Canyon County has received notice that its insurance policy will not be renewed, according to communications obtained through public records requests.
The county has been enrolled in insurance from the Idaho Counties Risk Management Program, according to a copy of the most recent policy included as part of the records request. But the insurance company sent a letter to the county dated May 23, saying that the company’s board had decided to “non-renew” the county’s policy, and mentioned “numerous factors including adverse claim development and increasing risk exposures.” The county’s current policy will end at 12 a.m. on Oct 1, 2022, the letter said.
ICRMP is an insurance provider that covers various public entities in Idaho, including school districts, cities, and other counties, said Tim Osborne, executive director of the insurance company.
Canyon County Public Information Officer Joe Decker said the county’s elected officials are not able to offer comment at this time due to the ongoing situation.
“We are working to evaluate all options, including potential renewal with ICRMP and the potential acquisition of replacement coverage,” Decker said via email in a provided statement. “More information will be forthcoming when available.”
In a letter dated June 2 and addressed to Osborne and the board’s trustees, the county’s board of commissioners appears to informally appeal the non-renewal, saying, “the abruptness and comprehensiveness of this total separation, and the lack of warning or opportunity to cure any perceived issue, is shocking.”
“Although your notice alludes to ‘numerous factors’ that informed the decision, they are not identified with a specificity that would allow us to state any specific basis for our disagreement,” the letter reads.
“We are concerned that the interests and practical realities associated with governing the second-most populous county in Idaho, with approximately 1,000 employees and a budget in excess of $100,000,000 are markedly different (in scale if not substance) than those represented or routinely addressed by the Board of Trustees,” another part of the letter reads.
Canyon County officials also express concern in the letter that documentation provided about the county’s “loss history” is not accurate. The letter cites issues such as 25 of the claims being “unrelated to the county,” “the false equivocation of nuisance settlements with actual misconduct,” and “the costs associated in pursuit of legal strategies not dictated by the county.”
The letter also contends that Canyon County did not have representation in the decision because the District III seat on ICRMP’s board is vacant. County officials said in the letter that they would like the insurance company to “rescind” the letter, or amend it so that the county’s participation could continue through September 2023, at which time the policy would end, or be renewed “with mutually understood and agreeable terms.”
Tim Osborne, executive director of ICRMP, said in a phone interview that he could not elaborate on the reasons that the board voted to non-renew the policy. He said that his office is working to coordinate a meeting with Canyon County officials to go over the “documentation” of the reasons the board voted to non-renew. After that meeting, Canyon County officials could request a meeting with the board in open session about how to move forward, he said.
Osborne confirmed that the District III trustee’s seat is vacant following the death of Chairman Mark Shigeta. However, Shigeta was an active participant in the discussions leading up to the vote, Osborne said.
“I can say that Mark was involved with all of the decisions leading up to the non-renewal of Canyon County, and the board vote to non-renew Canyon County was unanimous,” Osborne said. Shigeta died about a week before the vote, he said. “If Mark had disagreed, he can make a vote, but the board would have outweighed him anyway on that.”
Materials included with the public records request showed that Commissioner Leslie Van Beek was already examining the county’s relationship with ICRMP and the county’s insurance agency, Hartwell, appearing to be exploring the possibility of replacing one or both.
In an email dated Oct. 6, 2021, Van Beek listed topics for inclusion in a “general” board meeting whose second item was “Reevaluation of the County’s risk management provider (ICRMP) and the RFP process – EO discussion.” “RFP” generally stands for “request for proposal,” and is a description of a project or service an entity wants that they will be accepting bids for. “EO” generally stands for “elected official(s).”
But in an email dated June 9, 2022, Smith wrote to Canyon County elected officials, including Van Beek, saying that Van Beek “is working outside of her legal authority by soliciting a competitor to compete with Hartwell (she states it’s to compete with ICRMP.)”
Smith goes on to say that Van Beek “doesn’t understand the difference between ICRMP and Hartwell after all this time in office and the different services they provide related to the County’s insurance.”
Hartwell is an insurance agency that helps customers interested in buying insurance get quotes from different insurance companies and choose the policy that is right for them, Osborne said. ICRMP is the insurance company insuring the county, while Hartwell is the insurance agency the county has used, he said.
In an email dated Sept. 30, 2021, a representative of Redman Insurance wrote Van Beek an email in which she says she is following up from a conversation in which Van Beek told her “Canyon County would be issuing an RFP for insurance services.”
Van Beek replied the next day, saying, “there is a lot of interest in reevaluating our contract with ICRMP.”
ICRMP was formed 37 years ago because it was difficult for counties and other public entities to secure insurance that “was stable and consistent for them,” Osborne said. Another advantage of ICRMP is that the insurance is comprehensive, whereas public entities going through other insurance providers may need to “piecemeal” several policies between several companies, he said.
However, some entities that have had a policy through ICRMP have sought other insurance options, he said. Other options are finding a different insurance company to provide coverage, or self-insuring, Osborne said. In the second option, an entity typically has to budget millions of dollars into a loss payment fund to cover any liability-related claims that arise, he said. Ada County uses this type of plan, he said.
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