The City of Joliet is looking to bury the hatchet and move forward.
In a 6-0-1 decision, officials took action Tuesday to settle a civil lawsuit alleging that Joliet violated the state constitution and its pension protection clause. Councilwoman Jan Quillman abstained from voting, saying it would be a conflict of interest, and Councilman Terry Morris was not present at the time.
The agreement solves a case in which retired employees contended that the city sought to increase the cost of health insurance prescription drug copays and deductibles, denying their ability to utilize the benefits promised through the collective bargaining under which they stepped down from their respective jobs.
City action, as taken, will provide $702,139.99 in funds to employees who retired before Jan. 1, 2010.
The lawsuit dates back to 2010. Around that time, retired employee Michael Marconi and a few others filed a case in the Will County Circuit Court.
The following year, the court reached a verdict awarding damages to the plaintiffs.
An appeal by the city was successful in overturning the case in May 2013. Around that time, the lawsuit was heard in the Illinois Appellate Court for the Third District.
A short time later, the case did not hold muster for the city when an amended complaint was filed.
The court went on to side with the plaintiffs in 2016. Since that time, both parties have been in talks for negotiations.
The agreement, as approved, stipulates that Joliet is not admitting guilt, wrongdoing or liability of any kind by settling the case with the retired city employees.
Under the settlement, the city and the retired employees came to a consensus that subsequent changes to insurance carriers, funding methodology, medical services, cost containment measures, and/or drug coverage in connection with the health insurance extended to the plaintiffs are acceptable, provided that they do not diminish the benefits promised in the agreement.
Joliet is expected to maintain the level of health insurance premiums for retiree coverage for all of those in which the lawsuit concerns through Dec. 31, 2030.