A number of professionals in risk management-type positions willingly talked with
"I'll say that a good risk manager can be a valuable asset for a government," one said. "Whether or not (Wright's) case was warranted ... it's not for me to say. There are a lot of variables to consider."
One other such professional did allow that it was "unusual" for anyone to receive a bonus based primarily on insurance savings, which was a large part of Wright's justification for requesting a bonus.
"Insurance is such a volatile industry," the risk manager said. "If you work with a broker or a consultant to shop for lower premiums, you may save your organization a ton of money over the short term. But have a bad year or two, and you better believe the premiums and the costs are going to increase sharply.
"There are just too many variables when it comes to group insurance."
Wright's request for an
While many in the community questioned whether Wright deserved such a bonus, there was one question that rose above all others in the aftermath of that episode: Just what is risk management?
Interim City Manager
"You look at
"I've only just begun to get a little deeper into the various departments of the city, and I expect to learn more about each as I spend more time in this office. But my sense of the
Wright is one of four employees in the city's risk management department. The department is budgeted for five employees, but only four are on the payroll. In addition to coordinating -- with the help of brokers and consultants -- costs of the city's insurance program, risk managers are also tasked with determining what action will help lessen the city's risk of lawsuits.
"Safety training is a big part of risk management," Berry said. "By conducting training and controlling risks, we're pre emptively diminishing the number of accidents. And as anyone knows, attorneys and some citizens will sue you at the drop of a hat."
Berry points to the ongoing complaint by an
"I won't talk about specifics because there is a court case, but forget about the potential cost (of lawsuits resulting from falling limbs)," Berry said. "Consider the potential injury. These are the kinds of things we have to look at to make sure citizens are safe."
"When we're made aware of a potentially dangerous situation -- a pothole on a county road, an issue with a sidewalk on county property -- part of risk management is mitigating the situation," McCoy said. "We certainly are much more likely to have a problem if we've been warned about a (potentially dangerous) situation and we do nothing about it.
"That's why training is so important."
So, too, is the input of consultants like
"Because the city of
Britt has also helped the county set up a "safety committee" made up of management-level employees who are "coached to be the eyes, ears, the role models" for safety training and awareness.
"By managing these safety issues internally,
McCoy said that, by utilizing the hybrid approach to employee insurance coverage, he's able to save money on premiums that allow him to utilize experts like Britt to manage the county's risk.
"This worked really well for us in the first year of using it (Fiscal Year 2014)," McCoy said. "We'll monitor it over the next three or four years to determine if this is the best approach for us. When you're working with a limited budget, these 'outside-the-box' ideas can have a big impact."
In light of the Wright situation, both Berry and city CFO
"I love incentives; they work," Berry said. "If employees' work helps the city decrease expenses and increase revenue, they deserve to be rewarded. I believe everyone should know up front what the structure for such a program is, but the bottom line is our employees must be aware that every penny they spend doing their job gets into the pockets of our citizens."
Brophy said city managers are looking at ways to make cuts of a targeted goal of
"The planning is vital, but the employees have to make that happen," she said. "The challenge we now face is finding a way to reach that goal and a way to include those employees in the -- for lack of a better word -- profit-sharing."
Time will tell if that's a risk worth taking.
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