Luck has nothing to do with it.
You’ve had far more than your fair share of fender benders.
And speeding tickets.
And blown stop signs.
And improper lane changes.
You’re making too many trips to the auto body repair shop.
The medical bills are mounting.
When it comes to driving, you’re a mess.
To protect its shareholders and its other customers, the insurance company wants to drop your policy.
Only when you beg for reconsideration does the carrier relent.
But only to a point.
It will sell you a catastrophic policy.
Whenever you make a claim, your deductible will skyrocket.
Don’t like that?
Then you’ll have to submit.
Your agent will decide what you drive.
No more Corvettes. Get used to an Accord.
No more deferred repairs on tail lights, windshield wipers, tires and brakes. You’ll face periodic inspections.
Not so many long-range trips.Your agent will decide how much you drive.
And if there is another licensed adult in the car, she takes the wheel, not you.
Nez Perce County Sheriff Joe Rodriguez could commiserate.
No, his driving isn’t under scrutiny.
Just the way he runs his office.
Rodriguez’s personnel management style already has led to a trio of complaints: Two before the Idaho Human Rights Commission allege sexual harassment and creating a hostile work environment, respectively. A wrongful termination lawsuit filed by former Undersheriff Bryce Scrimsher is seeking at least $1 million in damages.
And more complaints seem to be coming. At least that’s the view of the Idaho Counties Risk Management Program, the self-insurance pool of Idaho’s local governments.
Earlier last month, it was ready to cancel Rodriguez’s policy.
“During the past year, the string of claims and risk management requests for assistance regarding Nez Perce County Sheriff’s Office has grown to represent a very significant workload and cost burden for ICRMP,” Executive Director Timothy L. Osborne wrote in an Aug. 15 letter to the Nez Perce County commissioners. “ ... Insurance coverage is provided for those accidental happenings that inevitably occur in an uncertain world, but the insurance offerings of ICRMP cannot serve as a funding resource to compensate all who might be harmed as a result of conscious choices by any public official.”
As the Lewiston Tribune’s Tom Holm reported last month, Nez Perce County officials managed to retain the sheriff’s insurance coverage, but at a steep price.
As a rule, ICRMP pays successful claims or settlements against the county. There is no deductible on employment disputes. On property insurance claims, the county faces a $2,500 deductible.
All that is out the window as far as Rodriguez’s legal exposure is concerned.
On the first claim, the deductible is set at $15,000.
It rises to $30,000 on the second.
For third, it’s a $45,000 deductible.
Each and every subsequent claim requires the county to pay the first $60,000.
Fortunately, that does not apply to the jail or other aspects of the sheriff’s office involving the rights of citizens held in custody. But it does cover virtually every element of the sheriff’s dominion over his employees, including “wrongful termination, constructive discharge, retaliation, breach of employment contract, violation of due process rights relating to employment and/or any other constitutional or statutory rights, unlawful discrimination, harassment of any type, assault, battery, and/or claim resulting from or related to any type of unlawful or unfair employment practice.”
Talk about expensive. If there are four claims to be paid, the cost could be $150,000.
And there’s not enough cushion in Rodriguez’s $6.6 million budget to cover it. You can go without a couple of new cars to save $75,000. You can pull the sheriff’s cost of living pay increase to save almost $2,000. But you can’t close the jail and you can’t lay off patrol deputies.
If the bills rise, the money will come from the county’s general fund. The first to go could be discretionary dollars, such as the county’s intended investment in the airport or a new courthouse. After that, it’s the operations of county government — the commissioners, the treasurer, the auditor-recorder and the assessor — that may feel the pain.
There is an out, however.
ICRMP will waive the pricey deductibles if Rodriguez “has consulted with us before such employment action, including termination or suspension of employment, and has followed all reasonable advice provided by us or our assigned pre-loss attorney with respect to employment action.”
In other words, the insurance carrier is dictating how the Nez Perce County sheriff supervises his staff.
For the sake of the taxpayers, you better hope Rodriguez obeys. — M.T.