Why did ThompsonBaker decline to renew city insurance?

“After much consideration, I have decided that ThompsonBaker Agency will not be submitting a response to the City of St. Augustine’s Request for Proposals No. GS2018-06/ Insurance and Risk Management Services.”

Ten days ago, Matt Baker, son of former St Augustine mayor Greg Baker and president of ThompsonBaker Agency, notified St Augustine city manager John Regan that his local agency was declining to respond to a bid request for the renewal of various insurance policies current in force through Preferred Governmental Insurance Trust.

Under a cloak of mystery during last week’s city commission meeting, Historic City News learned through comments made by vice-mayor Todd Neville, that the commissioner was not satisfied with the unspecified way in which Baker was handled — or in the outcome. ThompsonBaker has been in the insurance and financial services business in St Augustine since 1925.

In the Baker letter to Regan, Baker writes that his agency recalls “many positive outcomes” they were able to achieve. Some of those listed included:

1. Achieving a guaranteed two-year rate for commercial property and liability insurance which provided the City with rate stability after the loss experience of Hurricane Matthew.

2. Achieving a guaranteed two-year rate for workers compensation insurance which exempted the City from the state-approved 14.5% rate increase that was effective on January 1, 2017.

3. Assisting the City with securing a $4,616.16 in matching safety grant funds in the 2016-2017 insurance term for the procurement of new gas monitors and related safety equipment for confined space environments.

4. Assisting the City with securing, thus far in the 2017-2018 insurance term, $2,304.98 in matching safety grant funds for safety and loss control initiatives.

5. Contributing $2,000.00 to help with the restoration of the first fire truck the City purchased in 1925.

6. Contributing $1,000.00 to help defray the cost of the food truck provided by the City for City employees working Hurricane Irma recovery during the weekend of September 16-17, 2017.

7. Assisting with the recovery of approximately $452,000.00 in claims settlement for losses associated with Hurricane Matthew, including approximately $310,000.00 in payment for damaged lift station infrastructure that had not previously been identified and scheduled for coverage under previous property insurance policies.

The puzzling part, given the cordial relationship between the parties, is the fact that Preferred Governmental Insurance Trust had already agreed to a renewal period covering 10/01/2018 to 10/01/2020 and ThompsonBaker is walking away from a $1,144,126.00 premium, according to documents obtained by Historic City News.

No one seems to know the details of where the failure occurred, which means that, once again, there will be no accountability from City Hall to the citizens of the city. We checked with Mayor Nancy Shaver after the meeting concluded. She confirmed that she was aware of the letter from ThompsonBaker, however, she was not aware of the actions that led to the renewal being pulled.

With Fiscal Year 2019 budget wrapping up, this is very late in the game for the city to begin a search for another carrier willing to insure $11.4 million in scheduled property, plus workers compensation, employer’s liability and other coverage including building, personal property, wind, flood, general liability, commercial automobile, crime, directors and officer’s liability, umbrella and excess liability, employment practices and excess building and contents coverage for flood.

Historic City News is continuing to investigate the circumstances that threaten to force city management to buy insurance in an overpriced insurance market, during the hurricane season, given St Augustine’s loss history during the last two years. This could cost city taxpayers a significant additional premium.