Politics

Complaints Grow over Firing of Citizens Property Corporate Integrity Team

By: Jim Turner | Posted: October 22, 2012 1:00 PM

Rick Scott and Mike Fasano

Gov. Rick Scott and Sen. Mike Fasano

Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, and Integrity Florida on Monday joined a growing chorus that question a decision to slash the corporate integrity team -- a four-member crew that handled corporate fraud and employee complaints -- at Citizens Property Insurance Corp.

Fasano, who has been one of the harshest watchdogs of the state-backed property insurance provider through repeatedly questioning lavish travel expense reports and proposed rate hikes, has asked Gov. Rick Scott to appoint Florida’s inspector general to investigate the firings.

“I am shocked by the action of cleaning out this office, because it does little to shed light on how the people who took the trips and meals were allowed to do so without the scrutiny that quasi-governmental officials should have been given,” Fasano stated in a release.

“The Office of Corporate Integrity should be the watchdog, not the scapegoat.”

Dan Krassner, executive director of Integrity Florida, and Sean Shaw, founder of Policyholders of Florida, sent Scott their own letter calling the terminations “incomprehensible."

“We find it especially troubling that the terminated employees were asked to sign confidentiality agreements,” they wrote. “It certainly gives a perception of corruption.”

“Floridians deserve a closer look at Citizens' accountability, ethics, transparency, and compliance.”

Last Thursday, Scott expressed concern about the team being disbanded before proposed replacements were brought on board.

In a letter, the governor called the move “troubling” and urged Citizens President Barry Gilway to use “greater caution with future modifications affecting internal investigations, audits and compliance."

“While I understand your desire to reduce redundancy and create efficiencies within Citizens, such efficiencies cannot be achieved at the expense of accountability, transparency, and compliance,” Scott wrote.

Gilway contends that functions of the office haven’t been eliminated -- they have been shifted under other business units, including the Office of Internal Audit, the Ethics Office and the Employee Relations Office.

“We believe these changes strengthen our ability to ensure Citizens' employees operate with the highest level of integrity,” Gilway stated in a release intended to address the concerns expressed about his staff moves.

The new office would focus mostly on fraud, with workplace complaints and employee performance issues handled by management and the employee relations office.



Reach Jim Turner at jturner@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 215-9889.

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