In This Issue

Grant & Scholarship Update

Claims Contact Update

Liability and Property Claims Department Personnel Changes

Avoiding Social Engineering and Phishing Attacks

Defensive Driving

Tennessee Trivia

Q. What two Tennessee cities signed the interlocal agreement that created the first statewide liability pool in the nation?

Click here for the answer

Message from the President

Dawn Crawford

In 1979, with a goal to achieve a reasonably priced and stable market for insurance coverage, the cities of Athens and Hendersonville signed an interlocal agreement, which allowed for the creation of Public Entity Partners. Forty years later, this member-owned organization serves nearly 500 local government partners. Throughout this time, we have been honored to have elected officials and city managers from across the state serve on our board of directors. 

Local governments combining resources and sharing exposures is different from buying insurance. There are many components of governmental pooling that make this cooperative arrangement a success for all.

From the outset, Public Entity Partners placed a major emphasis on controlling losses that still continues today. In everything you do, you want your citizens, employees and public assets to be protected from injury or damage. We want the same thing for you. That is the premise of risk management, which is why it has been so successful.

Another important element of governmental pooling is that the administrative arm of the program must be fiscally responsible for membership dollars. Our goal is to be financially sound so that we are here for the future. However, we also believe that monies in excess of possible maximum losses should be returned to the membership. For the past 25 years, members have received over $123 million dollars in dividends. That is a testament to your success in keeping your losses lower than actuarial projections.

Over the past 40 years, Public Entity Partners has developed a suite of value-added services. Those services include multiple types of grants and scholarships, a DVD library, online training for reducing loss exposures, on-site training, valuations of member-owned properties, a legal hotline program, a disaster assistance and recovery program, a Tenant User Liability Insurance Program (TULIP), on-site risk control surveys and recommendations, annual statewide workshops, our annual symposium and more.

On Oct. 29th, 2019, we will celebrate our 40th anniversary. We look forward to the future and the positive things we can accomplish together. We are grateful for the relationships and all you do for your communities.

All the best,

Dawn Crawford signature
Dawn R. Crawford


Grant & Scholarship Update

We understand that your budget is tight, and you make tough choices on how to allocate limited resources. Our grant and scholarship programs are designed to give you an added incentive to implement safety and risk management programs, as well as provide personal protective equipment to your employees.

Property Conservation Matching Grant

Applications are being accepted now through close of business on Friday, Nov. 15th, for the Property Conservation Matching Grant Program. This program offers financial assistance for the purchase of items designed to protect insured property from a variety of covered perils. All members with property coverage are eligible to apply. 

This is a 50% matching grant with a maximum reimbursement based on criteria included in the grant application instructions. The property conservation needs of each member are different. This grant allows eligible members to purchase property loss prevention/control items.

Eligible tools and technologies include, but are not limited to:

  • Lightning attenuation (lightning protection) systems
  • Security fencing
  • Infrared thermography equipment
  • Sprinkler head protective cages
  • Affixed barricade devices/bollards (or other protective devices)
  • Security cameras or security lighting  

Grant funds may also be used for:

  • Recommended loss prevention/control items identified by property conservation loss control surveys
  • Transformer oil and gas testing recommendations to electric utilities generated by a transformer oil or gas analysis (TOGA) program
  • Deficiencies or maintenance recommendations generated by infrared thermography inspections

Visit to begin the application process. Additional information and application instructions are available at this site. Grants are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, so the earlier you apply, the greater your chances of receiving funding. Applicants will be notified of grant awards beginning on Dec. 17th.

If you have questions about the Property Conservation Grant or your eligibility, please contact your property conservation consultant.

East Tennessee
Bill Magoon
(865) 500-5595

Middle Tennessee
Bob Lynch
(615) 371-0460

West Tennessee
Andy Lacewell
(731) 660-5869

TnPRIMA State Conference Scholarships

The application period for the Excellence in Risk Management TnPRIMA State Conference Scholarships closed at the beginning of October.

