City officially parts ways with Baxter, Coalition Health; aldermen to vote on sanctuary city ordinance next week

Jennifer Winking

Jennifer Winking, director of human resources, speaks with aldermen during Monday's meeting of the Quincy City Council. | David Adam

QUINCY — The Quincy City Council officially severed ties with Jim Baxter and Coalition Health, effective Jan. 1, 2024, when it approved Gallagher Insurance of Quincy as the broker for the city’s health insurance program for next year.

Before aldermen unanimously voted in favor of the resolution, Greg Fletcher (R-1) asked, “This removes Jim Baxter from anything to do with our insurance next year. Correct?” 

“Going forward from Jan. 1. Correct,” Quincy Mayor Mike Troup replied.

Troup said Monday that Jennifer Winking, director of human resources, is working with Gallagher to get bids on insurance rates in time for city employees to sign up in November.

“We’re still under a tight window. If we can get numbers this next week, then I think we have the time to move forward with it,” Troup told aldermen.

Winking told aldermen she already has received proposals from insurance vendors. She is waiting to see if more will come through Gallagher.

“We have some very short timelines, because we want to get notices out to our unions in a timely fashion,” she said. “If we have some issues, we can address those issues with the unions before we go to open enrollment. We’d like to do open enrollment at the beginning of November and have everything in place hopefully by early December. We’re ready to go on Jan. 1.”

A Meeting of the Whole was called Sept. 6 to present findings on the city’s healthcare relations with Coalition Health, a health reimbursement arrangement (HRA). Baxter told aldermen that night he instructed American Public Life, based out of Flowood, Miss., to cancel the city’s secondary insurance policy on Aug. 3. (City employees still have Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois for primary insurance.) 

Robert MeGee, president of the Police Benevolent and Protective Association Labor Unit 12, told Baxter he was no longer wanted in the city of Quincy. Several aldermen also made it clear they no longer wanted to continue to do business with Baxter and Coalition.

Troup proposed a resolution at the Sept. 12 City Council meeting to buy secondary insurance from American Public Life for the last half of 2023. However, aldermen tabled the resolution.

Jeff Mays, director of administrative services, provided a report of a review of emails between Troup and Baxter. Mays, IT Director Corey Dean and Corporation Counsel Bruce Alford reviewed approximately 750 emails between the two. He said Mike Farha (R-4) originally made the request. Even though Farha later withdrew the request, other requests were made for the same information.

He said no emails touched on the subject of fees paid to Troup or any member of his family in regard to the city health insurance program. Mays said “a large number of emails” dealt with specific questions on behalf of the employees requesting information about Coalition billing or determinations.

“Then, on the APL contract itself, on the cancellation, there was an email from Mr. Troup to Mr. Baxter,” Mays said. “(Troup said,) ‘The decision is not yours nor mine. It is much more complicated due to various union agreements with our city employees. This will be reviewed with the personnel committee, and they will most likely refer this to the full council for their decision.’

“Both this email review and the previous financial review by the comptroller (Sheri Ray) and the treasurer (Linda Moore) were extraordinarily time consuming. Both exercises, in my opinion, were well worth it if they helped lay to rest rumors and innuendos that have been advanced in regard to this matter.”

Aldermen also voted Monday to place an ordinance that would call for prohibiting abortions in Quincy, a move that would be in direct conflict with state law, on the agenda for the Tuesday, Oct. 10 City Council meeting. Danville is the only sanctuary city in Illinois.

Eleven people spoke about the sanctuary city ordinance during the public forum portion of Monday’s meeting. Most were in favor of it.

“This ordinance does not outright ban abortions in Quincy, but it puts Quincy in compliance with the Comstock Act and existing federal law that prohibits the shipping and receiving of abortion-inducing drugs and abortion paraphernalia,” Susan Asher said. “This ordinance does not prohibit a woman in Quincy from having an abortion. She will still be able to travel if she chooses to abort her child. This ordinance does not interfere or prohibit a woman from obtaining excellent health care in Quincy. 

“We must not blemish the Gem City’s reputation by allowing a Planned Parenthood or other abortion provider to come into the city. They do not offer the hope and help and support that this community does. I respectfully ask you to support the ordinance and let the city of Quincy continue to be an example of what communities can do when we all work together.”

Carrie Bross with the group Voices for Choice spoke against the ordinance. She read an email she said was previously sent to aldermen. She said the Reproductive Health Act, signed into law in 2019, says every resident of Illinois “has the fundamental right” to make every health care decision, including abortion care, without government interference.

“Proponents of this illegal proposed ordinance are not telling Quincy residents the truth,” she said. “This measure cannot be enforced and will not stop access to abortion health care in Quincy or elsewhere. This is just an attempt to advance the agenda of anti-abortion advocates. It does not serve the people of our community.”

Mark Lee Dickson, founder of Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn, spoke in Quincy in June. Jake Reed (R-6) said it has taken nearly four months to put the ordinance on the agenda because the city’s legal counsel has been talking with Dickson.

“His lawyer he had stated any litigation that would come from passing this ordinance would be then taken care of by his attorneys,” Reed said. “Trying to get attorneys together to talk to each other just seemed like constant battles of scheduling. As (the ordinance is) written right now, it can be passed, but it won’t be enforced or go into place. After that, we can decide if then, at that juncture, we want to use his services to then sue the state and get a declaratory judgment.”

Reed says he doesn’t want any taxpayer dollars going toward this ordinance. 

In other action, aldermen:

  • Learned the city disposed of 266 tons of material of during the city-wide cleanup last week. Public Works Director Jeffrey Conte said that figure was down nearly 40 percent from last year, when the city collected 440 tons. However, it was nearly identical to the 267 tons that were collected in 2021. “I don’t have an explanation,” Conte said.
  • Gave permission for a waiver of the liquor ordinance by Tieraney Craig with the Quincy Riverfront Development Corporation for the Riverfront Rendezvous from 6-9 p.m. Oct. 13. 
  • Gave permission for the American Business Women’s Association-Quincy Charter Chapter to conduct a raffle from Oct. 2 through Feb. 24.
  • Gave permission to the Quincy Early Tin Dusters to hold its annual Fall Color Run on Oct. 13-14 in downtown Quincy. 
  • Approved a request by Stephen Schutte for a special permit to allow for the construction of a two-family residential duplex at 1800 Jackson.
  • Approved a request by Rickey Rettke, Jr., and Trisha Rettke for a special permit to allow for the continued use of a dwelling at 1869 Vermont as a two-family residential duplex. 
  • Heard a resolution for October to be recognized as German-American Heritage Month.
    Learned Oct. 6 will be Quincy Branch of American Association of University Women) Day.
  • Approved a contract for $194,175 to be awarded to Melotte Morse Leonatti Parker Limited of Springfield for architectural and engineering design services for rehabilitation of transit facilities. 
  • Approved a proposal from Four Points Engineering and Land Surveying of Hannibal, Mo., for $40,580 for topographic surveying services. 
  • Approved the acceptance of a grant from the Illinois Housing Development Authority’s Strong Communities Program in an amount not to exceed $330,000 to be used to preserve affordable housing efforts. 
  • Approved a memorandum of understanding between the City of Quincy and Quincy Firefighters Local 63 regarding granting the same residency requirements as police officers to firefighters effective with the passage of a new labor agreement. 
  • Approved an ordinance granting a variation from zoning regulations, allowing for the construction of a front porch at 3505 Colonial Court that reduces the required 25-foot front yard setback.
  • Amended chapter 90 of the city code that clarifies the definition of dangerous or vicious dogs and the procedure for the impoundment and destruction of dogs.

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