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Council delays vote on Cigna contract to hold hearings

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Council appointed Danna Lewter to Metro Board for unexpired term ending in April 2014  on Jan 15 2014
Council appointed Danna Lewter to Metro Board for unexpired term ending in April 2014 on Jan 15 2014
photos by Marc Pembroke
Counsel Member Cohen asks about Cigna contract Jan 15 2014
Counsel Member Cohen asks about Cigna contract Jan 15 2014
photo by Marc Pembroke

At the regular meeting of Houston City Council Wednesday Jan 15, a number of counselors raised questions about the process of selecting Cigna for a 3 year contract to administer the City's self-insured employee health care plan. The matter was tagged and Mike Laster called for a public hearing on Tuesday, the soonest possible under applicable notice rules.

Most counselors expressed concerns about transparency, rather than the choice of Cigna as the third-party administrator of the plan. Questions were also raised about the reason proprietary financial data of the providers under consideration could not be disclosed or discussed. (See item 27 on the agenda for details).

Another topic of discussion was the selection of a New York law firm, Hawkins, Delafield, and Wood LLP) as counsel for a public-private partnership (aka PPP) to develop a new justice center. The Mayor and City Attorney explained that the firm is the premier specialist in public-private partnerships, and it offered the best rates of those that responded to the request for proposals, including several Houston and Texas-based firms. Hawkins, Delafield, and Wood was counsel to the PPP that developed the Long Beach, CA Justice Center, completed in 2010, which is similar to the center Houston intends to build. (Item 24)

Almost every ordinance was tagged or passed without debate. The counsel passed passed 3 ordinances with separate consideration: Items 25, 39, and 44. The first amended ordinance 201-925 for the maximum contract amount with Porter Hedges LLP for construction services with the Houston Airport System. Item 39 consented to the addition of 9, 953 acres of land to Harris-Fort Bend Counties Municipal Utility District No. 1. Item 44 involved an appropriation of $699,000 for a drainage and paving project in the Montrose area under a contract with HR Green, Inc.

An ordinance held from the previous week dealing with airport advertising concessions was referred back to the administration on motion by Counselor Costello. (Item 54).

In other matters the counsel confirmed the appointment of Danna Lewter to serve on Board of the Metropolitan Transit Autority. Ms. Lewter was appointed to serve in Position 4 for the unexpired term ending April 7, 2014. She has also served on the Board for Hermann Park, and brings a wealth of experience in real estate and community development issues. (Item 2)

The Counselors also appointed Reginald Lee Mack to Position 1 the General Appeals Board (Item 1) and Caton Fenz to Position 7 of Reinvestment Zone 2 (aka Midtown Zone Board of Directors) (Items 3 and 4).

Mayor Parker, Oliver Pennngton were appointed to positions 1 and 2 on the Houston-Galveston Area Counsel Board of Directors. Jerry Davis and Michael Kubosh were appointed to the two Alternate At Large positions.(Item 53)