Rebecca Horvath is a risk detective: She investigates damage claims made against the Howard County government, and sometimes solves potential cases before harm is done.

"This is not a job where you sit behind a desk; you have to investigate where the problems are. It's a people-oriented job, a job where you have to communicate with other offices within the government and figure out how to plan for future risks," said Natalie Wasserman, president of the Public Risk and Insurance Management Association.

PRIMA was founded in 1978 to provide training to the growing field of risk-reduction specialists in government who try to prevent liability insurance claims from ever occurring.

PRIMA represents risk managers in all types of public entities, from school districts to state governments. As the insurance market has grown tighter over the past two years, membership has doubled to 1,200.

Horvath, who is PRIMA's Maryland chapter president and the insurance administrator for Howard County, is trying to solve a fairly typical case this week.

After the Department of Public Works laid its annual coat of tar on county roads, her office received complaints from three residents demanding that it pay to clean the tar off their car tires. She went to the site and investigated.

"In this case, we need to look at whether we should put up additional speed signs when we are tarring; if you go through hot tar at three to four miles an hour, the tar won't stick like that."

But she does more than solve summer tarring problems. "We provide so many services. We are in the business of protecting the public and our employes," Horvath said. Wasserman added that governments have to worry about everything from a public employe who is injured on the job, to a public official who makes a comment that is construed as slanderous, to whether the crack in a sidewalk has been fixed.

Howard County, which has been self-insured since 1981, will be forced to take a risk of its own soon. In addition to its $50,000 insurance pool, the county always has been covered by an insurance policy that is underwritten by a major insurance company to cover more costly claims.

This year, the county will be forced to "go bare" because it didn't receive any bids from insurance companies willing to take its policy. "Insurance is like breathing: It's something that has always been there," said Horvath.

This is just the kind of situation that PRIMA deals with, only in most cases the government is left with no policy at all. Aside from teaching the importance of searching out possible lawsuits, the group also provides information on how to form intergovernmental risk pools, which enable several municipalities to pool their resources and insure each other.

PROFESSIONAL

At its first annual meeting at the Key Bridge Marriott Hotel in Rosslyn, 130 messengers picked up on what the Washington Metropolitan Courier Association was delivering. A spokesman for the group estimated that more than half of the area's couriers attended the meeting to air grievances on parking violations, worker's compensation, the contractor status of drivers, and insurance. The new board of directors: president, Bud Hanson of U.S. Express; vice president, Gene Pack of Alert Delivery; secretary, Karen Brown of Nova Delivery; and treasurer, Rodger McArthur of Royal Express.

The Greater Washington Society of Association Executives celebrated its 58th year at its annual meeting last week. H. Chris Collie, executive director of the Employe Relocation Council, was sworn in as chairman of the group. Peter J. DiDomenico Jr., staff vice president of the Employe Relocation Council, was chosen as most active member, and W. Douglas Fisher, vice president of Aztech Corp. in Washington, a firm specializing in developing computer systems for associations, was chosen as most active associate member. The president of the Society of Professional Benefit Administrators, Frederick D. Hunt Jr., won the excellence in communications award for an article written in Executive Update, GWSAE's publication, outlining how one association increased membership by cutting all of its unnecessary services.

The American Society of Association Executives has hired an 18-year veteran of association management, Robert A. MacDicken, as its director of human resources.

The National Capital Chapter of the Air Conditioning Contractors of America has installed Daniel L. Moldenhauer, co-owner of M & M Mechanical in Alexandria, as president.

The Federal Managers Association has moved its offices from Arlington to the District, to be closer to its members.

The Washington Metropolitan Chapter of the Healthcare Financial Management Association has chosen its officers for 1986-87. They are: president, William J. Rohn of Washington, director of finance for the Group Health Association Inc.; president-elect, Arlington resident L. Gil Cottle, vice president of finance for Arlington Hospital; secretary, John T. Armstrong of Alexandria, assistant director of finance at Howard University Hospital; treasurer, Stephen F. Brown of Burke, assistant comptroller of Fairfax Hospital Association; and vice president, Dennis M. Barry of Potomac, a partner with Wood, Lucksinger and Epstein.

TRADE

The World Trade Center of Washington Association, a nonprofit group that belongs to a 50-nation network of world trade centers, has elected the former director of Baltimore's World Trade Center as its president. Richard C. Anderson will advise the Alexandria group, which is slated to move into the PortAmerica complex that is under development on the Potomac River. WTCWA facilities are open to members in the area as well as those belonging to the world trade center network.

The Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association has hired Bernadette A. Toomey as vice president of communications. Toomey was formerly corporate secretary of The Brookings Institution and executive director of the Brookings Council.

Douglas R. King has been elected vice president of the American Electronics Association Eastern Division.