Poughkeepsie… Dutchess County Executive William R. Steinhaus sent County Legislature Chairman Roger Higgins new legislation today to prevent double dipping by county elected officials who collect two taxpayer paid health insurance medical coverage policies. The County Executive called for this new county policy to be adopted immediately at a special meeting of the County Legislature next week.
Chairman Higgins himself currently collects two taxpayer paid health insurance policies, one paid for by Dutchess County government property taxpayers and the other paid for by the Wappinger Central School District property taxpayers. Over Mr. Higgins’ almost two decades as a legislator, his abuse of a loophole in the system paying these extra annual premiums has cost taxpayers an estimated extra quarter million dollars, just so he could selfishly double his own medical coverage.
“Obviously County Legislature Chairman Roger Higgins couldn’t care less about saving property taxpayers money like he claims,” County Executive Steinhaus said today. “If Higgins really wanted to save property taxpayer money, then he needs to pass legislation right now and surrender his claim for double taxpayer health insurance coverage. It is outrageous Higgins makes the same struggling homeowner in his district pay TWICE for Higgins’ health insurance at an annual property taxpayer cost of $30,000, when some of his district residents may have little or no coverage themselves.”
Steinhaus continued, “Higgins needs to close the loophole by adopting this legislation now to save property taxpayers the duplicate cost of his $17,000 policy premium in 2010. He should be satisfied with his gold plated policy overburdened property taxpayers of the Wappinger School District already provide him.”
The Steinhaus legislation will also close a second loophole that has allowed two of Higgins’ political patronage appointees to also double dip by taking two property taxpayer paid health insurance policies. Higgins’ two closest political allies and married couple, Fred and Fran Knapp, are abusing the system by each claiming a separate health policy even though one county policy would cover the married couple.
Chairman Higgins has repeatedly voted to prohibit more than 1400 other county employees from claiming two health insurance policies if they are married to another county employee. Yet, Higgins has run a cover up to protect his own political appointees, Fred Knapp as his personal assistant and Fran Knapp as his appointed Democrat Elections Commissioner, and allow them to take advantage of a loophole that rips off the taxpayers of the county.
Steinhaus said, “It is not only outrageous, but also hypocritical for Chairman Higgins to continue to enable his favored political appointees to claim two health insurance policies, costing property taxpayers thousands of extra dollars each and every year; over $17,000 in 2010. Higgins is well aware he won’t allow other married county employees to take two health policies, but his hypocrisy is evident because he has been protecting his political appointees and allowing them to game the system for their own financial benefit. Higgins and the Knapps win; the taxpayers lose.”
Abuse of the health insurance loopholes is just one part of a larger Higgins/Knapp political pay back scheme that has been going on for years.
First Roger Higgins supported Fran Knapp for her appointment as Democrat Board of Elections Commissioner, then Fran Knapp hired Chairman Higgins’ son for a non civil service political patronage job as her Deputy Commissioner at the Board of Elections (BOE). After Fred Knapp lost his election bid for Mayor of the City of Poughkeepsie in 2007, Roger Higgins returned the Fran Knapp favor and gave her husband a “safe landing” by appointing him to a taxpayer paid political position as Assistant to the Chairman. Fran Knapp then in turn hired Chairman Higgins’ daughter at the BOE in a clear example of political nepotism at its worst.
Chairman Higgins’ retirement pension from Wappinger Central School District is valued at $65,000 annually. Additionally, when you review the estimated annual taxpayer cost for Higgins and Knapp to double dip on health insurance, plus taxpayer paid salary costs of the Higgins and Knapp political arrangements, the costs are startling:
Higgins’ Dutchess County legislative salary $ 32,960
Higgins’ two health insurance policies $ 30,000
The Knapps’ two salaries $150,000
The Knapps’ two health policies in 2010 $ 34,000
Then consider the combined annualized cost of the salaries for Higgins’ adult children at $100,000 while employed at the County Board of Elections.
County Executive Steinhaus said, “Roger Higgins and the Knapps need to fess up to taxpayers about their scheme to take as many taxpayers dollars as they can get away with….from taxpayer paid salaries for their two families to double dipping on health insurance policies. Is this outrageous behavior and abuse of the taxpayer the ‘change’ the Democrats promised voters?”
Immediate family members are not the only beneficiaries of this political nepotism. Fran Knapp has regularly hired her own family, including her sister, to work for her at the BOE in violation of the County Ethics law, with some indefensible argument she is exempt from Ethics Laws.
“Chairman Higgins has the audacity to be quoted in news stories saying he’s concerned about saving the taxpayer money,” closed County Executive Steinhaus. “Chairman Higgins needs to pass this legislation now – or his credibility will be zero as he panders and grandstands to taxpayers while trying to hide the money he and the Knapps are stuffing in their pockets.”