By John Earl
Surf City Voice
Six months after he took his ineligible ex-wife off of his city paid Blue Shield HMO plan, and only days after he received clues that a Surf City Voice report on his misuse of that plan was imminent, Huntington Beach City Councilmember Joe Carchio walked into the Human Resources department at City Hall and paid up $2,782.73 in reimbursement to Surf City taxpayers (Editor’s note: The City subsequently confirmed that Carchio actually owed more than the Voice originally estimated: $6,627. The full amount has been paid).
The larger reimbursement estimate first reported by the Voice was incorrect because it included only the city’s share of overpayments to the health plan and not Carchio’s own premiums. But Carchio paid the amount, in full, on Sept. 23, only three days after he was confronted by the Voice about his divorce, which he had kept secret from City officials and much of the public—even though his two Facebook accounts and an official biography published on the City’s web site all claimed that he was married.
In a contentious interview with the Voice on Sunday, Sept. 26, Carchio acknowledged an “honest mistake,” but falsely claimed that his ex-wife had been on the City’s health care rolls while ineligible for only one year. Records obtained by the Voice through Public Records Act requests, however, including the reimbursement invoice, provide proof that starting in September 2008 she was enrolled for 19 months in regular health care, dental and vision plans through last March (2010) when Carchio switched her to the vision plan only for another 6 months.
From March 2010 through September, even though his wife was still enrolled in the vision plan, there were no premium charges for the City for the extra person.
However, the timing of Carchio’s withdrawal of his ex-wife from enrollment in all but the free vision plan as of last March—by which time, if not sooner, he certainly would have noticed his “honest mistake”—and his subsequent reimbursement not until six months after that withdrawal and several days after learning of the Voice’s investigation—suggests that Carchio was trying to skip reimbursement for his “honest mistake” until repayment became unavoidable.
In the Sunday interview Carchio claimed that he had “rectified” his “mistake” after having his ineligible ex-wife enrolled for only one year, not two years as records prove, and implied that he had long ago paid up.
“I realized that the mistake was made…because I looked at my check and I was getting more money,” he told the Voice. “So I went to HR, I rectified it, paid the balance.” When asked when he dropped his ex-wife from enrollment Carchio said “In March of last year.” Actually, the drop took place in March, 2010.
During the interview Carchio was furious and threatened this reporter. “If you’re going to start a war, you’re going to start a war,” he warned. “You’re going to start a 9-11 with me, John. I’m not going to put up with you attacking my family, attacking me and going after me…”
Carchio also accused this reporter of waging a “personal vendetta” against him.
Surf City taxpayers might wonder how long Carchio’s apparent scam would have continued if he had not been caught by the Voice.
They might also consider the need for affordable health care for all people and the hypocrisy of politicians who, as members of America’s ‘fiscally responsible’ political party, vote or speak against public health care for other Americans but love to have it for themselves, and their ex-wives.