Glendening revamps IWIF board

Keelty, recent critic of awarding no-bid contract, is replaced

`New outlook' sought

Ex-legislator to join panel that oversees state insurance agency

May 29, 1999|By Walter F. Roche Jr. | Walter F. Roche Jr.,SUN STAFF

Gov. Parris N. Glendening abruptly replaced yesterday a longtime member of the board overseeing the state Injured Workers Insurance Fund -- a person who has been sharply critical of recent agency actions including the awarding of a controversial no-bid contract.

Glendening replaced Louise Keelty with Michael J. Wagner of Annapolis, a former Democratic state senator and delegate. Also named to the five-member board was Gail C. McDonald of Prince George's County. M. Joseph Coale was reappointed to another five-year term.

Keelty was one of the first board members to raise questions about a $21 million no-bid managed-care contract awarded in 1996 to Statutory Benefits Management Corp. of Baltimore.

At Keelty's insistence, a private accounting firm was hired by the board to review the contracting process. The firm, Ernst and Young, concluded that IWIF officials had failed to follow their established procedures when they threw out a dozen bids and negotiated an exclusive agreement with SBMC.

Last year, the board voted not to grant SBMC a one-year extension, even though it had been recommended by Paul M. Rose, IWIF's chief executive officer, and his staff. On May 13, IWIF announced that it was again throwing out all bids for a new managed-care contract. Instead, the agency announced it was buying the assets of SBMC for $6.5 million and that the work formerly performed by the company would be done by IWIF employees.

Asked yesterday why Keelty, who has served for nearly 10 years on the board, was being replaced, Glendening spokesman Ray Feldman said the governor "wanted to see some new faces on the board. Obviously, [IWIF] is facing some real challenges, and the governor felt it was time for the board to have a new outlook."

Asked about the timing of the announcement, Feldman said the governor wanted it made before he left on a foreign trade mission. He said the news release was delayed because "we needed to make phone calls to inform everyone."

Keelty learned that she was being replaced on the board after being told by a reporter that new appointments were about to be announced.

"It's a shame that this comes at a time when IWIF is at such a critical crossroads" said Keelty, noting that the board has been reviewing the top management of the agency. "I certainly tried to do the right thing while I was on the board.

"If that's all that it comes to, then I guess that's it," she said.

One of those called by the governor's office was Sen. Thomas L. Bromwell, a Baltimore County Democrat who chairs the Senate Finance Committee and was quoted in the governor's news release as praising the new appointees, Wagner and McDonald.

"He's very pleased with the appointments," said Feldman.

Wagner was a state senator for 14 years, until 1995. He was a delegate for two years.

McDonald, who was named to replace retiring board member Donald Potter, is a Fort Washington resident. He served on the U.S. Interstate Commerce Commission.

Coale, a resident of Ruxton, is director of public communications for Crown Central Petroleum.

All of the appointments are subject to Senate confirmation.

Feldman said the governor will announce next week the appointment of a 13-member task force to review the operations of IWIF and its board. The creation of the task force was announced in mid-February.

Pub Date: 5/29/99

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