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Personnel committee split on insurance provider

Published: Thursday, June 5, 2014 8:57 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, June 6, 2014 10:06 a.m. CDT

MORRIS – A lawsuit has been threatened, personal attacks have been hurled and special meetings have been called, but the saga involving the county’s insurance broker is still not over.

Several Grundy County Personnel Committee and Grundy County Board meetings in the last month have centered on the county’s move to switch from Morris and Joliet-based Northern Insurance Group to Rockford-based Williams-Manny Insurance Group.

Although it had voted to switch to Williams-Manny at past meetings, the personnel committee changed course Thursday and positively recommended a one-year contract with Northern Insurance, but the committee was by no means in consensus.

The recommendation passed with Ken Iverson and Millie Dyer voting in favor, John Almer abstaining for personal reasons and David Welter and Vicki Geiger voting against it.

Grundy County Board Chairman Ron Severson issued a tie-breaking vote in favor of the contract to "get it to the full board." 

It will go before the full board Tuesday at the Grundy County Board meeting.

The one-year contract was drafted by the Grundy County State’s Attorney’s Office after multiple meetings were held with Northern Insurance representatives during the last month.

According to State’s Attorney Jason Helland, Northern Insurance representatives threatened to sue the county if it terminated its business with Northern.

“I think one of our priorities should be to avoid a lawsuit,” Iverson said during the meeting.

Helland and Assistant State’s Attorney Perry Rudman echoed Iverson’s sentiment and recommended the county enter into the one year contract with Northern to avoid a lawsuit.

The county currently has no written contract with Northern, but an implied contract where services are provided and a fee is paid.

Rudman, who worked on the contract, said it provides a long list of requirements that will be expected of Northern. It also includes a clause where the county can terminate Northern at will as long as it provides 60-day notice.

“They have to perform,” Rudman said.

Several county employees attended the meeting, which was moved into the full board chambers to accommodate the crowd.

Throughout the meeting, employees voiced their concerns to the committee with several claiming the county did not have the employee’s interest at heart.

Others questioned the relationship between Human Resource Director Debra Johnson and potential broker Williams-Manny.

“It’s very concerning,” one audience member said.

Geiger addressed their concerns admitting that the state’s attorney’s office launched an investigation into Johnson’s past employers to try and find a connection between her and Williams-Manny.

The office found no connection between the two.

Geiger said Johnson pursued Williams-Manny because they came “highly recommended” from other counties and human resource directors.

“Phone calls were made to her previous employers but they found nothing,” Geiger said.

Iverson, along with members of the audience, criticized the personnel committee for creating some of the hostility between Northern and board members.

At one point, several in the audience urged Geiger to step down from the committee since they felt she was taking the issue with Northern personally.

“Why don’t you just step down?” a chorus of members said.

The full board will meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

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