In July, MoreThanTheCurve.com submitted a right-to-know request for information involving how the Borough of Conshohocken buys its insurance. Our interest was sparked earlier in the year when there was a vote to authorize the Borough Manager, then Richard Manfredi, to buy insurance through an insurance broker named Cohen Partners.
From the March 15, 2017 minutes:
Mr. Manfredi then explained that he had asked Council at the work session for authorization to bind the Borough for insurance for the year beginning April 1, 2017 through 2018. He shared that he and Ms. Cecco, the Assistant to the Borough Manager, had been working with Cohen Partners to justify all the Borough’s
premiums and shared that the annual cost will be within two thousand dollars of the current year’s premium that is expiring. The renewal will be $608, 307.00. Mr. Manfredi also requested that Council authorize the binding of the insurance for the 2017 renewal at a number to not exceed the $608, 307.00, with the premiums to the broker to not exceed $31, 507.80, in broker fees. Travelers Insurance would provide the insurance with the exception of the worker’s compensation for the volunteer fire company and the Pennsylvania State Workers Insurance Fund.
Ms. Barton made a motion to bind the insurance with Travelers and the State Workers Insurance Fund at $608, 307.00 with the commissions at $31, 507.80, seconded by Ms. Sokolowski. The motion carried 7-0.
Cohen Partners is an interesting choice for a no-bid contract (and insurance legally doesn’t have to be bid). Conshohocken’s Borough Council has a six to one Democratic Party majority. An employee of Cohen Partner is Jason Salus. Salus is a former member of Conshohocken’s Borough Council, currently the elected Montgomery County Treasurer, and the Area Leader for the Democratic Party for Conshohocken, Plymouth Township and Whitemarsh Township.
From the Cohen Partners’ website:
From the Montgomery County Democratic Party website:
The position we want to focus is his role as Area Leader for the Democrats. In this role, Salus seeks out people to run for office, has a hand in selecting who can and can’t run for office in Conshohocken, etc. He is basically the local party boss.
So, back to the right-to-know. We asked for the following information:
(1) Name, company name, and address of any broker that has supplied or is supplying any insurance to the municipality from 2007 through present;
(2) Copies of all solicitations for bids to supply any municipal insurance policies from 2007 through present; and copies of any written or electronic communications and/or documents exchanged between any municipal employee, contractor or elected official, and anyone employed or contracting with an insurance broker having to do with the preparation of such solicitations for bids;
(3) Copies of all responses and/or bids submitted in response to any solicitation for bid to supply municipal insurance submitted between 2007 and the present;
Revision – Do not want the actual proposed policy, just the correspondence that came with it.
(4) All written and electronic communications between any municipal employee, contractor and /or elected official and any employee of any insurance company supplying insurance to the municipality;
(5) All invoices for all municipal insurance policies between 2007 and the present.
Revision – We do not want copies of past or current insurance policies.
The Borough of Conshohocken was unable to respond to the vast majority of this request. You can read the full response here, but all we got was the name of two insurance brokers (not the years) and invoices from 2015-2017.
The reason we sought this documentation was to learn when Cohen Partners became the Broker of Record for the Borough and if there was a bid process when the switch was made from the prior broker. As you will read in the response from the Borough, that information is either lost or not retained.
So where does that leave us? Six Democrats voted to award their party boss’ employer a no-bid contract worth a $31,507.80 commission and the lone Republican doesn’t seem to be paying close enough attention to raise an objection (he even voted for it).
Again, none of this is illegal (unless someone received something in return for their vote and were not suggesting anyone got an envelope full of cash). However, the fact that local elected officials made a major purchase from the employer of their “Area Leader” is something that absolutely needs to be questioned. The fact that not one member of the seven member board raised any concern is troublesome.
So let us know in the comments what you think. Should this be an issue in the upcoming election? Is this a classic case of it may not be illegal, but it stinks? Or is this much ado about nothing? Also, how do you feel about the Borough’s inability to produce the requested records?