County Liability Insurance Doesn’t Cover Subcommittee

By Beacon Staff

During this lawsuit-friendly era, it’s standard for government entities to carry liability insurance. Flathead County’s insurance, for example, acts as an umbrella to county-created committees. The Bigfork Land Use Advisory Committee is covered, but its subcommittee, the Bigfork Steering Committee, is not.

“We can’t extend liability coverage to an entity that we haven’t sanctioned,” County Commissioner Joe Brenneman told a recent BSC meeting. Brenneman said he and Deputy County Attorney Jonathon Smith poured over old Commissioners’ minutes to find when the County specifically created the BSC. They couldn’t find it. BLUAC created the BSC to help with the neighborhood plan, and even though BLUAC, a county created advisory committee, has coverage, it does not extend down to the BSC.

The BSC has not been sued so far in their history.

“We never make any decisions,” pointed out BSC member Elna Darrow, “our recommendations go to BLUAC, and BLUAC makes decisions.”

Currently the BSC is weighing their options; they can pay for insurance with their own funds, or they can ask the County Commissioners to take them on. The latter option would mean the Commissioners would have more control of the group: who’s elected and how long they serve – a relationship similar to the county has with BLUAC. That option may not be popular.

“We would prefer to set our own guidelines than let the county decide for us,” mentioned BSC member Edd Blackler. Another option the BSC will look at is getting some help from the Community Foundation for a Better Bigfork.