Sparks fly between city mayor, councilwoman battle over insurance brokers

Fireworks of a verbal kind exploded at City Hall Tuesday.

City Councilwoman Liz Miele, chairwoman of council’s finance committee, asserted Mayor Gabriel J. Campana has been colluding with an incumbent insurance provider, Henry Dunn Inc, of Towanda.

Campana recently removed a request for proposals with other brokers on purpose, Miele said. Henry Dunn provides liability coverage to the city. Another agency is the workers’ compensation insurer.

“It is depressing the mayor was this dishonest and colludes with people who supply the city with services,” Miele said. “It’s ludicrous,” she said, adding the expense has cost several thousand dollars.

Dunn provides executive-level employment for Steven W. Cappelli, a longtime confidant of the mayor.

Cappelli was a former city mayor, former state representative and was recently hired as borough manager of South Williamsport.

Cappelli also serves as chairman of the Williamsport Municipal Water Authority, a position nominated by the sitting mayor.

“My response is it sounds like some person is making accusations that the Russians helped me win three mayoral elections,” Campana said, referencing allegations that Russia colluded with President Donald Trump in the 2016 election.

“She verbally attacked me,” Campana said in response to Miele’s assessment of the mayor’s performance.

“You better be careful because you are going to be sued,” Campana said to Miele. Both got near each other’s faces as others watched.

“She has assassinated my character, values and morals,” Campana told the Sun-Gazette later in the hallway.

Council has a right and a need to evaluate its insurance provision because in the past insurance agencies have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and not met the city’s needs, said Councilman Randall J. Allison, a member of the committee. “It is costing significant amounts of money,” he said.

“I think they are referring to the cost to put it together for the past two years and the potential savings and additional services that could be provided,” said William E. Nichols Jr., city finance director, when asked to estimate and quantify the “significant” amounts of money the council members referred to.

Jill Nagy, an attorney and the city insurance consultant, said she heard about the heated exchange. She confirmed the request for proposals required the city to step back and re-evaluate various brokers’ questions.

“Once we got into doing it potential (brokers) asked a lot of good questions as far as data compilation,” Nagy said. “We’re kind of stepping back so it can be more meaningful in the future to do it again.”

Re-evaluation will help the city to compile more data on insurance needs that is the “right fit for the city,” she said.

It also could allow existing brokers to supply the city with more data in the next couple of months, she added.

There’s a “short (time) window” to get the insurance company bids out for next year, Nagy said.

“Of late, the hallmark of the mayor’s office is to wait things out and then make some desperate 11th hour proposal that takes us off track or, as has been noted, disrupted much of the time and hard work others have done,” Councilman Don Noviello told the Sun-Gazette.

“This is getting quite old and is obviously very counter productive to moving the city along,” Noviello said. “I think we keep pressing the matter until the mayor can commit to some meaningful action.”

“The brokers can submit questions in writing, but of course that makes the discussion less interactive,” Council President Jonathan Williamson said of recently-cancelled meetings and pull-backs by the mayor.

Williamson said of the issued request for proposals, the city is choosing a broker that can provide a variety of services and who charges a commission.

A broker’s commission is calculated as a percentage of the insurance premiums the city pays to the insurance company with the broker’s guidance, Williamson said.

A low commission percentage-low service broker could end up shopping for and finding more expensive insurance, which would cost the city more money than a high service-higher commission percentage broker, he said.

The goal of the city is to select a broker that offers the best combination of services, and likely to lead to a lower insurance premium and commission percentage to fit the city needs, Williamson said.

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