The City was recently sued by the Grand Junction Peace Officers Association/Grand Junction Police Officer’s FOP Lodge 68. The Peace Officers’ Association is an unrecognized labor organization within the Grand Junction Police Department that filed the action to challenge the City’s management of a retiree health benefit that allows eligible retired and/or disabled employees to continue on the City’s health plan until attaining age 65. In addition to challenging the City’s management of the benefit, the lawsuit makes claims against retired Human Resources Director Claudia Hazelhust, City Finance Director Jodi Welch, and City Manager Greg Caton.
The Peace Officers’ Association sent a Notice of Claim in August 2019 and the City has worked since then with members of the Association, as well as other employee groups and retirees, to keep the benefit for eligible employees and retirees. Members of the Fire Department that had been opposed to the changes that needed to be made to sustain the benefit have withdrawn their objections.
The City Council was briefed on the lawsuit in Executive Session on Wednesday night.
Because the matter is now before the Court, the City Council and staff will be refraining from public comment; however, City Attorney John Shaver said “the history of the retiree health benefit is long and complicated and the City has made very reasonable and responsible changes to try and maintain it for eligible employees in the face of very costlier and complex healthcare. It is unfortunate that the POA has initiated this action given the work that has been done and the investment made by the City to provide the benefit.” Shaver added, “the City will vigorously defend the claims made against it and Greg Caton, Jodi Welch and Claudia Hazelhurst.”
The City is insured by the Colorado Intergovernmental Risk Sharing Agency (CIRSA) and we will be assisted in the defense of the claims by the Denver firm of Nathan Dumm and Mayer.