Borough Council Offers the Sargent Schultz Defense Over Insurance Purchase

Last week reported that the Borough of Conshohocken’s Broker of Record for insurance was the politically connected firm of Cohen Partners. One of Cohen Partners’ employees, Jason Salus, is a former member of Conshohocken’s Borough Council, is currently the elected Treasurer of Montgomery County and is the Area Leader for the Democratic Party for Conshohocken, Plymouth Township and Whitemarsh Township.

The issue at hand involves Salus’ political role in the selection and election of candidates for Conshohocken’s Borough Council in his role as the Area Leader. Conshohocken has a six to one Democratic Party majority on Borough Council. As the Area Leader he helps people get elected. During election season, he has most likely knocked on your door accompanying a local candidate.

To follow-up, earlier this week we sent each member of Borough Council a few questions involving this issue and each member declined to answer the questions. You can view the questions here.

Last night was the first meeting of Borough Council since the article was published. The issue was not addressed until the public comment portion of the meeting. James Latta and Joe Ferringo, the chair and vice-chair of the local Republican Party, asked Borough Council to address the issue. Borough Council’s solicitor Michael Savona, explained why it isn’t illegal to purchase insurance the way it did (which we never claimed it was) and then claimed that the members of Borough Council didn’t know who the Broker of Record was based on minutes from a 2016 meeting. This is true, Cohen Partners wasn’t named in the 2016 minutes, however, Cohen Partners is named in the March 15, 2017 minutes.

We quoted from the March 15, 2017 minutes in the initial article, so it is odd that Savona would refer back to 2016 as a defense. Here is the quote from the March 15, 2017 minutes:

Mr. Manfredi then explained that he had asked Council at the work session for authorization to bind the Borough for insurance for the year beginning April 1, 2017 through 2018. He shared that he and Ms. Cecco, the Assistant to the Borough Manager, had been working with Cohen Partners to justify all the Borough’s
premiums and shared that the annual cost will be within two thousand dollars of the current year’s premium that is expiring. The renewal will be $608, 307.00. Mr. Manfredi also requested that Council authorize the binding of the insurance for the 2017 renewal at a number to not exceed the $608, 307.00, with the premiums to the broker to not exceed $31, 507.80, in broker fees. Travelers Insurance would provide the insurance with the exception of the worker’s compensation for the volunteer fire company and the Pennsylvania State Workers Insurance Fund.

Ms. Barton made a motion to bind the insurance with Travelers and the State Workers Insurance Fund at $608, 307.00 with the commissions at $31, 507.80, seconded by Ms. Sokolowski. The motion carried 7-0.

However, Cohen Partners was not just mentioned once during the March 15th meeting. It was mentioned three times. Below is video from that meeting, which shows Savona and the members of Borough Council hearing that Cohen Partners is the Borough’s Broker of Record three separate times during the meeting:

Based on the minutes and the video, the “we didn’t know” defense doesn’t fly. Now did the members of Borough Council know that Salus is an employee of Cohen Partners? Salus doesn’t make any secret that he was in the insurance business. He is prominently shown on Cohen Partners’ website. The reason we recognized the name back in March was because Salus had joined the Greater Conshohocken Business & Development Corporation, which we have been active in. At the time, Salus was listed as the contact (the contact is now the owner). So did they know Salus’ connection to Cohen Partners? That needs to be addressed (and it was one of the questions submitted by that they chose not to answer).

So the discussion on the topic ended with Borough Council member Tina Sokolowski (D, Ward 3) saying that members of Borough Council are happy to discuss this issue if asked by residents.

Let us know if you ask a member of Borough Council about this issue and what you think about the answer.

More to come.

Video: Recorded from