What was an otherwise normal Decherd Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting Monday ended in controversy when board members made allegations that Mayor Robin Smith may have inappropriately received health insurance benefits that were paid for with city funds totaling $26,000.
Alderman Roy Partin said a concerned citizen had raised the question about Smith’s possible inappropriate health insurance policy, and Partin raised these concerns toward the end of Monday night’s meeting.
According to Partin, the aldermen and mayor are not eligible to receive insurance benefits from the City of Decherd.
Acting on behalf of a citizen’s tip, Partin said that it appears that Smith has been receiving insurance benefits since 2016.
Partin and Vice Mayor Tammy Holt had attorney Gerald L. Ewell Jr. attend the meeting, but the Tullahoma-based attorney did not get an opportunity to address the board.
Smith said that he would make a statement where he referred to former City Administrator Mike Foster.
“Mr. Mike Foster, four years ago or five years ago, added me to the insurance because he thought under the Affordable Care Act I could (be added to the city of Decherd’s insurance program),” he said. “And since then, I’ve found out I wasn’t supposed to, so (the city’s bookkeeper) has been told to drop me (from the city’s insurance coverage plan).
“Any other thing that’s to be discussed, Mr. Ewell can contact my attorney.”
Partin asked Smith who was representing him, and Smith said that the board could talk to either Bob Peters or Floyd Davis.
Holt then asked Smith when he was dropped from the city’s insurance plan.
“She has been instructed to drop me when she could, and I’ve been told that Mr. Ewell can talk to my attorney about it because Mr. Foster did that five years ago,” Smith said.
Holt then asked Smith if he had any paperwork showing that Foster had added him to the insurance plan.
Smith said no.
Holt countered with her assessment.
“The way I see it — and you can speak to your attorney if you need to — is that you owe the city $26,000 in premiums,” she said.
She then added that the board needed to make sure that the topic is on the next meeting’s agenda.
“The way I see it is that you’ve been getting free insurance for three and a half years that you owe the city money for,” Holt said.
Smith replied: “The City Administrator had the power to do that, and he did it.”
Speaking after the meeting concluded, Holt and Partin answered questions from concerned citizens and county residents.
“As a board, we’re just looking into this to see if the mayor was due the insurance benefits and if he knowingly took them and let the city pay for them, knowing that he wasn’t due them,” Holt said. “And Mr. Foster supposedly said that (Smith) was eligible, but I don’t buy that, and I think that the mayor has basically stolen $26,000 worth of insurance premiums from the city of Decherd because he’s not eligible for them.
“But he’s a smart enough man to know he wasn’t eligible for them.”
Foster was contacted by the Herald Chronicle but declined to comment.
The next scheduled Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting is on Aug. 12 at 7 p.m. at the Decherd City Hall.