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D.A. Opens Hermosa Insurance Case Inquiry

May 11, 1986|DEAN MURPHY | Times Staff Writer

HERMOSA BEACH — Investigators from the Los Angeles County district attorney's office last week asked city officials to turn over health insurance information on two former city employees suspected of improperly enrolling dependents in the city's program.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Herb Lapin said he has requested information about health insurance claims filed by former Fire Chief Ronald D. Simmons and former Personnel Director Carolyn Smith. Both Simmons and Smith resigned last July to take jobs outside the city.

Hermosa Beach Personnel Director Robert Blackwood said that the information will be turned over to investigators as soon as the city receives it from the insurance carriers.

In a separate but related investigation, Lapin has concluded that former Mayor Jack Wood did not falsify public records when he listed his girlfriend as his wife on insurance forms in order to obtain health and dental coverage for her in 1984.

Confidential Document

Lapin said last week that state law regards health benefits for elected officials as confidential documents, therefore excluding them from provisions that make it illegal to falsify public records.

"It is definitely a confidential record, not a public record," Lapin said.

Civic activist Roger Creighton, who asked the district attorney's office to investigate Wood, had maintained that the documents were public records and that Wood had purposely falsified them. The city allows its employees to enroll only legally married spouses in its health insurance program, city officials said.

Lapin said investigators are still looking into whether Wood's girlfriend, who is now engaged to Wood, made any claims on the insurance policy. If she made claims, then Wood could be charged with fraudulently obtaining city benefits, Lapin said.

"There is no real violation of the law to file in effect a fraudulent application for insurance as long as he didn't collect on it," Lapin said. "But I think the voters caught up with him in April."

Finished Last

Wood, who finished last among five candidates for three seats in last month's City Council election, has said that no claims were filed by his fiancee, Helena Toulmet, while she was enrolled in the health insurance program.

Since the questions about Toulmet's enrollment arose, Wood has reimbursed the city about $100 for the administrative costs of handling her forms, city officials said.

In the cases of Smith and Simmons, the district attorney's office is investigating allegations that they also obtained insurance benefits illegally for their spouses by supplying false information on enrollment forms.

Lapin said investigators "have enough circumstantial evidence" to show that Smith was not married to James Brisson when she enrolled him as her husband in the health insurance program.

Smith, who has denied any wrongdoing, has said that she and Brisson were legally married.

Different Dates Listed

Lapin said investigators are also checking into why Simmons listed two different wedding dates on his enrollment forms.

Simmons attempted to enroll his wife in the health insurance program on two occasions, according to documents released by the city. Simmons' wife did not receive coverage after the first form was filed, but she did get the coverage two months later when the second form was filed with a later wedding date, Blackwood said.

Simmons, who also has denied any wrongdoing, has said that the first wedding date he listed was the correct one, but he has declined to explain why he listed a different date on the second form.

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