Louisiana Commissioner Donelon: ‘This Will Never Happen Again’

From PropertyCasualty360.com:
Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon’s chin quivered as he lowered his head and paused before continuing to speak about the shooting deaths of two insurance department fraud investigators.

Rhett Jeansonne, 39, and Kim Sledge, 44, were shot and killed by insurance agent John Melvin Lavergne, who police say then killed himself.

Donelon calls the incident the “darkest day in the history of the Department of Insurance.”

During a press conference the commissioner became most visibly shaken when he talked about the victims’ families, especially about meeting the 7-year-old daughter of Jeansonne, who also leaves behind a wife and three sons. Sledge was married and had a daughter and two stepchildren, Donelon says.

The commissioner said he made a promise to Mr. Sledge that “this will never happen again.”

Donelon says he met with staff shortly before the press conference and the department will review all policies and procedures over the coming months.

“First and foremost we want our investigators to be safe and free from harm when conducting investigations,” he says.

Fraud investigators are not armed but they can request back-up from law enforcement. Donelon says he is “seriously considering” arming investigators.

Donelon thanked fellow commissioners and other people within the insurance industry who have called to express their condolences.

In offering her deepest sympathies on behalf of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, Susan Voss, president of the association, says, “These dedicated civil servants were carrying out the regulatory goals of protecting consumers, and this kind of unforeseen risk is unfathomable. Our thoughts and prayers also go out to Commissioner Jim Donelon and all our colleagues at LDI following this tragedy.”

Donelon says, contrary to some reports, Jeansonne and Sledge did not visit John Melvin Lavergne’s agency in Ville Platte to serve him with a suspension. They were there to “request from his office and retrieve files related to additional cases” from a January cease and desist order, which was pending appeal, Donelon explains.

In November 2009 the Department of Insurance issued Lavergne a cease and desist order, six-month license suspension, and a $16,500 fine for allegedly providing fraudulent proofs of insurance to the state’s motor vehicle department on several occasions.

Donelon says Lavergne would do this in order to collect premiums without sending the money on to insurers.

In January 2010 the order was lifted and the fine was reduced by an administrative law judge, but in January of this year the insurance department again issued an order for Lavergne to stop doing business and gave him a $4,500 fine for alleged misappropriations of premiums. Lavergne was also arrested at that time and charged with multiple counts, including unfair trade practices, Donelon says.

Jeansonne was a fraud investigator since 2006. Sledge, an 11-year employee of the insurance department, asked to be transferred to the fraud division five years [ago], says Donelon.

On a personal note, I worked briefly with both Mr. Jeansonne and Mrs. Sledge on behalf of a client. They were both very professional and very sincere about their mission to protect Louisiana residents and policyholders. Even though we sat on opposite sides of the table, they were both great people to work with, and this is truly a tragic loss for their families and for the Louisiana insurance community as a whole.

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