Brownsville Independent School District Terminates Insurance Consultant’s Contract

January 07, 2011 2:17 PM
By GARY LONG, The Brownsville Herald

The Brownsville Independent School District Board of Trustees voted 4-3 Thursday night to terminate the consultant for the district’s $40 million self-funded employee health plan in a vote the losing side characterized as illegal.

The board voted to immediately terminate Gary Looney of Alamo Insurance Group as the district’s insurance consultant and put out requests for qualifications for a new consultant.

“This is an illegal act as well as a waste of taxpayer money,” said Joe Colunga, who was chairman of the board’s insurance committee at the time Looney was hired. “No case has been made of any wrongdoing. This makes no business sense.”

Looney was hired in August 2009, and his consultant contract was renewed last summer for an annual fee of $55,000. He was responsible for providing analysis of proposals from firms wanting to be the third-party administrator for the district’s health insurance plan.

Under Looney’s guidance the board awarded the contract for third-party administration of the health plan to Oklahoma-based Mutual Assurance Administrators. Supporters say the move saved BISD an estimated $9 million in lower claim costs over the previous third-party administrator, AAG HealthSmart Inc.

Board president Catalina Presas-Garcia put on the agenda the item calling for discussion, consideration and possible action regarding Looney’s contract. At the meeting, however, she said trustee Luci Longoria first made the request to her.

Colunga said the item was illegal because it was placed on the agenda by a board member rather than BISD administration.

Longoria moved to terminate Looney’s contract and Presas-Garcia seconded. Those two voted for the motion along with trustees Enrique Escobedo and Christina Saavedra. Colunga and trustees Minerva Peña and Rolando Aguilar voted against.

Responding to Colunga’s contention that no case for wrongdoing had been made against Looney, Longoria said she moved to terminate him because she didn’t like the job he was doing.

“Even (previous board attorney Mike) Saldaña said we can terminate someone for good cause,” Longoria said. “Our good cause is lack of trust and confidence.”

Peña said firing Looney is a waste of taxpayers’ money.

“He’s already been paid,” she said. “He loses nothing. I have a real big problem with this. He has eight months to go on his contract.”

Aguilar said terminating Looney was uncalled for after he saved the district $9 million through lower claims costs.

Meanwhile, BISD is suing HealthSmart to recover $14.5 million in higher medical claims and thousands more in allegedly improper charges during the two years it administered the employee health plan.

At the beginning of the meeting, Presas-Garcia asked to have two items removed from consideration that would have discussed district finances as they relate to an impending state budget crisis.

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