Business

Alex Sink OK'd Felons to Sell Insurance

Rick Scott, demanding full disclosure, says he would never have approved applications
By: Kenric Ward | Posted: October 12, 2010 4:05 AM
Alex Sink and Bill McCollum
On at least six occasions, state Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink approved felons' applications to sell insurance in Florida.

In a series of letters to felons last year, Sink flashed the green light to applicants who had been convicted of, or pleaded guilty to the following:

  • Assault on a police officer.
  • Resisting arrest with violence.
  • Grand larceny.
  • Conspiracy to use unauthorized credit cards.
  • Obtaining property for a worthless check.
  • Forgery.
  • Parole violation.

Sink's actions were condemned by her Republican gubernatorial opponent, Rick Scott.

"The law is designed to prevent felons who have committed crimes of dishonesty from working in positions of trust in the financial services industry, including selling insurance," said Scott spokesman Joe Kildea. "Rick agrees with that law.

"Rick would never have granted licenses to anyone convicted of theft, forgery, credit card fraud or similar crimes to work with sensitive personal information and financial accounts. That's why the law exists; it's a good law, and it's just common sense," Kildea said.

Raising the issue during a debate on Univision Friday, Scott appeared to catch the Democrat off-guard. Upon leaving the stage after the debate, an animated Sink was overheard quizzing aides about the issue.

On Monday the Scott campaign challenged Sink to detail how many convicted criminals received licenses during her term as CFO and to release all files pertaining to convicts who obtained licenses on her watch.

The Sink campaign did not respond to requests for comment from Sunshine State News.

According to Florida law, the Department of Financial Services, which Sink supervises, has the authority to deny any applicant who meets any of the following, whether a judgment of guilt was withheld or not:

  • Has entered a plea of nolo contendere (no contest) to a felony.
  • Has entered a plea of guilty to a felony.
  • Has been convicted or found guilty of a felony.
  • Has pleaded guilty, no contest, or been found guilty of any crime punishable with imprisonment of one year or more in any state.

Applicants who fall into these categories are subject to a 5-, 7- or 15-year waiting period from the date the applicant was convicted or pleaded to the felony. Beyond that, applicants must have completed probation, paid full restitution and had their civil rights restored.

Even meeting all the above conditions "does not automatically guarantee the applicant will be granted licensure," the statutes say.

While acknowledging that her letters did not constitute final approval, Sink, in letters signed by Deputy Chief Financial Officer Tammy Teston, appeared to waive restrictions for felony applicants.

"While the Department does grant its consent for you to engage in the business of insurance, please be advised that this letter of consent does not take the place of any license of appointment otherwise required under Florida law," the letters state.

According to records obtained by Sunshine State News, each of the six applicants, whose names were redacted, were granted final approval to sell insurance in Florida.

Their product lines are mainly health and life insurance, including annuities. Companies run the gamut from small operators to big-name insurers, such as Humana and Prudential.

Sam Miller, executive vice president of the Florida Insurance Council, declined to comment on the situation.

--

Contact Kenric Ward at kward@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 801-5341.




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