The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

February 24, 2013

Commissioners divided over shifting insurance

EBENSBURG — In a split vote, the Cambria County commissioners have agreed to shift a contract for insurance services from an Ebensburg-based firm to a Johnstown company.

The recent switch of the county’s excess workers’ compensation program fund from the Ebensburg Insurance Agency to Arthur J. Gallagher Risk Management of Johnstown is the third insurance-related contract the commissioners have awarded to the firm. Until 2011, Gallagher was the Gleason Insurance Agency.

The change is being made because the Gallagher firm likely will benefit county residents through savings, board chairman Douglas Lengenfelder said.

“We’re going to net a $200,000 savings,” Lengenfelder said. “They’ve already started saving us thousands of dollars.”

The thousands of dollars already saved is in reference to two insurance-related contracts shifted to Gallagher in 2012.

In late May, Lengenfelder and Mark Wissinger named the Gallagher firm as the county’s insurance broker, instead of continuing with an Ebensburg firm headed by Carl “Buddy” DeYulis.

In January 2011, Gallagher bought out Gleason Insurance and Gleason Financial, but Robert A. Gleason and brother Christopher Gleason continued to be associated with the firm.

As with this latest shift, Commissioner Thomas Chernisky, the Democratic minority commissioner, opposed the move. He cited the eight years that DeYulis has been providing good service for the county.

He termed the awards as “hand delivering business,” to Gallagher, “When Ebensburg Insurance has done nothing wrong to lose this business.”

Cambria County insurance again was on the agenda in October when – in another split vote and over the protest of county employees –  commissioners approved a contract with Gallagher Benefit Services Inc., a subsidiary of Arthur J. Gallagher.

At a cost of $100,000, the company took over as health care consultants to the county. That service formerly was provided at no cost by a county-employee-based health care committee.

Lengenfelder said at that time that Gallagher’s services will result in a $300,000 annual savings in health care costs, or there will be a reduction in Gallagher’s fees.

Chernisky wants to see the county shop around by seeking bids for the insurance contracts.

“We’re telling vendors sometimes we shop, sometimes we don’t,” he said.

While the county code calls for the commissioners to seek competitive bids for many purchases, insurance contracts are considered professional services and can be awarded without bids, officials said.

Moving the contracts to Gallagher brings with it decades of insurance experience, Lengenfelder said.

This latest action has caught the attention of Jake Sternberger, a Harrisburg-based blogger who categorized the insurance shuffle as payback for state GOP Chairman Rob Gleason’s work to gain Republican control of the Cambria courthouse with the 2011 election of Lengenfelder and Wissinger.

But county Controller Ed Cernic Jr., a lifelong Democrat, said contract shifts by Republicans  – to likely benefit a company owned by Republicans – doesn’t necessarily have a negative impact on the county.

“There’s politics in everything, and there has been politics when Democrats have taken over in the past,” Cernic said.

 “Is this politics? Yeah.”

He cited an example when Democrats P.J. Stevens and Milan Gjurich gained the majority from Republicans Kathy Holtzman and Wissinger.

A contract for insurance held by the then-Gleason agency was discontinued, Cernic said. Officials determined the contract unnecessary and did not move it to another agency.

“I don’t have a problem with politics as long as the end result benefits the taxpayers. Then I’m all for it,” Cernic said.

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat print edition.

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat e-edition.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local News
  • District Deaths July 31, 2014

    July 30, 2014

  • Smaller payout to seniors urged

    State Lottery officials say less means more for seniors.

    July 29, 2014

  • Portage ambulance aid will add portable CPR device, other tools

    Federal funding awarded to Portage Area Ambulance Association will soon put “a third man” alongside their two-person crews when emergencies occur, ambulance operations manager Edward Nelson said.

    July 29, 2014

  • paint_twp building Paint Township considers offering part of building for rent

    Four years after Paint Township built an addition at the Basin Drive building to house its growing police department, much of the new space likely will be offered for rent this fall because the township supervisors say it's no longer needed.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Old Rockwood hotel will soon be history

    The historic – but dilapidated – Merchants Hotel in Rockwood is expected to be razed soon.
    On Tuesday, Somerset County’s three commissioners unanimously agreed to a demolition plan for the building, which was constructed in the 1880s. The arrangement calls for a private citizen, William Nair, to tear down the structure at 703 Main St. in exchange for being allowed to keep any salvageable materials.

    July 29, 2014

  • Tribune Treasure!

    July 30, 2014

  • ATV blast ready to roll at Rock Run

    Organizers are keeping the spirit of the Fisher’s ATV Reunion at Rock Run Recreation Area alive despite losing the support of the award-winning Outdoor Channel TV show “Fisher’s ATV World.” Now called the Rock Run ATV Summer Blast, the event will continue to offer demonstration rides, motor competitions, product vendors, live music, camping and trail riding.

    July 29, 2014

  • Culvert 1 Preservationists use age-old method at historic site

    Preservation work on two historic culverts associated with the Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site has been completed. The culverts were reconstructed using a variety of techniques, including dry stone masonry, which was used to build the culverts more than 180 years ago.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Local briefs 7/30/2014

    July 29, 2014

  • Officer, civilian motorist injured in crash

    A Johnstown police officer who was responding to an emergency and one other driver were taken to the hospital after they were injured in a three-vehicle accident around 5:40 p.m. Tuesday on Railroad Street at the intersection with Clinton Street and Church Avenue.
    The Johnstown Fire Department said that the three occupants of the third vehicle were not injured.
     

    July 29, 2014

Poll

What is the biggest key to reducing gun violence in Johnstown?

Tackling the area's drug problem.
Controlling folks moving into city housing.
Monitoring folks in treatment centers and halfway houses.
Tougher sentencing by the court system.
More police on the streets.

     View Results
House Ads