A Hummel Report Investigation
The fire marshal in Pawtucket is now under investigation by the city's police department after Jim Hummel discovers he put his girlfriend's daughter on his taxpayer-funded Blue Cross family plan in 2011. Hear the fire marshal's explanation - and the mayor's reaction to what we found.
Captain Steven Parent is a 25-year veteran of the Pawtucket Fire Department - and for the past two years has served as the city's fire marshal. He makes $64,000 a year.
Sixteen month ago Parent added his girlfriend's daughter to his family medical plan, along with his ex-wife and two daughters.
We asked the captain about it as he arrived for work earlier this month.
Hummel: ``I wanted to ask you about your health benefits and why you put your girlfriend's daughter on your family plan last year?''
Parent: ``"Cause we were planning on getting married and unfortunately they had some family issues, a serious accident in the family. It kind of pushed it all back. So, that's basically what it came down to.''
A year and a half later Parent still hasn't gotten married, although we spotted his city-issued car regularly at his girlfriend's house in Smithfield. The girlfriend's daughter was on the family plan for nearly a year, costing the city thousands of dollars in claims.
Hummel: ``Did you get approval to do that, though?''
Hummel: ``From your department?''
Parent: ``From the personnel office.''
Hummel: ``And how does that work, though, don't you have to actually be married to put somebody on your family plan?''
Parent: ``I questioned it. I told them what we were in the process of doing and they didn't cause any issues, they didn't bring up any issues.''
Hummel: ``Who did you get approval from then?''
Parent: ``Personnel office.''
Hummel: ``Anybody specific?''
Parent: ``Whoever I talked to at the time.''
Hummel: ``But you don't remember.''
Parent: ``I believe it was the girl in charge....Maria, I believe is who I spoke with.''
Grebien: ``We turned it over to the police department because there's too many different stories...''
Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien told us the city is getting conflicting stories from Parent and the former head of Human Resources who handled the captain's application for benefits in July 2011. She has since left the city. The Mayor says the Police Department has assigned a detective to investigate.
Grebien: ``Clearly he never should have been put on the Blue Cross, no matter what the circumstances, for someone to get on Blue Cross they have to provide, if there's a marriage certificate. Because there's some story going around that it was potentially going to be married in August. We've gone back to the former employee who put him on, had the discussion with her. There are dual conflicting stories out there.''
But Grebien says the former human resources director may not have been getting the straight story from Parent when he approached her, which is why the mayor has called in the police.
Hummel: ``What did the former employee say?''
Grebien: ``What the former employee said is that she remembers it happened but they were under the presumption that this was his daughter from a previous marriage.''
Hummel: ``The city said it was okay before you actually got married to put her on the plan?''
Grebien: ``There should have been some sort of documentation that a) he was married; b) if this was a daughter, there has to be some sort of documentation. We don't have any of the backup. When we talked to Blue Cross, Blue Cross tells us that because we're self-insured they go based on ours. So we put it in, we entered it into the system for whatever reason.
So we're trying to backtrack to why it was misrepresented back then.''
The city of Pawtucket is self-insured, meaning it pays directly for all claims made on its policies. Grebien says the girlfriend's daughter cost the city just shy of $3,000 for the 10 months she was on the family plan.
Including $2,775.58 for claims to Blue Cross.
$115.29 in pharmacy claims.
And a $72.27 administrative fee the city paid to Blue Cross.
Last week - eight days after we interviewed him - Captain Parent wrote a check to reimburse the city for the girl's medical expenses.
Hummel: ``In fact you put her on your plan for awhile, right?''
Parent: ``She was on my plan from the time they opened enrollment until....um, actually I realized, I said: `We haven't done what we were going to do,' so I took her off.''
But Parent did not add on his girlfriend - even though he said they planned to be married within a couple of months. Just the daughter. And Parent could have added on the daughter after the marriage took place.
Hummel: ``Your life situation changes, not always in concert with the open enrollment period.''
Hummel: ``So if you get married and that changes and it's mid-year, certainly the city or the insurance company is going to say, `Alright now it's changed, that's one of the exceptions for you to be able to come on.''
Grebien: ``Absolutely correct. Correct.''
Hummel: ``So are you saying that instead of anticipating, saying I'm going to get married it's going to be a couple of months down the line, he should have waited until it actually happened.''
Grebien: ``Absolutely, and the employee shouldn't have put him in whatsoever. As we've talked with the former employee - the former employee is saying that...her recollection is was - I haven't spoken with her but getting it second-hand - is that her recollection is that (Parent) came in and she was under the impression this was his daughter from a previous marriage, because at that time his ex-wife was still being covered.''
And the city's application form, which is similar to this Blue Cross form, leaves little room for ambiguity about the relationship of a dependent.
Hummel: ``There are two boxes there, right? And it says: what is the relationship?''
Grebien: ``...or daughter. Correct.''
Hummel: ``Not stepdaughter, or even a stepdaughter probably could qualify- not a soon-to-be-stepdaughter-because-we're-getting-married-in-October.''
Hummel: ``The form seems pretty clear.''
Grebien: ``Absolutely and that's what we're looking at as well. We clearly know that this should have never happened, they shouldn't have been put on and if they were under the impression and the story holds true that it was going to be that they were getting married in August, then they should have come in with a marriage certificate. If you went in there even with the story of having the intent of being married in August and you said, ok, filing deadline, open enrollment is July, it's a month's time, you still have to know in my mind as an individual, if something changes and you didn't get married in August, the bulb's got to go off.''
So where does it go from here?
Grebien: ``If we can prove there was intent - clearly we're going to go after whatever recourse there is. My opinion, it's above the $500 rule; so it could be as aggressive as a felony.''
But we won't know that until the police investigation is complete. And in the meantime: Captain Parent remains on the job.
In Pawtucket, Jim Hummel, for The Hummel Report.