By Joel Hall
In order to further insulate the county from future litigation spurred by the actions of the Sheriff's Department, or from other sources, the Clayton County Board of Commissioners (BOC) gave Risk Management Department Director Katherine Dodson the green light to increase the county's insurance coverage.
Presently, the insurance policy allows for a maximum of $5 million to be paid out in legal fees, per incident, with a yearly cap of $10 million.
On Tuesday, the BOC voted, unanimously, to allow Dodson to purchase additional insurance, increasing the coverage to $10 million per incident, with a yearly cap of $20 million.
The new insurance premium will cost the county an additional $46,000 more than the cost of the current premium, which is $211,286.
Immediately after voting to increase the existing insurance coverage, the BOC also agreed get a quote from a separate insurance company for an additional $5 million worth of liability coverage. The $5 million would provide an extra layer of protection to the $10 million worth of coverage which was approved on Tuesday.
As the county has become the target of several lawsuits in recent years, Dodson believes the money will be well spent.
"We began looking at more excess liability insurance at the end of last year," said Dodson. "It's just a matter of the coverage that is needed, based on the exposures we are seeing today. The funds of the county are protected much better," with the additional coverage, Dodson said.
The BOC also voted to accept a revision of the county's Vehicle and Driver Policy. Before the revision, the county used an 11-point system, in which accident-prone employees, who reached 11-points, would no longer be allowed to drive county vehicles.
In the new system, employees can opt to take additional training, which can knock off points, much like taking a defensive-driving course can knock points off of one's license.
As employees will have to pay for the courses out of their own pocket, Clayton County Attorney Michael Smith believes the system will generate more personal accountability.
"It gives an ability for redemption, a little more flexibility, and again, education and training, so it reduces the number of incidents," said Smith. "For some individuals, if you lose your ability to drive, you lose your job."
He said the revision gives employees a chance to "accept responsibility for their actions" and "take additional steps to continue to work for the county."