Idaho probes alleged fraud

From the Spokesman-Review

Feb 10,2007 – Taryn Brodwater – SPOKESMAN REVIEW

The Idaho Department of Insurance is investigating an insurance fraud complaint against two commissioners for the Northern Lakes Fire Protection District.

Commissioner Larry House leveled allegations against Commissioner Terry Thompson and Chairwoman Lynda Thurman in December.

House told the Kootenai County Sheriffs Department that Thompson twice declined health insurance coverage through the fire district, then later asked a secretary to add him to the plan “because he had developed a heart condition and realized he needed insurance to cover it,” according to a sheriffs report released Friday.

Thompson told secretary Valerie Knapp he needed the insurance request “back-dated” to Aug. 1, House said in the report.

Though Thompson is employed with the Spokane Valley Fire Department, he allegedly didn’t want to make a claim under the department’s insurance plan “fearing that he would be taken off his normal duties due to a heart condition,” House told the Sheriffs Department.

Thompson said Friday he had seen the sheriffs report and it was “inaccurate.” “If you print anything on the police report it’s going to be inaccurate,” he said.

Asked what was inaccurate, Thompson said, “I’m not going to go into that.”

In a Dec. 26 interview, he refused to discuss his request for insurance coverage.

House told the Sheriffs Department that Commissioner Larry Clark refused to sign the letter requesting coverage back to Aug. 1 and Knapp went to Thurman, who signed.

Thurman said previously she didn’t know until after signing the letter that another commissioner had refused to sign.

But House said Thurman “signed the letter knowing that it was previously denied,” according to the sheriffs report. Thurman and House did not return calls seeking comment.

Northern Lakes Fire Chief Marion Blackwell referred all questions to the district’s attorney, Larry Beck. Clark also referred questions to Beck, saying the elected commissioners had agreed to have him “speak for the district.” Beck did not return a call Friday afternoon.

Clark said he was surprised the Sheriffs Department released the report. He said he hadn’t seen a copy and “was under the impression it wasn’t being given out publicly.”

Commissioner Dennis Arnende said he was “out of the loop.” “They told me nothing,” he said. “Until this all gets settled, I’d just as soon stay out of it anyway.”

Minutes of a Dec. 18 meeting showed all five commissioners present when Thompson’s request for coverage was discussed. The minutes note that “there was disagreement on the appropriateness of the request.” Thurman left the executive session after about 20 minutes, according to the record, and discussion continued.

House told the Sheriffs Department that Clark asked Thompson during the meeting if he had advised the district’s insurer of his heart condition and if he’d submitted a claim for reimbursement. House said Thompson replied he had not and became upset after further questioning. Thompson then reportedly said, “If it means so much to Commissioner Clark, I’ll cancel the claim,” the report stated.

House said Thurman became upset when she was asked why she signed the letter, “stormed” out of the room and began crying, according to the report.

The Northern Lakes Fire Protection District rejected a public records request from The Spokesman-Review seeking the letter Thurman signed.

Attorney Beck wrote in a Feb. 2 letter that Chief Blackwell had told him to deny the request because “it contains personnel information that is exempt from disclosure.” Beck’s denial said the document ” was intended to be kept confidential.”

Kootenai County sheriffs Capt. Ben Wolfinger said the Sheriffs Department turned the investigation over to the Idaho Department of Insurance because it’s within “their field of expertise.”

From the Spokesman-Review

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