Board has voted to restart process
LAFAYETTE — In September, the Lafayette Parish School Board spent $2,485 in legal fees related to its attorney’s research and advice on the board’s selection of a health insurance administrator.
An invoice from the board’s special counsel, Hammonds, Sills, Adkins & Guice shows the board spent a total of $9,113.25 in legal services for September. At least $2,485 in those fees were directly linked to the health insurance administrator selection.
The selection has been a contentious issue for district employees, retirees and the rejected companies who raised concerns about the fairness and transparency of the process.
On Oct. 22, the board voted to restart the process and at its meeting Wednesday, members will discuss having district staff get work started on a new request for proposals in January.
Typically, district staff oversees the request for proposal process while a paid consultant assists an insurance advisory committee in its recommendation to the board for an administrator.
Last year, the board opted to divert from its normal practice and hire its own consultant to request and review proposals and make a recommendation on a company to take over claims management of its self-funded health insurance plan for employees.
The process got a late start this year with a paid consultant hired in June, Rina Tikia, of Tikia Consulting Group, of Metairie. Tikia recommended Key Benefits Administrators for the job, however, the board rejected her recommendation at its Sept. 18 meeting.
Attorneys and a paralegal clocked 12 hours of work at a cost of $2,225 related to the administrator selection issue on Sept. 18 — the day the board rejected the recommendation.
In an opinion letter, attorney Charles Hardie advised board members that based on its review, it had two options: either select Key Benefits or start the process over.
Hardie wrote the board’s current administrator, Blue Cross Blue Shield, should not be considered as an option because it submitted an incomplete proposal and other companies that submitted incomplete proposals were disqualified.
Hardie further advised that if the board opted to restart its search, that it clearly outline the process and how proposals lacking requested information will be handled.
School Board President Shelton Cobb has requested that staff create a timeline for the request for proposals and selection process and present it to the board by its second meeting in January.
Board member Hunter Beasley, who pushed the board hiring its own consultant to request and review proposals, said he was unable to attend the Oct. 22 meeting due to work, but supported the board’s decision to start the process over.
“I’m not disappointed,” he said Monday. “If we can start all over and have it come up real early in the year, that way people can’t complain about it being right at the last minute.”
It’s still unclear how much the consulting services performed by Tikia will cost the board.
Last week, Superintendent Pat Cooper said he’d make a recommendation for Tikia’s payment for the work she’s done so far, but Cooper said Monday that he’s awaiting word from Tikia’s attorney.
“We have asked her attorney to send us a demand letter that would specify what they think we owe her,” he said.