Ferndale council denies mayor’s request for health insurance

Jon Mutchler
Jon Mutchler

Mayor Jon Mutchler asked the City Council to give him and his family medical insurance, and the council unanimously said no Monday, Feb. 1.

Before voting, the council heard from nine Ferndale residents or property owners. All but one opposed extending the benefit to the mayor, and most criticized Mutchler for asking.

They questioned why the new mayor didn’t mention this request while seeking election. They said city dollars should go toward fixing potholes, building sidewalks and paying for programs. They said he assured them during his campaign that he could do the job as a part-time mayor.

“When you all ran for these jobs, you all knew what the deal was. It’s difficult for people in my position to see the city spend money we don’t have that wasn’t part of the deal,” Ferndale resident Nina Cox said.

Mutchler, who had been on the City Council, was elected mayor in November and took office in January. He has said he was busy campaigning and, regardless, he didn’t even consider asking for the health benefit until December, when he was tackling paperwork to renew health insurance through the state’s health exchange.

(The mayor) wants to move up from the Ford to the Cadillac, at our expense.

Ferndale resident Yvonne Goldsmith

Had the council approved Mutchler’s request, the cost for this year would have been $1,585 a month. Add coverage for vision and dental insurance, and the monthly premium would have gone up by another $230 a month.

Mutchler would have paid the city $105 a month, the same amount as non-union employees.

“I would jump on that myself,” council member Brent Goodrich said.

Ferndale offers insurance coverage to part-time employees who work 80 hours a month, or 20 hours a week.

The mayor said he’s been working up to 35 hours a week, although he hoped to cut that down to under than 30 hours a week.

Mutchler, who is self-employed as a piano teacher and as pastor of Ferndale Alliance Church, and his family have insurance through the state’s exchange. But the city’s health insurance would be much better, he told the City Council on Monday.

“Jon wants to move up from the Ford to the Cadillac, at our expense,” Ferndale resident Yvonne Goldsmith said. “It’s wrong to put that on the back of taxpayers.”

Pointing to city staff seated at a table, Ferndale resident Gene Goldsmith said those were city employees. Employees have benefits, he said, before adding: “You are public servants.”

The Ferndale mayor makes 90 percent of the average salary for mayors in similarly sized Washington cities, and will earn $1,644 a month in 2016.

Council member Cathy Watson, who ran against Mutchler for mayor, referred to that salary Monday.

“Why do you want the city to pay for your health insurance? Watson asked. “This would be a doubling of your salary.”

Kie Relyea: 360-715-2234, @kierelyea