CHARLES CITY | The Floyd County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved allowing health and dental insurance coverage for domestic partners of county employees.
The new policy was approved 3-1, with Mark Kuhn and Doug Kamm voting in favor of it and Roy Schwickerath voting against it.
"I believe it is in the best interest of the county and its employees," Kuhn said.
The discussion on domestic partnerships began when Dan Sargent, a newly hired deputy with the Sheriff's Department, asked the Board of Supervisors to offer health/dental coverage for his domestic partner, who is the mother of his two children.
Although domestic partner coverage is offered to federal and state of Iowa employees, offering such coverage at the county level is not mandated.
Kuhn said some local businesses offer coverage for domestic partners while others do not.
He said the new policy would not pose a great deal of financial risk for the county.
He said that adding coverage for domestic partners would cost $178 per year for each person added.
However, Schwickerath said, the new policy could go well beyond the one person who has requested it so far because it would have to be offered to all employees in domestic partnerships.
He also said if county employees want coverage for their domestic partners, they have the option of marriage, which in Iowa is open to same-sex couples.
"We do not discriminate against anyone," Schwickerath said.
Under the new policy, county employees must notify the county if their domestic partnership ends so the coverage for the domestic partner can be terminated.
Clifford Kelly, rural Charles City, who attended Tuesday's board meeting, said that's the part which concerns him.
He said the dissolution of a domestic partnership is easier to conceal than the dissolution of a marriage and the county would be relying on the integrity of its employees to inform the county when a domestic partnership ends.
Kuhn noted the criteria for a domestic partnership under the new county policy, which come from the Iowa Department of Administrative Services, are strict.
For example, the relationship must have existed for at least 12 consecutive months before the partner is eligible for coverage.
"This is not a casual living relationship," Kuhn said.
Kamm said offering benefits for domestic partners of employees will help the county in hiring, noting it is hard to find good employees.
"We are not making a big social statement here," he said.