Lawmakers call for more oversight at Citizens Insurance
A freshman legislator from Miami Beach has filed a bill to increase scrutiny on Citizens Property Insurance Corp. by creating a new inspector general position at the state-run entity.
Rep. David Richardson, D-Miami Beach, filed HB 433 on Tuesday, which requires Citizens to have an Inspector General to look over its affairs.
“After learning of severe managerial shortcomings at Citizens, including reports of lavish spending on travel, reports of severance packages for employees with abuse charges, and unprofessional behavior of staff, I immediately recognized the need for stronger state oversight,” Richardson said in a statement.
The bill is similar to one recently filed by Sen. Joe Abruzzo, D-West Palm Beach. Both Gov. Rick Scott and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater have voiced support for an independent Inspector General at Citizens.
Citizens president, Barry Gilway, has expressed support for a new IG.
“Citizens is in full support of Senator Abruzzo’s good bill and welcomes the added oversight," he said in a statement last week. We hope this extra layer of accountability will help to restore public trust and confidence in Citizens’ commitment to the highest levels of financial responsibility and corporate integrity.”
The scrutiny at Citizens came in response to a series of articles in the Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times that documented evidence of lavish executive spending and misconduct among high-level employees.
Last week, Scott’ Chief Inspector General released a report showing that Citizens executives had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on expenses in the first eight months of 2012, including several international trips. Another investigation into the firing of four corporate investigators is ongoing.
“According to reports in The Miami Herald late last year, an internal audit brought to light issues at this company charged with being stewards of public funds,” said Richardson. “The firing of four auditors who were responsible for reporting these indiscretions and completely disbanding the Office of Corporate Integrity has led me to believe that officials at Citizens may think they can operate without accountability, which I find appalling.”