Board taking their time upsets insurance representative

Published 11:00 pm Saturday, October 14, 2006

After three attempts to get the Pearl River County Board of Supervisors to change their insurance broker, a representative for Fox Everett made his feelings known before storming out of the meeting Thursday.

Greg Cullom with Fox Everett Insurance Services made another presentation concerning the county using his firm’s services instead of Thigpen Insurance, which has been serving the county for about 15 years. Cullom said the company he represents can offer risk surveys to help with loss control as part of their services. Cullom brought up that each insurance broker gets a certain percentage of premiums paid to the insurance company that covers the county. He said there are services that are supposed to be taken care of for that money.

“What have you been receiving in return for that?” Cullom said.

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Cullom presented his third pitch over the last couple of months and eventually got upset when the board would not show interest in taking immediate action on the matter. Apparently there have been some problems with claims reporting to the county’s current carrier, Cullom said. The company he represents can help get those claims reported properly.

“That’s been my rub, is getting things handled on a timely basis,” said John Sherman about the insurance claim service he is currently getting.

The board invited Grady Thigpen to attend the meeting since he has been providing insurance business for the county for years. The county likes to ensure that county tax money stays in the county.

“We’re going to look out for what’s best for taxpayer’s dollars,” board president Danny Wise said.

Thigpen brought a contracted affiliate of Zurich, Mike Windham, who works with him. Windham said he has noticed that the situation between Cullom and Thigpen seems to be unusual.

“This really seems like a contest to me,” Windham said. “It’s something that I’m uncomfortable with. Grady has been here insuring the county for about 15 years. Usually if another company wants to insure a county, they bring a presentation and go out and find a company to quote, then compete instead of coming in from another angle and ask for an agent’s letter of record. To me… there are ethical issues that can come up.”

Windham said that in the end who the supervisors want to represent Zurich will be their decision.

More deliberation took place between the two representatives, since both want to represent Zurich Insurance Company and the county. Thigpen said he had no problem with the presence of competition, but he would like the board to wait until the renewal period comes up, which is soon.

After more discussion concerning county workers not working safely and who’s fault it may or may not be, District IV Supervisor Robert Thigpen, no kin to Grady Thigpen, suggested to let the two companies bid on the renewal of the insurance policy.

At this point Cullom added one last comment before he stormed out of the meeting.

“I can tell right now that politics is involved completely up here in Pearl River County,” Cullom said.

“You’re talking to politicians,” Thigpen said.

“Let me tell you something though, why don’t you make the right decision for the taxpayers of the county. We’re not talking about an apple and an orange here. This man here is bringing in an insurance policy,” Cullom said of Grady Thigpen. “A monkey with a head wound can bring in an insurance policy, I’m talking about providing you with a service.

“But I can tell you right now you’re not getting any services right now for what you’re paying, and what I’m saying is I can come in here and help Mr. Sherman do his job.” Cullom said. “I just don’t understand people, insurance is not a commodity folks. It’s not like buying sugar and pork rinds. Now I’m getting sick and tired of this, we come in and try to do the right thing.

“If you elect to continue to move on in that direction, that’s fine, but I can tell you now, I will tell anybody, don’t fool with going to Pearl River County, and don’t talk about coming up here to have coffee and hang out and hobnob with ya’ll. I got work to do. I’m on a time line. When I set an appointment, I’m going to come up here and accomplish some work.”

Then Cullom stormed out of the board room and took his associate with him.

“The only thing this man did was make it easier for some people in here to do what they want to do in the first place,” District I Supervisor Anthony Hales said about Cullom’s outburst.

Even after Cullom’s rant, Robert Thigpen suggested inviting him back to give a quote after sending him a loss record.

The Solid Waste Plan hearing will be held soon with the exact date to be advertised in the paper. Previously there was some debate about each and every vehicle being weighed in and out to ensure that proper tonnage is recorded. Waste Management Regional Manager Mike Hall said that ever since he has started the process, it has caused long lines.

“It is beyond my comprehension why we would want to do that. The only reason we are doing it is so (the tonnage reports) can’t get twisted around,” Hall said.

Hall also wanted to see if the board would go ahead and advertise for the Solid Waste Plan public hearing to start the process moving forward concerning Waste Management’s footprint and coverage area expansions.

The current contract the county has with Waste Management has met with some scrutiny from some members of the Solid Waste Advisory Committee.

“If we feel we don’t have a good enough contract, then we need to negotiate that contract,” Hales said.

Hales made a motion to hold the public hearings, which the board approved, to get the process moving forward.

The board went into executive session on personnel matter in the Planning and Building Division and insurance agency matters. No decisions were made on the matters.

In other business the board;

— Approved the board president to sign the Mississippi Department of History and Archives Grant for $16,000 to do an evaluation of the needed repair work with the application to be taken to Jackson for approval.

— Approved using Compton Engineering firm to proceed with solid waste amendment hearing.

— Approved awarding the bid to Matco Construction for about $87,000 for box bridge and approach road work on Dupont Harts Chapel Rd.

— Approved joint application for Coastal Impact Assistance Grant funds to help initiate the Comprehensive Storm Water Management Plan under the Pearl River County Utility Authority.

— Approved advertising for bids for AS 400 computer updates.

— Approved using $1,000 from the District 2 recreation fund for sod.

— Approved adding to the minutes an attorney general’s opinion pertaining to $3 dollar per case charge to defendants in justice court.

The next meeting is 9 a.m. Monday, Oct. 23.