KC Fraternal Order of Police sues over health insurance consolidation

Kansas City officials and police board members acted illegally when they consolidated the city and Police Department’s health insurance plans last week, according to a lawsuit filed Monday by the Kansas City Fraternal Order of Police.

The class action lawsuit, filed in Jackson County Circuit Court, seeks to block the consolidation, which police board members approved April 9. The lawsuit also asks for money to cover health care cost increases incurred by current and retired police officers.

A 1939 Missouri statute, known as Chapter 84, took control of the police department from the city and gave it to a state-run police board to keep the department “free from the influence of city politics,” the lawsuit said.

The statute gives police board members “exclusive management and control,” according to the lawsuit, but restricts board contracts with the city, said Sean McCauley, the FOP’s attorney, during a news conference Monday.

He said board members only have authority to consolidate with the city on issues of purchasing, building maintenance and auditing. McCauley said the health insurance consolidation doesn’t fall under any of those provisions, including purchasing, because the city is self-insured.

The lawsuit accuses the city of using $5 million in police raises to pressure the police board into agreeing with the consolidation.

City and police officials declined to comment Monday. They have 30 days to respond to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit could have been avoided if board members had included FOP members in discussions, McCauley said. Instead, he said, FOP members basically were told to “take it or leave it.”

“It’s not just a monetary issue. It’s a good faith issue,” he said, adding that it has hurt department morale and prompted some officers to look for jobs elsewhere.