These scholarships were awarded to:

  • Kristen Boyd, human resources & risk manager, City of Collegedale
  • Gerald Campbell, city administrator, Town of Dover
  • Stacey Claxton, human resources generalist, City of Shelbyville
  • Missy Masoner, safety director, City of Newport
  • Steve Simon, city administrator, City of Adamsville
  • Angela Sylvester, human resources manager, City of Clinton

The Excellence in Risk Management TnPRIMA State Conference Scholarship provides up to $600 in funding for a member employee to attend the TnPRIMA conference in November. The goal of this scholarship program is to promote professional public risk management by providing greater educational opportunities, training and peer networking opportunities to risk managers, safety directors and other staff who have risk management responsibilities.

Drivers Safety Grant

The application period for the James L. Richardson Driver Safety Grant closed at the end of September and recipients will be notified at the beginning of November. This grant program assists members with automobile liability coverage to address training needs and safety concerns for employees that operate city or agency vehicles. 

For information about all of our grants and scholarships, including when applications are accepted, please visit

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Claims Contact Update

You may have seen a recent claims contact mailing update from Public Entity Partners. Getting the right information to the right person at your organization is important to us, and this update will help keep that process seamless.

This update was sent to the primary claims contact for each line of coverage you have with us. We ask that you please respond with any updated information so we can ensure that your claims information is sent to the correct person. A delay in claims information is often the result of incorrect contact information. 

You now have the capability to create a primary and secondary contact for each line of coverage. Should the adjuster be unable to reach the primary contact, we will reach out to the secondary contact. 

In the event of litigation, most updates will come from defense counsel. We strive to share privileged information from defense counsel to your city attorney or general counsel to preserve attorney-client privilege.

If you have questions about the claims contact update process or the different types of claims contacts we collect, please reach out to our member services department.

East Tennessee
Wayne Anderson

Middle Tennessee
Callie Westerfield

West Tennessee
Celeste Taylor

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Liability and Property Claims Department Personnel Changes

Part of the mission of Public Entity Partners is to provide expert claims administration. Over the last 40 years, we have cultivated a team of claims adjusters who are knowledgeable about local governments in Tennessee, and are dedicated to fairly and efficiently adjusting claims. 

For more than 20 years, Bob Bell and Sherry Austin have been an integral part of our Property and Liability adjuster team. Bob Bell has served as the supervisor of the liability and property adjusters, and Sherry has been a part of his team as a liability adjuster. If you have filed a property claim, handled a liability claim for your entity, or sent in a request for our legal hotline program, you have probably spoken with Bob or Sherry. This month, Bob and Sherry will be retiring and starting a new chapter of their lives.

Bob Bell will enter retirement with 44 years of claims adjusting experience, 25 of which have been with Public Entity Partners. In addition to supervising the liability and property adjusters and handling his own claim load, Bob has been very involved in the legal hotline program, serving as the liaison for the program. 

“I value long-term relationships, consistency and service to others,” Bob says. “I am honored that I have been able to spend the past 25 years of my career working with local governments in Tennessee. I have worked with our members for so long, and I really appreciate the professionalism and courtesy that I have been afforded while adjusting claims. Adjusting claims can be a difficult job, but the people I work with and our members have made it a wonderful experience.”

Bob and his wife, Joyce, are looking forward to spending more time with family in Franklin, Bristol and Chicago. Bob plans to get back to golfing, volunteer at his church, and be able to enjoy life at a slower pace.

Sherry Austin has adjusted liability claims with Public Entity Partners for 21 years, but has worked in the claims industry for 41 years.

 “Adjusting claims requires a unique skill set,” Sherry says. “It is important to always be mindful and respectful to the people you speak with. Anyone who files a liability claim is usually experiencing a bad time in their life. I have always strived to treat claimants with respect and dignity. One of my goals is to manage my time efficiently so that I can give each claimant the time and consideration they deserve. I have also always looked forward to any opportunity to meet our members face-to-face. I spend hours each day on the phone with claimants and members. Putting faces with the names of people you with whom you work and develop relationships has been the best part of my job.”

