Mann
Mann
Insurance underwriters say they look at one main thing when they decide if they'll issue a bond: whether a person has the financial history or the personal assets to make him or her an acceptable risk for a company.

But York City resident Matthew Mann said he thinks other factors were the reason he was unable to secure the $12 million bond he needed to take office as city treasurer -- either companies' unwillingness to deal with York or possible "foul play."

"I hate to speculate but I'm no fool," Mann said. "I know how politics works, and I definitely was not wanted there by some powerful insiders."

He resigned last week from his position as treasurer-elect, and the York City Council has 30 days to appoint a replacement after the term of the outgoing treasurer ends on Monday.

Bonding guarantees that the city would not lose money if the treasurer were to misappropriate public funds. Mann said he is still seeking a bond, hoping to get one in time to be appointed to the treasurer position.

He had previously said he was "in the dark" as to why
he could not get the bond, but on Monday said he thinks he should have been able to get a bond based on his credit history, according to what he has heard from the insurance agent with whom he is working.

Mann said some people in the business community do not want him to get elected because if he moved onto other positions in the future, he would try to implement land-value taxation, taxing property based on the value of the land instead of improvements on it.


Advertisement

He said he has also been told that at least one company will not issue bonds to York officials because of lawsuits that have resulted in judgments against the city, though that has not prevented the outgoing treasurer, Don Murphy, from renewing his bond.

Most get bonds: It is rare for a company to reject an individual seeking a bond, said Steve Varga, assistant underwriter of JW Bond Consultants Inc. in Pipersville, Pa. Even people with dark spots on their financial history can get the bonds they seek, though the premium could increase fivefold or more.

If a bonded individual stole money from the city, it would be up to the bonding company to pay the money back and then go after the individual to recoup the loss. To figure out how risky bonding an individual might be, Varga said, companies look at that person's credit history, looking at how that individual has handled money in the past.

Big bonds tougher: But standards become more stringent as the bond value increases. Bonding require-ments vary between states and municipalities, but many officials require bonds for $100,000 or less -- much smaller than the $12 million bond Mann was looking for to meet state requirements.

"That's a very unusually large bond," said Edward Gallagher, general counsel of the Surety & Fidelity Association of America, based inWashington D.C. "Instead of risking $50,000, you're risking $12 million, so you've got to put a lot more stringent underwriting standards on that."

Many people might not be able to get a bond as large as $12 million, said Brett Lipton, vice president and senior underwriter for New York-based Castle Rock Agency.

If someone did not have the assets or financial history a bonding company was looking for, the applicant might have to provide something like an irrevocable letter of credit provided by a bank -- something Lipton said would also be difficult to obtain, depending on an applicant's financial history.