The board of directors for Idaho’s government-run health insurance exchange met Tuesday to discuss the findings of an investigation of its executive director, but made few disclosures about the investigation’s findings and made no personnel changes.
“We heard from our attorney,” said Stephen Weeg, the chairman of the board, after nearly three hours of a closed-door executive session. Weeg was referring to J. Frederick Mack, an attorney from the Holland and Hart law firm of Boise who was contracted by the board last month to investigate a $375,000 no-bid contract offered to former exchange board member Frank Chan by the exchange’s executive director, Amy Dowd. “We have determined that there were no laws broken, but there were some lapses in judgment,” Weeg explained of the investigation’s findings. He offered no details of what the “lapses” entailed.
In October, John Livingston, M.D., a member of the board, noted that Dowd had not acted alone in her decision to award the controversial no-bid contract to Chan. According to him, Dowd had sought input on that decision from the exchange’s legal counsel, the Hawley Troxell law firm, and from staffers at the office of Gov. Butch Otter.
After Tuesday’s board meeting, IdahoReporter.com asked Michael Stoddard, a partner in the Hawley Troxell firm and counsel to the exchange, about what input the firm had offered to Dowd.
“I am not aware that Dr. Livingston has ever made a comment like that,” Stoddard replied. “I do not know what he might have been referring to.” Stoddard refused to answer any further questions about the investigation of Dowd.
Livingston, however, remembered his remarks and elaborated on them following the board meeting. “Amy Dowd absolutely did not act in a renegade, rogue fashion,” he stated to IdahoReporter.com. “She sought input from the governor’s office, from the law firm (Hawley Troxell) and from our chairman of the board (Weeg) before she awarded that contract (the no-bid contract offered to Chan).”
When asked what “lapses of judgement” Weeg may have been referring to, Livingston said “the fact that we were operating without clear procurement policies in place. That was our lapse, that wasn’t just Amy’s (Dowd’s) doing. The board is partly to blame for that as well. But there was no slight-of-hand, no backroom deals here. Calls for Amy’s termination were politically motivated and that really upset me,” he said.
One of those who has called for Dowd’s termination is Livingston’s fellow board member, Sen. Jim Rice, R-Caldwell. After the board meeting, Rice spoke briefly with IdahoReporter.com. “I’m glad the board has taken this matter seriously. I believe we are putting things in place that will prevent this problem from happening again.”
In other action, board member Margaret Henbest proposed three new changes for the board and the exchange: That the board immediately form a corporate charter to include a restructuring of committee assignments; that the board develop a plan of operation; and that the board establish new procurement and conflict of interest policies. The board members unanimously approved all of Henbest’s proposals.
Additionally the board heard from Dowd about the exchange’s planned response to an inquiry from the U.S. House of Representatives. On Nov. 4 it was revealed that U.S. Congressman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the U.S House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, had sent a letter to Dowd raising concerns and asking questions about the screening, hiring and utilization of what the Obamacare program refers to as exchange “navigators,” or customer service representatives.
Dowd told the board members that “we should have a response letter (a response to Issa) completed quickly.”
“Did you reach out to our congressional delegation about this?” asked board member Dave Self, an executive with Pacific Source insurance.
“We had several conversations about this and I spoke to a lot of people about this,” Dowd replied. “We decided that we really didn’t need help from them (the congressional delegation).”