Shelby County Commissioners Vote Themselves $6 Million More in Benefits

Walter Bailey

Certain Shelby County commissioners are getting an upgrade in their health and life insurance benefits, and county taxpayers must pay an additional $6 million to $10 million a year because of it.

Commissioner Walter Bailey Jr., in stealth mode, and using possible ninja-like reflexes, snuck the proposal through and got it passed under the other commissioners’ noses.

According to the Memphis Commercial Appeal, commissioners voted to reduce the years required for them to serve to collect retiree health and life insurance benefits. They changed that number from 15 years to eight years, “making previously ineligible commissioners — among 2,500 other employees — eligible.”

The vote was 7-2, according to the paper.

Outgoing Commissioner Heidi Shafer told The Tennessee Star many of her colleagues didn’t know what they were voting for.

“But I voted against it,” Shafer said.

“It was never brought up in discussion. There weren’t supporting documents in the system to show what it was really about, and we were hearing it was about county retirees. I’m not going to vote to change something without any numbers or figuring out whether it’s a good move.”

Most other commissioners, Shafer went on to say, had no idea they were voting on something that affected them personally. When we think of retirees we think of county employees, not elected officials.

Serving as a commissioner is hard work and, contrary to what many people believe, takes up a person’s full week, Shafer said. Contrary to conventional wisdom not everyone elected to the commission makes a six-figure salary. Commissioners come from all walks of life. Nevertheless, Shafer said commissioners who serve eight years don’t deserve these perks to this excess. She said she and many of her colleagues perceive elected office as more of a public service than a career.

“Yes, this was rammed through by Walter Bailey — but Bailey has never seen a tax increase he didn’t like,” Shafer said.

According to the Commercial Appeal, Shelby County commissioners already make $29,100 a year, in addition to what they make at their day jobs.

Bailey, the paper went on, has already served as a commissioner for 15 years.

This is not the first time a Shelby County commissioner felt deprived of what he thought county taxpayers owed him.

As Tennessee Watchdog reported seven years ago, Commissioner Sidney Chism said he’d go hungry and starve unless taxpayers paid for his lunches while he was on the job.

Chism, an engineer, has worked in business for more than 30 years.

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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected]










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