Sherry and her husband, David, who is semi-retired, plan to spend time with their new granddaughter in New Jersey, and visit other family members in Ohio and Florida.

Danya Feinstein, our litigation specialist, has adjusted claims for Public Entity Partners for more than 35 years, and she is taking on the role of property and liability supervisor. Information previously sent to Bob should now be sent directly to her.

If Bob or Sherry had responsibility for an open claim for your entity, you will receive correspondence about which adjuster will now handle the claim. Third-party claimants will also be notified of any adjuster changes. Members may also view claims information in PartnerShare, our online portal, to determine your new adjuster.

While Bob and Sherry will be difficult to replace, we are excited to welcome Laura Burford and Don Redden to our liability adjuster team.

A native of Florida, Laura joined the claims staff in July, and comes to us with two years of liability claims experience after graduating from Cumberland School of Law at Samford. She places a high value on accuracy and fairness in her work as a claims adjuster.

“Each day is different, and brings new and interesting situations in the claims I am working on,” Laura says. “It is rewarding to work with and help our members.”

Don Redden and his wife, Pam, recently moved back to Tennessee after he concluded a nearly 10-year stint in higher education. As a liability adjuster, he is able to utilize more than 25 years of experience in the insurance industry, including commercial lines adjusting. Don has a bachelor’s degree in religion and a master’s in human services counseling.

“I enjoy helping people, and I realize I can do that whether working with students or claimants and insureds,” Don says. “Throughout my career, I have worked with many types of carriers in various roles. Municipal liability is very specialized and I find the specific challenges very rewarding. I’ve been here for about a month, and I look forward to serving our members with the hope of becoming a valued part of the Public Entity Partners team.” 

Please join us in congratulating Sherry Austin and Bob Bell, and welcoming our new team members, Don Redden and Laura Burford.

Danya Feinstein
Property / Liability Supervisor

Laura Burford
Liability Adjuster

Don Redden
Liability Adjuster

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Avoiding Social Engineering and Phishing Attacks

By Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)
Original release date: October 22, 2009 | Last revised: August 22, 2019

What is a social engineering attack?

Do not give sensitive information to others unless you are sure that they are indeed who they claim to be and that they should have access to the information.

In a social engineering attack, an attacker uses human interaction (social skills) to obtain or compromise information about an organization or its computer systems. An attacker may seem unassuming and respectable, possibly claiming to be a new employee, repair person, or researcher and even offering credentials to support that identity. However, by asking questions, he or she may be able to piece together enough information to infiltrate an organization's network. If an attacker is not able to gather enough information from one source, he or she may contact another source within the same organization and rely on the information from the first source to add to his or her credibility.

What is a phishing attack?

Phishing is a form of social engineering. Phishing attacks use email or malicious websites to solicit personal information by posing as a trustworthy organization. For example, an attacker may send email seemingly from a reputable credit card company or financial institution that requests account information, often suggesting that there is a problem. When users respond with the requested information, attackers can use it to gain access to the accounts.

Phishing attacks may also appear to come from other types of organizations, such as charities. Attackers often take advantage of current events and certain times of the year, such as

  • Natural disasters (e.g., Hurricane Katrina, Indonesian tsunami)
  • Epidemics and health scares (e.g., H1N1)
  • Economic concerns (e.g., IRS scams)
  • Major political elections
  • Holidays

What is a vishing attack?

Vishing is the social engineering approach that leverages voice communication. This technique can be combined with other forms of social engineering that entice a victim to call a certain number and divulge sensitive information. Advanced vishing attacks can take place completely over voice communications by exploiting Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) solutions and broadcasting services. VoIP easily allows caller identity (ID) to be spoofed, which can take advantage of the public’s misplaced trust in the security of phone services, especially landline services. Landline communication cannot be intercepted without physical access to the line; however, this trait is not beneficial when communicating directly with a malicious actor.

