In a meeting overshadowed by teachers demanding a new contract, the West New York Board of Education approved a new contract for the Alamo Insurance Group through June 30, 2017.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
With a vote of 6-2-1(1), the workers compensation and property/casualty insurance services contract was approved for Alamo, based out of North Bergen, through the time period of July 1, 2016 and June 30, 2017.
Trustees Silvio Acosta, Jonathan Castaneda, Damarys Gonzalez, Dennise Mejia, Lorena Portillo and Steven Rodas voted yes, trustee Matthew Cheng voted no, Board President Adam Parkinson abstained and trustee Joan Palermo was absent.
The fee rates and corresponding percentages were not available on the online version of the agenda, but the only other vendor who applied for the contract was the Verona-based Fairview Insurance Agency Associates.
Furthermore, a new version of the resolution posted Friday evening had Brown & Brown, of Florham Park, as a possible insurance vendor as well.
John and Ryan Graham, the founder and director of Fairview Insurance, respectively, both contributed to East Orange Mayor Lester Taylor’s 2013 campaign where he first took office. Taylor currently serves as corporation counsel for the West New York Board of Education.
According to the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC), John Graham contributed $2,500 to Taylor’s campaign on February 6, 2013, with Ryan Graham making an identical contribution on March 6, 2013.
Additionally, Ryan Graham gave an additional $1,000 to Taylor’s campaign on September 10, 2013.
Sources, who spoke under the condition of anonymity, told Hudson County View this created a conflict of interest for Taylor – leaving him unable to advise the board on this particular vote.
The actual vote took place without any side discussion, with each board member simply casting a yes, no or abstention, though the vote came after a lengthy closed session that lasted around two hours.
Meanwhile, Alamo Insurance has had their issues with the West New York BOE in the past.
On September 10th, 2014, then-Superintendent of Schools John Fauta revealed that the State Department of Education’s Office of Fiscal Accountability and Compliance (OFAC) was investigating the manner in which Alamo Insurance was awarded a contract on June 25, 2014.
Brown & Brown Metro was mentioned as a replacement, but a subsequent motion in front of the board failed. Therefore, the school district was without an insurance broker for several months.
Luis Alamo, the founder and president of Alamo Insurance, responded by stating we are ‘being defamed by naysayers with a clear political agenda.”
While OFAC said In February of last year that the contract was indeed awarded improperly, they issued no sanctions in the matter.
With all that in mind, Alamo once again received the contract at the August 26th, 2015 meeting, beating out Brown & Brown, Acrisure and CBIZE insurance Services, Inc.
That contract retroactively began on July 1, 2015 and lasted through December 31, 2015. Based on the meeting minutes, no other insurance contract had been approved until Monday.
Both Alamo and Fairview Insurance could not immediately be reached on Friday while West New School Business Administrator Dean Austin did not return an email seeking comment.
Editor’s Note: This story was updated to reflect new information late Friday night.