Rick Scott Wants to Know Why Citizens Insurance Watchdog Team Was Fired
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Gov. Rick Scott is now backing calls to have the state inspector general look into why the corporate integrity team was dismantled at Citizens Property Insurance Corp.
Scott on Monday directed Chief Inspector General Melinda Miguel to study the termination of the four members of the watchdog team after a report was released Friday that the integrity team was investigating how leadership at Citizens handled a number of internal issues, including allegations of sexual harassment, indecent drunken behavior in public, questionable payments and falsified documents.
“In light of this report, the timing of the firings raises new concerns,” Scott wrote on Monday.
“Given the appearance of impropriety, I request that you conduct a thorough review of the terminations to determine whether any of them were retaliatory in nature.”
In October, following calls for an investigation into the firings by Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, who was then a state senator, Integrity Florida Executive Director Dan Krassner and Policyholders of Florida Founder Sean Shaw, Scott urged Citizens President Barry Gilway -- hired in June to help reduce the size of the bloated state-backed insurance company -- to use “greater caution with future modifications affecting internal investigations, audits and compliance."
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, had expressed that the dismantled team was being used as a “scapegoat.”
“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.
Krassner on Monday supported Scott.
"Citizens President Barry Gilway did the right thing in formally requesting this review," Krassner stated in a release. "We look forward to the inspector general's report to ensure accountability for the actions that resulted in firings of four internal government watchdogs."
When first reported, the termination of the four investigators and dismantling of the team were deemed a means to restructure how internal problems and fraud were handled.
November 19, 2012
Ms. Melinda Miguel
Chief Inspector General
Tallahassee, FL 32399
Dear Ms. Miguel:
On October 18, 2012, I stated in a letter to Barry Gilway, President of Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, that I was troubled by his decision to disband Citizens’ Office of Corporate Integrity and terminate its four employees. I explained that while I understood his stated desire to reduce redundancy and create efficiencies within Citizens, such efficiencies could not be achieved at the expense of accountability, transparency, and compliance. I urged Mr. Gilway to use greater caution with any future decisions affecting internal controls.
On Friday, a report released by Citizens’ Audit Committee revealed that shortly before their terminations, employees within the Office of Corporate Integrity were investigating allegations that Citizens had mismanaged internal investigations, applied disciplinary procedures inconsistently, and mishandled corporate funds. In light of this report, the timing of the firings raises new concerns. Given the appearance of impropriety, I request that you conduct a thorough review of the terminations to determine whether any of them were retaliatory in nature.
The people of Florida are entitled to accountability and transparency within every aspect of our government. Accountability and transparency require an adequate number of independent, highly trained professionals. My administration will not tolerate any action taken to undermine these safeguards. Your report will allow me to assess whether the taxpayer resources that support Citizens are properly protected and whether corrective action is needed to enhance compliance at Citizens.
cc: Barry Gilway, President, Citizens Property Insurance Corporation
Carlos Lacasa, Chairman, Citizens Property Insurance
Reach Jim Turner at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (772) 215-9889.