Board to rebid health insurance

Published 10:25 am Wednesday, December 7, 2016

After voting to go into closed session to discuss personnel at its Nov. 8 meeting, the Charlotte County Board of Supervisors made the unorthodox move of meeting in the corner with a likely competitor on the upcoming county employee health insurance procurement.

Earlier in the meeting, County Administrator R.B. Clark said the broker for county employee health insurance had sold out to a Virginia Beach company. Clark said, “… the company in Virginia Beach was not the company that we interviewed.”

County records show this insurance broker contract was awarded in August 2015 to Commonwealth Insurance Agents of South Hill based upon a proposal submitted by Marie Walker, and the broker is paid a 3 percent commission on health insurance premiums.

Clark read from guidance received from County Attorney Russell Slayton, who advised that a Request for Proposal (RFP) process under the Virginia Procurement Act must be followed to change insurance brokers.

Supervisor Garland Hamlett then stated, “Mr. [Robert] Laine and Mr. [Sam] Irby, with the insurance industry are here and I think it may be a proper thing for [them to] come to speak and address the board.” At this invitation, Laine, of Keysville, and Irby, of Kenbridge, quickly moved to the podium prepared to speak.

Clark appeared concerned and during the following discussion said, “But I don’t think having one of the competitors get up here is proper based on what he [Slayton] said.”

After much discussion and without allowing the insurance agents to speak, the board voted 4-1 to issue an RFP for health insurance brokerage services. Supervisor Royal Freeman voted no.  Chairman Haywood Hamlet and Supervisor Gary Walker abstained for undisclosed reasons.

Chairman Hamlet then said, “Let us dismiss, we’re gonna go into closed session to discuss a personnel matter, but as we go in if you [Laine and Irby] wanna say something, then that’d be fine.” 

Later, Chairman Hamlet asked for a motion to go into closed session and stated to the board: “And as you get up after this, let’s let Mr. Irby have a quick moment with us going back there.”

The board then voted unanimously to go into closed session to discuss personnel. The microphones and recording were turned off. Rather than leaving the room as normal for a closed session, the supervisors huddled in the corner behind the raised platform with Laine and Irby speaking to them.

Was this corner meeting a closed session that violated state law as supervisors unanimously voted and attested that the sole purpose of the closed session was to discuss personnel? Or was it an open session and, if so, why did supervisors move out of earshot of the public in an apparent move to hide the discussion from the public?

Terry Ramsey is a guest columnist, a 1967 graduate of Randolph-Henry High School and a resident of Charlotte Court House. He can be reached at