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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Citizens to pay coordinating attorney $1 million

13

December

Citizens Property Insurance will pay West Palm Beach attorney Scott Link $1 million annually for three years to oversee claims litigation.

The deal, inked Friday by Citizens Board of Governors, was part of a $6.5 million contract awarded to Link's firm.

State Rep. Frank Artiles, R-Miami, likened the agreement to a "government giveaway" based on political connections. Artiles pointed out that former interim Citizens chief (and Rick Scott ally) Tom Grady once served as counsel for Ackerman, Link and Sartory.

"You can bring [the job] in house for a fraction of the cost," Artiles said at Friday's Board of Governors meeting in Orlando. "Citizens has a fiduciary responsibility to the state of Florida not to waste money on litigation."

But Citizens President Barry Gilway said hiring Link as "coordinating counsel" was the right move. Gilway noted that Link was already overseeing sinkhole claims, and that his efforts had saved policy holders millions of dollars.

"We need desperately the continued advice of the coordinating counsel that's represented in this procurement in order to make an impact going forward," Gilway said.

Citizens Chief Legal Officer Dan Sumner said having a coordinating counsel would save as much as $97 million in defense fees.

The Citizens board approved the contract by a 4-1 vote, with Vice Chairman Don Glisson voting in opposition. Board members Tom Lynch and Freddie Schinz abstained.

The vote drew criticism sharp criticism Friday.

“The giveaways to allies of Rick Scott at Citizens just keep coming, and they all seem wildly inappropriate,” said Sean Shaw, Florida's former Insurance Consumer Advocate. “The $525 an hour Citizens will be paying this attorney might be better spent launching an investigation into how Citizens continues to disrespect policyholders and taxpayers."

Gilway said there had been "no opportunity for bias in the bid" because it was competitively procured.

But even that came under fire. Artiles raised questions about the procurement process, and the process used to award the initial $1.5 million contract to Link's firm to oversee sinkhole claims in 2012. He said the first bid excluded too many qualified firms, and the second put too much emphasis on "coordinating counsel" experience.

[Last modified: Friday, December 13, 2013 6:26pm]

    

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