The City Council is calling for an investigation after its members claimed the mayor, manager and other officials improperly withheld correspondence about the city’s fire insurance rating.
Council member Shannon Alvey released more than 20 pages of information she obtained from the Insurance Service Organization, a private company that collects data used by some insurance companies to calculate premiums.
The documents show Mayor John Proffitt, City Manager Mitch Moore and some department heads corresponded with ISO officials over a 10-month period without any public disclosure.
Council members previously had learned of one letter sent to the mayor from ISO in August 2005. Proffitt said that was an “oversight” and a mistake.
“A mistake is something you do once. Something that you do in what I see is 10 months of behavior — to me — is a pattern,” Alvey told The Daily Post Athenian in Athens.
“It would be my preference that this be looked at by someone of the caliber of the TBI (Tennessee Bureau of Investigation) or a law enforcement agency rather than just a committee or Council-appointed persons,” Alvey said.
Council members agreed unanimously last week to meet Nov. 28 to consider a possible investigation.
Moore last week apologized and said he meant to address the ISO situation with the City Council at a planning session in January, but failed to do so.
“It is one of my duties to keep this Council informed … (and) I failed to do this,” Moore said.
Moore said he would change policies in his office to make sure the council and public are better informed. He also apologized to city firefighters, and said his mistake “should not have any reflection on the Athens Fire Department, its employees or their abilities to suppress fires in this community.”
Council member Dick Pelley said apologies would not rectify a “cover-up” and he moved to force Moore’s resignation. The motion failed on a 3-2 vote, with Proffitt, Vice Mayor Bo Perkinson and newly-elected Council member Hal Buttram opposing the motion.
Proffitt did not return a telephone message seeking comment Wednesday.
Buttram said there was no personal motive for the ISO information being withheld and he disagreed with describing what happened as a “cover-up.” He said it was a “a grave oversight.”
Buttram said he wanted more information before calling for the city manager’s resignation.
Perkinson also said he needed more time to review the ISO documents.
“I’m surprised at the information,” Perkinson said. “It is something that is real significant to our community and I don’t want to underestimate its significance.”
Pelley said he would request that the city rescind a recently approved annexation of the Mt. Verd corridor, due partly to uncertainties about the city’s fire insurance classification.
“We’ve only scratched the surface,” Pelley said.
The ISO information shows Proffitt received three letters about a possible change in the city’s fire protection classification. The letters also warned that fire insurance premiums in the city could be affected.
Records show Moore also wrote two letters to ISO and met with an ISO field representative on Dec. 14, 2005. In Moore’s first letter to ISO on Sept. 9, 2005, he requested additional time to review a classification change.
“As you can well imagine, this will entail a lot of research and economic data for a budget that is already committed for this fiscal year,” Moore wrote at the time.
On April 17, 2006, Moore wrote ISO again, conceding the city could not prevent the fire classification from changing.
“The economics of the improvements does not justify trying to retain our current classification,” he wrote.
Information from: The Daily Post-Athenian, http://dpa.xtn.net
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