The Board of Commissioners passed the contract for new benefits consultant Resurgens Risk Management by a 2-1 vote Tuesday morning after heated discussion about transparency and campaign contributions.
Commissioner JaNice Van Ness voted against the contract and initially asked to defer the matter.
“I don't feel like it's a fair transparent process,” she said. She pointed out that Resurgens had donated to Chairman Richard Oden’s campaign, although the check was returned.
Another cause for concern was that Resurgens had hosted a campaign event for Commissioner Oz Nesbitt.
“While it wasn't listed on that disclosure, it should be because that was an in-kind. They contributed space for his event,” said Van Ness.
Commissioner Oz Nesbitt disagreed. “Everything is clear and out in the open. Anyone in this audience can go to campaign disclosures and pull anything they want to pull.”
As for the campaign event, he said, “This is not against the ethics law, which governs the state.”
Van Ness said, “That doesn’t make it right… It's a judgment issue.”
Nesbitt asked about campaign contributions she had received from current insurance broker Nuvision in the past.
“They gave to all the commissioners who sat here before, including you,” Nesbitt said.
“It wasn't during a bid process,” Van Ness said.
Nuvision had previously been with the county for more than two decades but had a contract with the county only in the last several years.
Tony Wilson of Nuvision later said the county had never asked him for a contract previously.
Nesbitt said, “All this you brought here this is a bunch of nonsense based upon the fact this company has contributed to each and every commissioner in the past.”
Van Ness objected to Chief of Staff Greg Pridgeon’s role as one of the four evaluators since his son had previously worked at Resurgens until August 2011. If Pridgeon’s scores were taken out, it would change the ranking of the bids, she said.
Resurgens Risk Management received the highest average score in the evaluation, 427.5, followed by Wells Fargo Insurance Corp. at 413.75 and Nuvision Financial Corp. at 412.25.
Van Ness said there was no consideration or points given for being a local company in the evaluation.
Nesbitt said the staff had recommended this bid and he was prepared to move forward with it.
After the vote, Van Ness said during board comments, “Shame on the two of you for your decision today.” She said she would like to have a policy requiring campaign contribution disclosures before contract votes.
Oden said in his remarks, “We made a decisive decision today and will continue to do so.”
The county put its insurance brokerage services out to bid last fall and received eight bid offers in January of this year.
The one-year contract would award a $60,000 flat fee per year instead of the typical 2-5 percent commission off the gross premiums, or about $120,000 - $300,000 with Rockdale’s gross premiums of about $6 million.