Marion Faces Unemployment Claim

The Marion Board of Selectmen was dismayed by news that the Town of Marion may have to uphold an unemployment claim as well as take on the malpractice insurance for the affiliate hospital’s medical director. Town Administrator Paul Dawson opened both topics for discussion at the Board’s regular meeting on Tuesday, January 8.

            Dawson told the Selectmen that he was not asking for them to take any actions yet, since both matters require more research and legal counsel.

            In the first matter, Dawson said that an unemployment claim has been made against the town by an individual who resigned back in December of 2011 before taking a job elsewhere.

            “This person voluntarily left. We didn’t ask them to leave; they were a good employee,” Dawson said.

            However, the individual is no longer employed at what Dawson referred to as the “greener pastures” job and has therefore filed for unemployment benefits. Because the Town of Marion is a reimbursement community, there is a legal loophole, which requires Marion taxpayers to use their unemployment line item for this individual.

            Neither the Selectmen nor the Town Administrator found this acceptable.

            “I’m going to continue to work with Representative Bill Straus’s office,” Dawson said. “I’m drumming up awareness to what I feel is a really unfair and glaring loophole … the bigger problem needs to be addressed at the state level.”

            In the second matter, which Dawson described as “in the same vein, but not really,” the Town of Marion is facing a new EMS hospital affiliation agreement. Dawson has received the new agreement, which, reportedly, the Southcoast Hospitals Group would like to renew each year. Dawson said that he was immediately alarmed by some of the language in the contract.

            The contract, he explained, would require the Town of Marion to list the affiliate hospital’s medical director under their insurance policy for malpractice. This medical director is responsible for the EMTs and paramedics servicing the town, who work under the director’s license.

            “That’s an enormous liability and an enormous cost,” Dawson said.

            The contract is also unprecedented. The town employs its own physician as a medical director, for example, but does not pay for the malpractice insurance. In the contract presented by the Southcoast Hospitals Group, the town would pay for the malpractice insurance of a medical director who is not employed by the town. Furthermore, the contract is only for Tobey Hospital. The Selectmen do not know if they will be asked to do the same for the medical director at St. Luke’s Hospital, to where the ambulances sometimes take patients.

            Dawson said that the Town of Marion is not alone, however. He has spoken with the administrators for other troubled towns that have also been recipients of contracts from the Southcoast Hospitals Group, which contain similar language. Dawson is not sure if other hospitals are presenting similar contracts to their affiliated towns.

            “There’s language in [the contract] that’s just wrong,” Dawson said. “We really need to negotiate it.”

            Dawson has forward the contract to Jon Witten, the Town Counsel, for review. The town’s insurance company has also seen the contract, by which they are troubled, although Dawson is awaiting their formal comments.

            Dawson did not want to extend the conversations about either the unemployment claim or the hospital affiliation agreement until he has finished conversing with his colleagues, legal counsel and the insurance company. He will approach the Board of Selectmen to hold an executive session once he has received replies, in which he hopes to fully inform the Board as to the nature of both situations. This executive session will be critical for the hospital affiliation agreement, which the Selectmen intend to negotiate.

            In other business, the Board carried a motion to make eight appointments, seven to the Fireworks Committee and one to the Marion Affordable Housing Trust. Selectman Jonathan Dickerson reported that the Fireworks Committee has already seen a good response to their fundraising efforts.

            The Board also voted to approve that Marion Social Club’s request for a one-day all-alcohol license for their clam boil on Sunday, January 27 from 12:00 to 4:00 pm.

            Lastly, the Board approved Copper Medal, LLC’s request for revision of sewer allocation. Copper Medal, LLC had gone before the Marion Planning Board on Monday, January 7 to rescind a definitive subdivision plan and to seek approval for an ANR plan, which would combine a different pair of lots.

            “We would like to have [sewer] service for eight bedrooms on one lot and five bedrooms on the other,” said Richard Schaefer, the representative for Copper Medal, LLC. “We would like to reduce the capacity from 15 to 13. The other [sewer stump] would be deactivated.”

            Selectmen Jonathan Henry and Stephen Cushing voiced their approval of Schaefer’s handling of the project.

            “Certainly with the frontage is a better deal,” Selectman Henry said. “It’s much more classic and generally what we try to do here.”

            He recommended that Schaefer mark the third sewage stump as deactivated and not to pull up anything.

            “All you’re doing is creating the potential for something to go wrong,” Selectman Cushing agreed.

            The Board voted to approve the sewer allocation revision as per the recommendations of Robert Zora, DPW Superintendent.

            Lastly, Dawson informed the Board that a claim has been filed with the town’s insurance company for damage to the harbormaster’s vessel that happened back in August during the rescue of a stranded vessel. After the rescue, the harbormaster noticed that the outboard engine was making a knocking sound on the starboard side. Because it was the end of the boating season and the weather turned foul with Hurricane Sandy, no action was taken to repair the outboard. On December 20, however, it was discovered that the outboard motor had broken teeth on its lower gears.

            “We believe that it happened at that time [August] due to the wave jumping action during the rescue,” Dawson said.

            The cost to repair the outboard engine is estimate between $2,500 and $3,000. Dawson is currently working with the insurance company to organize the vessel’s repair.

            The Marion Board of Selectmen will meet again on Tuesday, January 22 at 7:00 pm at the Marion Town House.

By Anne Smith

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