Business

Rick Scott Wants New Watchdogs at Citizens Property Insurance

By: Jim Turner | Posted: December 12, 2012 3:55 AM

Gov. Rick Scott said Citizens Property Insurance needs its own inspector general to avoid future internal mismanagement as well as a “third-party enforcement officer” for compliance.

Scott has held off on commenting about problems reported inside the state-backed agency as he awaits a pair of studies he’s ordered on Citizens.

But while his investigators continue to review the bulky insurance provider, Scott said Tuesday he will ask legislators to approve the position of inspector general and recommend the agency create a compliance officer post.

“I think they need their own inspector general. We can’t have mismanagement,” Scott told reporters Tuesday at the Capitol.

“On top of that, I think they need a third-party enforcement officer to make sure they’re complying with the rules; to make sure that what policies they are issuing are policies issued based on what the existing laws are.”

There is no timetable on the report that Scott ordered from Chief Inspector General Melinda Miguel after it was reported the Citizens integrity team was scuttled while investigating internal issues, including allegations of sexual harassment, indecent drunken behavior in public, questionable payments and falsified documents.

Barry Gilway, Citizens president and CEO, has strongly insinuated that the past problems within the agency were being magnified in the media and that most had been found to be baseless.

Sean Shaw

Founder of Policyholders of Florida Sean Shaw

Sean Shaw, the founder of Policyholders of Florida, supported the call for new legislation from the governor’s office.

"Governor Scott seems to finally get that there is something amiss at Citizens,” Shaw stated in a release.  

“This legislation is a good proactive fix coming on the heels of the expanded investigation we asked for in October.”

Appearing at the Florida Chamber of Commerce Insurance Summit earlier this month, Scott said Citizens and legislators need to focus on educating customers of the state-backed insurance provider about the risks of the coverage, rather than push for a law that would allow Citizens to exceed its 10 percent cap on annual rate increases.  

He noted that a Chamber study showed most customers are unaware that they could be hit with a tax that could reach four figures to cover damages from a storm, regardless of where in the state the storm hit.

Also, the state needs to crack down on fraud in sinkhole coverage, which has helped push up premiums, he said.

A push has been under way to allow Citizens, which is trying to shed many of its 1.48 million policies into the private market, to exceed the cap to bring its rates more in line with private firms.

Gilway has noted that if Citizens ended the inadequacy in Hernando County, rates would need to jump 230 percent, while customers in Monroe County would see a 73 percent increase, Pasco County would grow 60 percent and Miami-Dade would get a 20.5 percent hike.



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



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