MADISON, Wis. (Legal Newsline) - Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen issued a formal opinion Tuesday to Brown County Corporation Counsel Juliana Ruenzel about whether or not insurance premiums for county supervisors are considered compensation.
Ruenzel requested a review of whether health, dental and life insurance fringe benefits were considered compensation within the meaning of Wisconsin Statute 59.10(3). The law states that compensation for county supervisors includes a per diem by the county for each day he or she attends a board meeting. The board is able to fix the compensation of the board members by a two-thirds vote of all the members at its annual meeting.
Ruenzel said the statute did not clearly explain whether insurance benefits would be included in the fixed compensation. A previous opinion by Van Hollen in December 2011 defined compensation as wages and benefits in return for services, including medical benefits, sick pay and disability.
In Van Hollen's opinion on Tuesday, he found that fringe benefits are not considered compensation within the meaning of statute 59.10(3). As a result, the procedural requirements of the statute do not apply when the county board considers making changes to the benefits.
"Because the provision of insurance and county contributions toward insurance premiums are not forms of compensation under Wis. Stat. 59.10(3), the procedural requirements of that statute do not apply to a proposed change to those benefits," Van Hollen said. "A two-thirds vote is not required; the motion or proposal need not be made at the county board's annual meeting; and changes may be made for supervisors beyond those to be next elected."