CLINTON — After running into heavy criticism from office employees last week, a longtime agent for the East Feliciana Parish Police Jury withdrew his bid to provide health insurance for employees.

"I know I'm a no-good sucker, but I didn't know I was as bad as I was portrayed," said Rusty Bowser, who has been the agent for the jury's health insurance coverage since 1988.

Bowser withdrew his bid in a hastily called special jury meeting May 9, with the jury voting 8-1 to accept a proposal from Blue Cross offered by agent Bill Dart.

At their regular meeting May 7, the jurors rejected a Finance Committee recommendation to accept Dart's offer, on a 3-6 vote, setting up the special session two days later.

As independent agents, Dart and Bowser can offer the same policies. Parish Manage Sonya Crowe said the jury's estimate annual cost for the coverage will be $187,583, an increase of $18,812.

Employees, however, also persuaded jurors to pay 60 percent of the premiums for employee dependents' coverage, which Crowe said will add another $5,225 to the annual premium.

Previously, the jury had not paid anything toward dependents' insurance coverage.

Crowe said on May 7 her opposition to awarding the contract to Bowser involved a problem with "service after the sale," and she continued her opposition to Bowser in the second meeting.

Office worker Mendy Jenkins gave a written statement to jurors claiming Bowser had kept employees in the dark by not educating them on benefits, holding an open enrollment campaign, assisting in settling disputes and providing documentation to keep jury files in compliance with state regulations.

"When new employees are hired, an agent should meet at the office to enroll them and explain benefits individually. This is the service earned in the commission paid, but we are not receiving it," Jenkins' statement said.

Crowe tried to question jurors on May 7 as to how many Bowser had contacted before they rejected the Finance Committee's earlier vote to recommend accepting Dart's offer, but jury President Louis Kent ruled her out of order.

The subject of "playing politics" came up again, however, with jury Secretary Yamesha Harris saying Bowser had said in a phone call heard over a speaker that he would be calling jurors to line up votes for the business.

Bowser said he talked to only two jurors before the May 7 vote, but he somewhat sarcastically complimented the "in-house employees" for doing a good job politically by getting the jury to go along with a 60 percent contribution to employee dependents' insurance coverage, which he said is way outside the norm.

Jurors did not discuss the extra cost of subsidizing dependents' coverage when they voted May 7 for the 60 percent contribution.