What is a smishing attack?

Smishing is a form of social engineering that exploits SMS, or text, messages. Text messages can contain links to such things as webpages, email addresses or phone numbers that, when clicked, may automatically open a browser window or email message or dial a number. This integration of email, voice, text message, and web browser functionality increases the likelihood that users will fall victim to engineered malicious activity. 

How do you avoid being a victim?

  • Be suspicious of unsolicited phone calls, visits, or email messages from individuals asking about employees or other internal information. If an unknown individual claims to be from a legitimate organization, try to verify his or her identity directly with the company.
  • Do not provide personal information or information about your organization, including its structure or networks, unless you are certain of a person's authority to have the information.
  • Do not reveal personal or financial information in email, and do not respond to email solicitations for this information. This includes following links sent in email.
  • Don't send sensitive information over the internet before checking a website's security. (See Protecting Your Privacy for more information.)
  • Pay attention to the Uniform Resource Locator (URL) of a website. Malicious websites may look identical to a legitimate site, but the URL may use a variation in spelling or a different domain (e.g., .com vs. .net).
  • If you are unsure whether an email request is legitimate, try to verify it by contacting the company directly. Do not use contact information provided on a website connected to the request; instead, check previous statements for contact information. Information about known phishing attacks is also available online from groups such as the Anti-Phishing Working Group. (See the APWG eCrime Research Papers).
  • Install and maintain anti-virus software, firewalls, and email filters to reduce some of this traffic. (See Understanding Firewalls, Understanding Anti-Virus Software, and Reducing Spam for more information.)
  • Take advantage of any anti-phishing features offered by your email client and web browser.

What do you do if you think you are a victim?

  • If you believe you might have revealed sensitive information about your organization, report it to the appropriate people within the organization, including network administrators. They can be alert for any suspicious or unusual activity.
  • If you believe your financial accounts may be compromised, contact your financial institution immediately and close any accounts that may have been compromised. Watch for any unexplainable charges to your account.
  • Immediately change any passwords you might have revealed. If you used the same password for multiple resources, make sure to change it for each account, and do not use that password in the future.
  • Watch for other signs of identity theft. (See Preventing and Responding to Identity Theft for more information.)

Consider reporting the attack to the police, and file a report with the Federal Trade Commission.


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Defensive Driving

Every seven seconds, someone is injured in a car crash, and every 15 minutes, someone is killed.

When employees are involved in traffic incidents, their employers are exposed to liability risks and legal expenses, lost time, decreased productivity, and increased insurance and workers’ compensation costs.

Implementing a defensive driver safety program can help protect your entity and keep your employees safer.

It can also:

  • Decrease the risk of motor vehicle collisions and traffic violations
  • Minimize exposures to liability risks and legal costs
  • Reduce insurance premiums and workers’ compensation claims
  • Lower vehicle repair and replacement expenses

What is defensive driving? It is a set of driving skills that allows you to defend yourself against possible collisions caused by bad drivers, drunk drivers and poor weather. By just looking ahead and keeping your eyes moving, you will spot potential hazards more easily. Once a potential hazard is identified, you can decide what to do and then act immediately.

Tips for defensive driving:

  • Plan ahead for the unexpected
  • Be able to control your speed
  • Be prepared to react to other drivers
  • Do not expect other drivers to do what you think they should do; you might get caught off guard when drivers don’t do what's expected
  • Respect other users of the roadway
  • Be aware of driving in special road and weather conditions
  • Avoid distractions (i.e., cell phones, eating while driving, etc.)

Never assume that other drivers are sober or alert, and follow the rules of the road at all times. In addition, it has been well proven that seatbelts save lives. Make sure everyone in your car is buckled up.

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Tennessee Trivia

Q: What two Tennessee cities signed the interlocal agreement that created the first statewide liability pool in the nation?

A: The City of Athens and the City of Hendersonville signed the agreement in 1979, which allowed for the creation of Public Entity Partners.