|By Leesha Faulkner, Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Texas|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
Figures provided by the city for the years 2004-06, show the city paid more than
Taxes had to be raised by the
In the end, after reaching a settlement, both parties said they had reached satisfactory closure. City officials declared the settlement a fair one. Representatives from
But what happened in those six years of legal battles? How much did the reams of legal documents and court hearings actually cost taxpayers?
And how much did the two-year administration of health insurance for 6,000 city employees cost taxpayers?
The answer to the first question is in the settlement, which is unlikely to become public soon.
The answer to the second rests in an audit, which HealthSmart wants kept out of public view because, its attorneys say, the document contains proprietary information that would damage the insurance company's ability to be competitive.
Likely, that audit will not be made public soon, despite the efforts of the city and the A-J, until the
During negotiations, the city asked HealthSmart to release the audit with the settlement. Representatives for the insurance administrator refused.
Eight months later, Hernandez feels the same. Advocating having the audit made public is an issue of transparency, something that is a focus of the
"It has kind of died down; it's kind of been pushed to the back burner," he said. "I'm glad to see it brought up again."
Two others sitting on the council at the time, and who voted for the settlement, decline to discuss the audit.
"Ideally, the public has a right to know, and it would be my preference, in terms of transparency, to have it released to the public," he said.
Initially, the Avalanche-Journal requested the audit from the city under the Texas Public Information Act. The city would have released the audit upon the newspaper's request, but HealthSmart objected, requiring the city to submit the request to the office of
After the attorney general's ruling, HealthSmart immediately challenged it in
HealthSmart then filed an expedited appeal to the
Legal representatives for HealthSmart have declined to talk about the appeal, saying they do not discuss pending litigation.