Promoters have till Tuesday to obtain proper insurance.
At the request of Candy Presley, member of Franklin's Tourism Development Authority (TDA), a special called meeting was held Tuesday afternoon to discuss insurance coverage for the Smoky Mountain Rumble Rally that is slated to be held Aug. 17 and 18 on the Highlands Road.
According to Presley, she called the meeting after discovering that the event promoters and owners of USRiders Magazine, Scott and Sylvia Cochran, failed to meet the Friday deadline to present the TDA with proof of adequate insurance for the motorcycle rally.
Town attorney John Henning Jr. reviewed the insurance policy provided by the Cochran's and determined that the wording in the policy would only cover the town for “setting up a tent and distributing magazines.” Henning, who said that he spoke directly with the Cochrans’ insurance agent, informed the TDA that according to the agent, insurance to cover the TDA and the town of Franklin was not possible through that insurance company.
“The current policy would not protect the TDA or the town in the event of a wreck in connection with the event,” said Henning. “As it stands, the insurance is not adequate to cover promotion of the motorcycle rally or events related to it.”
Although Scott Cochran argued with Henning and said that his insurance company had previously said they would be able to insure the event, and that no insurance company would ever cover government entities or spectators like Henning suggested the policy should do, Sylvia Cochran informed TDA members that she had two other insurance companies that would be able to provide adequate coverage.
Cochran cited his 12 years of experience in organizing other similar events and said that he has never had a problem like this before.
“If you’re doing this same event in Helen, Georgia you are not giving coverage to anyone with this policy,” said Henning.
The heated discussion between TDA members, the town attorney and the event promoters, grew even more tense when Scott Cochran said he would have no problem canceling the rally altogether. “I am under the impression that the TDA wants to pull the plug on the event and I am okay with that,” said Scott. “We are already $3,000 in the hole and the way that you have nit picked my budget apart I would be happy to pull the plug right now and walk out the door... I have spent $2,658 in additional fees that was not originally in the budget. Sylvia told me that after the meeting those expenses were going to be added to the budget but the December minutes say it was part of the existing budget. When I spoke to Mike Grubermann in Knoxville while promoting the event, he said the extra expenses would be an addition to the budget but it hasn't been. And every time we have to come back up here for a meeting that is at least $100 plus we have to eat. So that is $1,200 for the dozen meetings we have come up here for plus all the added grief we have been getting.”
To clarify her reason for calling the meeting, Presley said, “I do not want to be held responsible for something that happens when you supposedly have coverage and then when something does happen and it comes back to me, I would rather cancel the damn thing than someone come after me and sue me or my family or someone else because we didn't have proper coverage.”
“They have been working with you for months to get you to supply adequate insurance or proof thereof and you have not done it,” said Henning. “Anything else you say to that is just obfuscation.”
Scott Cochran claimed that he could was unable to meet the Friday deadline as previously requested because he and his wife were vacationing in Florida and because a location for the event was not officially secured until June, even though the event has been being planned for more than a year.
“Why do you have to have a policy this soon,” asked Cochran. “You don't need insurance until the day before the event opens.”
Henning responded to Cochran's statement by informing him that having insurance was part of the TDA's agreement with the Cochrans to have the event and that the policy that the board did receive was not sufficient.
Summer Woodard asked Henning what action the TDA should take. “Without insurance, it can still happen,” said Henning. “The town or TDA does not have the authority to stop it from happening because it is being held on private property. But the TDA can shield itself from liability by taking further action to withdraw support of the event by instructing the event promoters to remove the TDA and town logos from anything promoting the event.”
Agreeing that members of the TDA want to see the event happen as long as all legal aspects are properly covered, the board unanimously voted to continue the meeting until 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday to allow the Cochrans time to contact other insurance companies and secure proper coverage for the event. Henning advised the board that he would speak directly to whichever insurance agent the Cochrans choose to be sure that adequate coverage is supplied.