County awards insurance contract

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Representatives from Texas Association of Counties (TAC) and Lynn Kiecke Lackey & Eason (LKL) sparred in Austin County Commissioners Court Monday, seeking the contract for the county’s risk management insurance policy.

Ultimately TAC won the contract as commissioners voted 3-1 with Precinct 3 Commissioner Randy Reichardt opposed.

LKL was the current policy-holder, having taken it over from TAC, which previously provided the service for Austin County.

County employees cited communication problems with LKL, saying phone calls were not immediately returned.

“I think TAC spoiled us,” said Tinson Rasbury with the Austin County Auditor’s Office. “I say that I a positive way. We were used to getting communication back right away.”

Commissioner Reichardt, however, maintained that there was indeed a problem and it was with the county employees.

“The county didn’t contact them,” he said. “The county was the problem. The county dragged their feet. They didn’t get their stuff done. Every time you emailed [the LKL representative], he emailed you back.”

TAC’s bid was for $228,059, while LKL came in at $177,668, but Reichardt pointed out that the bids were not “apples to apples” comparisons since different coverage options were offered.

Kyle Freitag with LKL said his company offers savings but also higher limits and umbrella coverage. Out of nine claims this year to date, eight have been closed and paid out, LKL officials added. The communication problems existed early on because the county was used to working with a different provider and did not know that LKL representatives would be more easily reached by cell phone rather than in the office. All agreed that the communication improved over time.

“Our goal is to make everybody happy, so some clarification would be good,” said Garrett Dornon of LKL. “We can’t correct those issues if we don’t know what they are.”

TAC Risk Management Consultant Lisa McCaig and Underwriter Lucia Espinoza countered by providing information on their policies, noting that they offer extensive training and resources. They have a training simulator for law enforcement, which LKL does not.

“There’s training going on all the time to mitigate and prevent these types of incidents,” McCaig said. “Our attorneys are very aggressive in having something settled rather than going to court.”

None of the counties TAC represents have ever exhausted their policy limits when an incident occurred, Espinoza said.

Dornon said it was clear that the reason the matter went before commissioners is that “there’s problems with us.”

“We’d sure like a chance to respond to that,” he said. “It why we’re here. I think that’s fair.”

They didn’t get much of an answer, other than an implication that calls weren’t immediately returned.

Reichardt said he’d never had a problem contacting Freitag, who freely distributed his cell phone number.

“Sounds like our county needs some training as to who to get in touch with,” Reichardt said.

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