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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Sink announces $12 million in savings from reduced claims, suits



CFO Alex Sink, who touts her private business acumen in her Democratic campaign for governor, just announced that she has helped save state taxpayers $12 million over the past year by more quickly settling lawsuits against the state, by preventing workers' injuries, and by getting medical care more quickly to workers who are injured so that they return to the job sooner.

"And there are still many, many opportunities in state government to ... give us a new way to how we do state business," Sink said during a press conference in her Capitol office.

Sink said the state shelled out $147 million in taxpayer money in 2008 to pay claims levied against the state for things like property damage, workers' injuries, compensation claims, and employment discrimination and civil rights lawsuits. As CFO, she oversees the Division of Risk Management, which handles the claims and suits and payments.

Since taking office, Sink and her staff ID'd the five state agencies paying the most in claims. She said she called in the secretaries of the five -- DCF, DOT, DJJ, DOC and DOH -- for a meeting to discuss ways to reduce costs. All but DOT secretary Stephanie Kopelousos came, Sink said, and have since put measures in place to reduce claims and the time workers are out with injuries.

The Departments of Corrections and Juvenile Justice have seen the greatest savings. Sink said Corrections secretary Walt McNeil has sped up the time it takes for injured employees to get medical attention, getting them back to their jobs faster. He also is emphasizing prevention. He has reduced the lost work time of injured employees by $700,000, or 30 percent.

The Juvenile Justice Department implemented similar changes, resulting in savings and happier workers, Sink said.

Sink also got rid of a third-party company that handled claims at a cost of $455,000 and instead hired someone at about $60,000 a year to do the work. She and the agency secretaries looked at ways to prevent on-the-job injuries and claims, and they worked to settle civil rights and discrimination cases faster to reduce the costs of drawn-out litigation.

Sink said that so far the state has settled 30 cases early, saving an estimated $800,000 in legal costs. And her office anticipates that the state will save more than $7 million by more quickly dealing with and preventing civil rights lawsuits.

"My goal is to change how our state agencies look at risk, how they handle worker injuries, and how they handle civil rights and other lawsuits," Sink said.


[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 1:15pm]


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