further discussion, the council voted unanimously to approve the transfer.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.