Others would notice if the city simply paid out

Fairmont’s City Council and city staff are to be commended this week for protecting the interests of local taxpayers. Discussion of an insurance claim against the city came up at a council meeting this week, and at least one council member suggested the city provide the difference between what a local resident claims for damages and what the city’s insurer is willing to pay.

Insurers exist for a reason and one of them is to negotiate settlements. City leaders should never simply believe the claims someone is making against the city, even if everyone acknowledges the city shares some or all of the blame.

How’s that?

Well, it might seem like the city is “doing the right thing” by paying out to an injured party, but that person could be seeking excessive or unfair compensation. It’s good that city leaders want to be fair, but they also have to be fair to taxpayers, who “own” city coffers.

The city contracts with an insurer, and if the city interjects itself into a negotiation because it views what the insurer is doing as unfair, then the insurer probably won’t stick around to help. And the city would open itself up to more claims, from unscrupulous people who will note that the city likes to be generous with public dollars.

One lesson here is that the “right thing” is not as obvious as some people would have you believe. Better to do the wise thing.