The minority leader of the County Legislature objected unsuccessfully Thursday as a committee leader cut off discussion of a Youth Services Department request to enrich a contract for an insurance agency that has problems in collecting health insurance payments for the county services to children.
Legislator George Holt, chairman of the Social Services Committee, said he did not want the agency's performance scrutinized at an open session.
"I don't know why we can't have a discussion in public," objected Minority Leader Frederick J. Marshall, R-East Aurora.
Holt, D-Buffalo, said that he would ask Youth Services Commissioner Nathaniel Hare to brief Democrats and Republicans either before or during caucuses before next week's meeting.
"I think you are opening up a can of worms," said Holt.
William Greeley, Youth Services deputy commissioner for finance, reminded legislators that they awarded a contract starting in May 1997 to Calhoun Insurance Agency to recover the cost of medical care for children with special needs. The county provides services, with fund through the state, for young children with developmental delays or other problems.
The arrangement paid Calhoun 20 percent of recoveries, but recovering proved very difficult, and the company's commission does not cover costs, Greeley said.
"Recovery this year is about $60,000 right now," said Greeley. He proposed amending the three-year contract, authorized by the Legislature March 20, 1997, to give Calhoun a $20,000 administrative fee in the third year.
"We have a contract with Calhoun and they are bound to the contract?" asked Marshall.
"As long as they stay in business," said Greeley. "They are losing money."
Marshall asked if it is fair to other bidders to increase a contract in the final year without rebidding it.
"Should we send out a message if you bid on a contract and you don't make enough money, 'Come back for more'?" said Marshall.
Holt said Calhoun is a minority-owned company and that in his opinion, the request for the $20,000 is based on need.
Brenda L. Calhoun, founder and president of Calhoun Insurance Agency, opened the firm in 1989 with her sister. In 1997, when the agency's policy-holder base had grown to more than 2,000, she was honored with 27 others as a Black Achiever. In 1996, she received a U.S. Department of Commerce Regional Entrepreneur Award.