BOCC back and forth on county insurance

By Soncirey Mitchell
Reader Staf

The Bonner County commissioners were able to approve several bits of new business — mainly regarding Road and Bridge rock crushing contracts and Bonner County Waterways funding — even though much of the March 5 meeting was spent rehashing months-long arguments over county insurance and the fairgrounds and readiness center property rezoning [see Page 4].

Due to frequent litigation, commissioners have spent more than six months struggling to obtain stable insurance for the county. The current coverage under Redman Insurance ends in October, and, in the words of Commissioner Asia Williams, “We begged 30-day increments [to extend coverage] three separate times to when they gave in and said, ‘Fine, we’ll give you a full policy until October.’”

Against Williams’ advice, Commissioners Luke Omodt and Steve Bradshaw are currently seeking to change insurance providers well before the October deadline. To that end, County Risk Manager Christian Jostlein contacted Idaho Farm Bureau, Western Community Insurance agent Bea Speakman on Oct. 30, 2023, to request a tailored proposal for property insurance. Speakman attended the March 5 meeting to present her policy to the board and the public but was ultimately unable to speak due to an argument between Omodt, Bradshaw and Williams, who stated that she had not seen a copy of the proposed policy.

“Bonner County staff — to include myself and the risk manager — have not received the policy. It has been requested,” said Williams. 

Williams maintained that she would not listen to Speakman’s presentation without first seeing the policy, later addressing Omodt, “you are ignoring elected officials and key players — to include a broker, who tried to present to you the risks and benefits of making a decision to drop insurance that we already paid for and buy a different form of insurance, outside of our budget line, that would negatively impact not just the dollar amount but the reputational risk of doing so.”

“I find it unfortunate that you believe that saving the county hundreds of thousands of dollars, while improving coverage for the taxpayer, could be possibly deemed to be inappropriate,” Omodt said.

Deputy Prosecutor Bill Wilson testified that he had not reviewed the contract, bolstering William’s protests — which Omodt called an attempt to “filibuster.”

“Does a contract exist? I myself have not seen one. If so, why would it have not been produced for everybody?” Wilson asked. 

Omodt explained that Speakman had been working with the county’s Risk Management Department and broker but had not sent out the proposed policy as it was still under revision. Following a back and forth between the commissioners and Wilson, Omodt called for a recess, during which time he privately spoke to legal counsel and agreed to postpone Speakman’s presentation pending a legal review of the policy.

“I will bring to the public’s attention that today was the third time that Mrs. Speakman from Farm Bureau had been here, and all of these proposals were emailed to our risk manager. They were available,” said Omodt. “And Mrs. Speakman has graciously said that she is so confident in her project that she will return a fourth time… I too am that confident in the project, and I too am resolute in doing my job.”


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