by Ed Naile
I just picked up my copy of State of NH Insurance Procurement Practices Performance Audit Report Sept 2006. At 136 pages it weighs about three pounds. Chunky!
You may remember this audit was triggered by the scandal that rocked the Benson Administration – The Linda Pepin/Choicelinx “Scandal”. That was the scandal exposed by up and coming investigative reporter Josh Rodgers of NHPR. He had the “inside scoop” on this issue which was exposed daily in the multi-daily synchronized pulp-grinder located in Room 106 of the State House known as the “press room”.
The Linda Pepin/Choicelinx Scandal, for the uninitiated among us, was where a “volunteer” with the Benson Administration was (gasp) paid for doing what amounted to a ton of work. She received $178 grand if I remember correctly for brokering insurance for the State. The money was approved by her superiors. It was just that shocking. All parties remotely involved resigned and were pursued by the media and State until the scandal paid off in the election of a new governor. The moral: You can beat something with nothing. End of story.
It turns out that Mrs. Pepin brokered that deal for about half of what the State used to pay for it. So her “ill-gotten gains” from busting her butt for countless hours of work actually saved the taxpayers a ton of money. But on the other hand it cost the former brokers a ton of money as well. Make that times TEN because that is how many years the contract went without competitive bidding. After doing some quick math in my head that amounts to about TWICE AS MUCH AS WE SHOULD HAVE PAID – FOR TEN YEARS!
So whom should we thank?
How about Paula Rogers the Insurance Commissioner during much of that time. This audit goes from 1998 – 2005.
Benson chose not to re-appoint Paula Rogers in 2003 after four years of her serving as Commissioner. So about half of the credit for this audit can be laid on the shoulders of Mrs. Rogers.
What a mess! If you want a look at this new audit it is on the web at: www.gencourt.state.nh.us/lba. No time here to detail all the problems with the Insurance Commission but as luck would have it I wrote a detailed story about it in 2004, conveniently posted on our CNHT web site.
It can still be found at: ChoiceLinx Revisited
Take note that the ground-breaking, investigative, attack Benson journalism, performed by one Josh Rogers the NHPR reporter, focused on the tax-saving Linda Pepin/Choicelinx Scandal, not the no-bid contracts and insider deals that plagued the commission during the Paula Rogers reign of incompetency.
By now you may have noticed the most frequently used name in this tale is, Rogers, as in, Mommy and son. Mommy gets canned by Benson – Benson gets the investigative journalist treatment from boy journalist – boy journalist becomes big player in gotcha politics.
And it may come as no surprise that the new 2005 audit of the free-spending, insider-dealing insurance purchases for the State of New Hampshire are no longer being covered by the boy-wonder journalist of NHPR, Josh Rogers. The new story is being covered by NPR reporter Mark Bevis. You can find his story at: http://www.nhpr.org/node/11460.
So I guess I have no other choice but to name this article “Bevis and not Butthead”.
Look up some of the details on this issue for an “insider” peek at how NH spends it’s tax dollars. But don’t hold your breath waiting for the NH media to cover it.