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City Board 6-14-18: Insurance decision made by making no decision?

decision about insurance Brad Camp discusses the Morgan-White insurance proposal at special meeting.

One month after receiving three proposals for health insurance for city workers, the New Albany Board of Aldermen has made a decision– without voting on a decision.

A public beginning for the city insurance decision

The insurance decision saga more or less started at a special meeting of the Aldermen on May 15. On that date the city board received proposals from three insurance agencies, which were competing to provide the city’s group health insurance for the coming year. They were:

  • Collins Insurance Agency
  • John Stroud Agency
  • Morgan-White Agency

Collins Agency was represented by Ray Collins, John Stroud represented the Stroud agency, and Brad Camp represented Morgan-White. Morgan-White has been the city’s group insurance agency for a number of years, including the insurance contract that was due for renewal June 1, 2018.

All three agencies proposed primary health care coverage by Blue Cross/Blue Shield, which has been the city’s insurance carrier for several years. The differences in the proposals had to do with supplemental insurance, sometimes called “gap insurance.”  Gap insurance is intended to cover some healthcare expenses (deductibles, etc.) not covered in the primary policy.

Both Collins and Stroud proposed using Gulf Guaranty Insurance Company as the supplemental insurance carrier. Morgan-White proposed using AmFirst, an insurance company which is owned by Morgan-White.

At the May 15th meeting, City Attorney Regan Russell said he would try to prepare a spreadsheet, so that the aldermen could compare the three competing proposals. Making such comparisons in an entirely satisfactory way is inherently difficult, essentially impossible. Variations in policy language make such comparisons arcane at best.

Over a period of about 30 days, members of the city board wrestled with a decision.

A special meeting called with little public notice

Then, sometime on Thursday, June 14, a notice of a special meeting of the city board, to be held at 5:30 pm that same day, was posted at city hall. City officials are believed to have made no other attempt to inform news writers or any other members of the public that they were going to meet. Mississippi law only requires written notice at city hall, so the unpublicized meeting was legal.

Insurance decision

John Stroud (L) and Richard Cothern discuss the John Stroud Agency proposal. was told of the meeting by a mobile phone call from one of the insurance agents with an interest in the competition. called and notified the reporter from the New Albany Gazette.

The inferred purpose of the unpublicized meeting was to have agency representatives make oral presentations, explaining their proposals to the aldermen.

Ray Collins, of the Collins Agency, was out of town and did not appear at the meeting. John Stroud, of the Stroud Agency, and Richard Cothern, president of Gulf Guaranty Insurance Company, spoke about the Stroud proposal. Brad Camp, the local representative for Morgan-White, spoke for his agency’s proposal. Bengie Foley, a New Albany insurance agent who is also associated with Morgan-White, also spoke briefly.

Several questions were asked of the agents, and responses were made in the public meeting. None of the five aldermen clearly and publicly expressed a preference for any one of the plans that had been proposed.

No vote was taken. In fact, no motion was put forward in favor of any one of the proposals.

A private “executive session” concludes the public meeting

Then, Mayor Tim Kent said the board would go into “executive session” to discuss a personnel matter. Present, and included in the executive session, were New Albany Police Chief, Chris Robertson, and New Albany Superintendent of Education, Lance Evans.

News reporters from the New Albany Gazette and were required to leave the council chambers. Executive sessions are routinely held at the end of most meetings of the New Albany Board of Aldermen. Reporters and other members of the public then generally leave city hall.

Since no reporter was present, the rest of this story depends on accounts received Monday and Tuesday from telephone conversations with the mayor and three of the aldermen. Information received during each of those phone calls was pretty much consistent with the others. Here’s the story as it was told to us:

At some point during or after the executive session, the mayor and board started discussing the competing insurance proposals. There was apparently some discussion of appointing a committee to study the insurance proposals. Then one board member asked what would happen if no motion was put forward and no vote was taken.

We are told the answer was that the current Morgan-White coverage had automatically renewed when the old insurance contracts expired on June 1, 2018.  The coverage would continue in effect, if the board took no vote on the three proposals it had received a month earlier.

A consensus, not spread upon the minutes as a vote, is reported to have developed that no motion would be made and no vote would be taken.

Thus, no specific action and no vote having been taken, it appears to be the will of the New Albany Board of Aldermen that the group insurance proposed by the Morgan-White Agency will remain in place for the next year.

The decision about insurance was made by the board choosing to make no formal decision in the form of a vote witnessed by any member of the public.

“That’s the way it is.” — Walter Cronkite, 1916 – 1909

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