HAZLE TWP. — Hazleton Area School Board President Brian Earley warned that the district will see its insurance premiums rise more than necessary next year after a vote to appoint an additional insurance broker failed Monday night.
Board members Bob Childs, Carmella Yenkevich, Marfy Yanac and Earley voted to rescind a vote in April appointing Robert Payne and Eastern Insurance Group as the broker of record. Tony Bonomo, Clarence John, Robert Mehalick and Robert Wallace voted against the move. Steve Hahn was absent.
Because that move failed, the next items on the agenda — appointing either Dryfoos Insurance as the sole broker of record or Dryfoos as the broker for WRM/Wright Specialty Insurance and Eastern as the broker for the Pennsylvania School Board Association Insurance Program — were moot and not voted on.
“I just want the public to know what our board just did,” Earley, board president, said after the vote. “Our current insurance carrier is Wright Specialty Insurance (WRM). Eastern Insurance Group is (no longer) licensed to sell that product. So, in addition to the motion that was made at the last meeting where we eliminated competition in brokers, we have now just said that we don’t want other insurance companies giving us quotes on our insurance, and we’re basically going to limit that down to two.”
Late last month, a school board vote to split insurance brokerage, with Dryfoos representing one group of companies and Eastern another, failed 5-4. A vote to appoint Eastern as sole broker passed 5-4. Previously, both companies were brokers, but Eastern had not submitted quotes for the three years prior to last year, Early noted.
The board just recently became aware that WRM/Wright dissolved a brokerage contract with Eastern, so the district can no longer get quotes for WRM insurance through Eastern.
Earley said there are three major players in school district liability insurance: PSBA; Liberty Mutual, which took over Ohio Casualty; and WRM/Wright Specialty Insurance. “So for us to say we’re going to eliminate one third of the companies that can come in and offer us a competitive price, to me, makes no sense, especially when you look at what happened last year.”
Last year, PSBA wanted to charge the district a $160,000 premium for school leader liability coverage. WRM offered the same product for $40,000, Earley said.
Bonomo reportedly said last month that Eastern had been the district’s broker until Earley became a board member and pushed for Dryfoos. Bonomo had said it was time to give the position back to Eastern and “spread the wealth.”
“My concept is if you want to spread the wealth, do it with your own money,” Earley said.
“Now, because Dryfoos was appointed for one year as our broker, all of a sudden, it’s a travesty. … I hope the taxpayers remember how people are voting. This is an issue that will directly impact the bottom line in our school district,” Earley said.
“You start opening that can of worms,” Bonomo said, ” it can get pretty ugly if you see what people have voted over the past year or two and see the money that they cost taxpayers of this area. So I think it’s an issue we probably best not entertain because this thing could go on and on and on and each and every one of us is partially to blame for the expenses.”