Delayed workers’ comp bill payment prompts Pahokee council revolt

PAHOKEE — Payment of a PGIT workmen’s compensation insurance bill to the city dating from five months ago will wait at least two more weeks after a motion to pay it immediately failed on a 3-2 vote at Tuesday night’s Pahokee City Commission meeting.

Preferred Governmental Insurance Trust, or PGIT, of Lake Mary sent the city an invoice dated Feb. 28 for a workmen’s comp (WC) insurance premium adjustment of $16,787 after audit results were processed in the first few months of fiscal 2020, which began Oct. 1, and found a large jump in payroll and other costs ascribed to fiscal 2019 (Oct. 1, 2018, through Sept. 30, 2019.)

City Manager Chandler Williamson had put the bill on the consent agenda for perfunctory approval July 28, and Vice Mayor Clara Murvin quickly made a motion to approve payment, with Commissioner Benny L. Everett III seconding.

When Mayor Keith Babb called for questions, Commissioner Regina Bohlen spoke, pointing to one word on the invoice, “quarterly.”

She questioned that matter and the resulting difference the audit results had made in the premium. Also, she pointed out that the invoice dates the policy under the “Transaction Description” as being for the period 10/1/2018–10/1/2020. The second page of the invoice shows that an increase in the city’s payroll and WC costs covered under the policy had been nearly $306,000.

Bohlen asked where that additional $306,000 was spent, and why the difference was so large between the “policy” and “audit results.” Williamson explained the $300,000-plus “is not straight payroll” — he said it includes WC costs that were non-payroll-related, such as payouts, the company’s claims experiences, etc.

“This premium is for what period?” Bohlen asked, pointing out that the invoice clearly stated 2018-2020 with the words “WC – Quarterly” appearing in the “Current Amount Due” line, leading her to surmise that this was not a final bill for the period.

“That’s a typo there. Oh, that should say ‘2019’ in the end part,” responded Williamson. “All these typos on an invoice…” started Bohlen. Murvin said, “I don’t see where it says it’s quarterly.” But Mayor Babb suggested Murvin amend her motion to hold off on payment until the city received a corrected invoice.

Everett said, “There are typos in it, but I think it would be in our best interest to pay the bill. This is a bill that we owe. Direct the city manager and staff to make sure, get a revised bill … but I do think we need to pay bills.”

Murvin jumped in, “I’m in agreement with that.”

Bohlen said: “And I disagree. I don’t believe in paying bills that are incorrect. We don’t know if this is quarterly or this is yearly, if it’s quarterly, I know the CM is saying that it’s not, but …”

Williamson snapped: “It’s not. It’s just a typo … we can change it.”

Bohlen stated: “I would think that you would have looked at it before you brought it to us.”

The manager answered: “OK. People make mistakes. I missed it. Sorry. I graciously apologize.” Bohlen retorted: “It was due on Feb. 28 and we’ve waited this long, I think we can wait long enough to get a real bill.”

The online “virtual” meeting fell silent for a few minutes.

Everett asked why payment of the bill was delayed so long. The manager explained, “Their audit takes a couple of months. Sometimes the bill comes early in the quarter … last year it came around May and we paid it a couple of months later. Based on our fund balance in our general account, sometimes we move money around until we know that we can cover this bill to ensure that it doesn’t affect anything else … I just don’t see one word holding up a bill that we already owe.”

Bohlen remarked, “And therein lies the problem.”

The cost had not been budgeted for, according to Williamson, so Everett suggested they correct that this year and perhaps seek new bids on WC insurance.

On the roll call vote, only Murvin and Everett voted to pay the bill immediately. Commissioner Felisia Hill joined Bohlen and Babb in voting “no.”

Mayor Babb directed Williamson to “have the necessary correction on the invoice and resubmit it to the commission for approval at next meeting.”

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