Florida Keys News - Key West Citizen
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
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Windstorm insurance, hotline demise on today's school agenda

Doing away with the controversial EthicsPoint whistleblower hotline, and renewing a windstorm insurance contract with broker Arthur J. Gallagher Risk Management Services, are on the agenda for today's meeting of the Monroe County School District.

"I think the history to date renders [the hotline] highly ineffective," Superintendent of Schools Mark Porter said Monday. "While I remain receptive to ideas for opening up different avenues for public consultation with district officials, to express their concerns, I will recommend to the board that we give the 30 days notice required, to EthicsPoint, to discontinue the service."

School Board Chairman Andy Griffiths agreed with Porter on the issue.

"I don't know of a case where such a hotline has been successful," Griffiths said. "If you're going to prosecute someone for wrongdoing, you need a witness. You don't have that with an anonymous hotline. If you do have a witness, then you can go down to the State Attorney's office and file a complaint."

On the matter of windstorm insurance, the district has little choice but to approve the package offered by Gallagher, Porter said.

"Windstorm insurance is a universally understood problem," Porter said. "It's not a highly competitive market, in terms of who provides it, so I'm not sure I can render a judgment on whether it's the best deal. It's a challenging area to navigate, but I do believe that our consultants are doing the best job they can to get us the best deal available."

Griffiths agreed with Porter, but for different reasons.

"I think everybody wants us to get that letter from FEMA stating that we're covered, but you have to have insurance for that," he said. "So, we're going to get as little insurance as we're required to qualify for federal aid. Besides, if we have $10 million worth of damage to our hurricane-proof buildings, there won't be anybody left alive down here to go to school."

On this issue, District 3 board member Ed Davidson concurred with Porter and Griffiths, and will vote in favor of renewing the contract.

"We're practically uninsured right now, but we still don't have much choice but to approve at this point. We have $309 million worth of buildings and facilities, and we have $2.5 million in insurance, and it isn't even the first $2.5 million. We have a $10 million deductible, and we only have about 20 days worth of reserve cash. The trouble with FEMA is that they don't pay right away. We need to pay for repairs up front to fix the buildings and get the kids back to school."

Other items to be discussed at the meeting include expansion of the parking lot at Horace O'Bryant Middle School, and the controversial Auditor General's report, which was released Wednesday, and includes a number of findings critical of the district's financial policies.

tschmida@keysnews.com

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