|PFFNH President Lang addressing the more than 100 firefighters assembled at the picket
Local Government Center, Firefighters Group Meet
Firefighters Challenge Center Of Health Insurance Management
POSTED: 11:00 am EST November 17, 2010
UPDATED: 6:51 pm EST November 17, 2010
MANCHESTER, N.H. -- The head of the New Hampshire Local Government Center and the president of a firefighters union agreed to disagree Wednesday over how the nonprofit manages health insurance for state employees.
Maura Carroll, the center's director, and David Lang, president of the Professional Fire Fighters of New Hampshire, met publicly during the center's annual conference at the Radisson Hotel. It was their first face-fo-face meeting over the matter.
The center represents local governments and manages the statewide public employees' health insurance pool.
Carroll said she invited Lang and other union leaders to discuss their concerns with the center's risk pool management, after hearing that union members might picket outside the conference.
Only Lang showed up. He said some union members planned to picket later Wednesday afternoon.
The firefighter's union sued the the center earlier this year, saying it has amassed more than $100 million in surplus funds, which the union says must be returned to cities and towns. The center disagreed with the allegations, and the union suspended its lawsuit while the state Bureau of Securities Regulation began an investigation into whether the center violated the law. The suit has since been dismissed.
The bureau released a preliminary report this month that said the center may have violated the law. A full report is due in January.
Lang said he had only one question for Carroll: "Do you think it's appropriate for taxpayer funded money intended for health care to be used in other areas of the Local Government Center?"
Carroll said the center's board determined that it was. She cited driver safety training as an example to help keep health claims and costs down.
"So we have fewer costs in property liability, we have fewer costs in workers comp, and we have fewer costs in health care," she said.
Lang said he felt the money was misdirected and misused.
"As a taxpayer in the state, I'm embarrassed," he said. "I feel bad about it, and I really wish you'd stop it."
Carroll said the law under which the center, formerly the New Hampshire Municipal Association, was formed, was drafted when there was no competition in health care coverage. She noted the Securities Bureau report said that the law isn't black and white about how the money should be used.
The center says it has produced more than 4,000 pages of materials to the Department of State, which overseas the Securities Bureau. Carroll noted in a letter to member organizations that the nonprofit was still working on addressing department questions.