A company on the state’s list of "trusted community organizations" is headed by a man who once brandished a shotgun during a traffic stop by a Wisconsin deputy.
Bruce Lyon-Dugin is one of 30 grant recipients who could split $4 million in funding from MNsure, the state’s new online health insurance marketplace.
Last year, Lyon-Dugin cut a plea deal with a Wisconsin circuit court over a 2011 incident, when he waved a short-barreled shotgun out his car window after a Lincoln County deputy pulled him over for erratic driving. The charges against him will be wiped from his record if he completes the terms of his two-year probation, but news stories about the incident and his mug shot pop up during even the most cursory Internet search.
"I’m not going to comment on an incident a judge has already commented on, so why don’t you go read the (opinions) from the judge? That’s closed information, as far as I’m concerned," Lyon-Dugin said, when asked about the incident.
Lyon-Dugin, who has a background in tax, healthcare and benefits planning, applied for $113,490 in grant funding to help him advise uninsured and under-insured Minnesotans as they navigate the new online marketplace. On the website for his business, Lyon-Dugin & Associates, he identifies the company as a MNsure partner.
MNsure will begin enrolling its first health insurance customers in October. The hope is that the system will work like the online travel sites where people shop for hotel rooms and plane fares, and grant recipients like Lyon-Dugan & Associates were tapped to help to help educate the public about this new way to buy health insurance. An estimated 1 million Minnesotans are expected to eventually enroll in MNsure.
"Named grantees include trusted community organizations from all across Minnesota," MNsure’s press release said at the time.
MNsure spokeswoman Jenni Bowring-McDonough said none of the grant applicants will receive any taxpayer funds until they have been thoroughly vetted.
"The MNsure outreach and infrastructure grant award process is in its final stage of review," she said. "At this point MNsure is reviewing information from each named grantee related to their proposed budget, use of funds, financial management practices, background checks, and conflict of interest. MNsure also reserves the right to request additional pertinent information during this stage of review. MNsure has not and will not enter into a contract with an entity prior to a complete and thorough review. To date, MNsure has not completed this final stage for any named grantee and no contracts have been finalized."
MNsure’s critics see Lyon-Dugin’s inclusion on the grant list, preliminary or not, as a sign of trouble. Many other established organizations applied for a share of that $4 million -- the list of groups that applied, but were not chosen includes the University of Minnesota, Children’s Hospitals of Minnesota and the Minneapolis Urban League.
"It makes me question their due diligence," said state Sen. Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake. "Now my radar is really up. These groups will be working with people’s social security numbers, with the names of people’s children. We need to be be very mindful."
Benson and other Republican lawmakers plan to air their concerns about Lyon-Dugin and other MNsure grant recipients at an oversight hearing that will be held at the Capitol on Tuesday.