After giving Lexington-based Roeding Insurance a 90-day trial run in order to compare its service and rates to that of longtime insurer Chenault and Hoge, the Frankfort City Commission voted 4-1 Monday night to take its business back to St. Clair Street.
The decision was the right one, but the controversy illustrated a clear need for better communication by elected officials with city staff, who believed they were working in the best interest of taxpayers.
After months of unnecessary conflict, the vote may have felt like a hollow victory for Chenault and Hoge, which had the plug pulled on its 54-year relationship with City Hall in October.
At the onset of Monday night's discussion, Commissioner Katrisha Waldridge said the two companies were similar but added that what swung her vote was city staff's assessment of how they worked with each agency. She told fellow elected officials that “there were huge differences in those and that’s what means the most to me,” but she did not offer details.
“The city manager’s position in hiring someone new was the best decision for our city,” she said.
Prior to Monday’s meeting City Solicitor Laura Ross was tasked with compiling answers to 55 questions posed by elected officials about both insurance providers and the process used in the original decision to switch agencies. Ross printed out the answers and put them in binders for the commission to review.
The State Journal is in the process of obtaining a copy of the materials in the binders, but, according to Waldridge, one anonymous staff member stated that Roeding was better prepared and offered more services than Chenault and Hoge.
While Waldridge said she had no qualms with either insurance agency and that her decision came down to “integrity," she did not elaborate further.
Fellow Commissioner Eric Whisman called Waldridge out, saying the binders’ contents contain “one glowing review, but there were many that had accolades of either.”
A "buy local" philosophy by elected leadership is admirable and appreciated, but it should have been communicated a year ago when the current commission was seated. Such clear direction in the future will save time and energy for a staff otherwise charged with seeking the best deal for taxpayers — and will head off the need for micromanagement and second-guessing after decisions are made.
The outcome is the right one: Hometown Chenault and Hoge will be the city’s agent of record through Oct. 20, 2021. But the turmoil leading up to Monday's decision was unnecessary and a disservice to both insurance agencies and to commission-staff relations.