Hurricane fund is inadequate, its chief tells state legislators
Florida's hurricane fund chief is warning that the state-created fund used to pay off claims after a big storm is dangerously overexposed. The state relies on a state-backed hurricane fund to provide a backstop to both private insurers and Citizens Property Insurance Corp. But Jack Nicholson, the chief operating officer of the fund, told state legislators Wednesday that turmoil in the financial markets is raising questions about whether the fund could borrow enough money to pay hurricane claims. This year the fund is providing $18.5 billion worth of coverage. Nicholson wants to scale back the size of the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund but that would likely result in higher insurance rates.
Panther road kill is eighth in 2011
Authorities say a Florida panther was killed by a vehicle this week in southwest Florida. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says it was the eighth panther killed by a vehicle this year; 16 were killed in 2010. The panther was a 3- to-4-year-old female without a tracking collar. Overall, this was the 23rd documented panther mortality in 2011.
Defense begins in developer's trial
Attorneys for Central Florida developer Bob Ward, who is accused of fatally shooting his wife, began the defense Wednesday by calling Dr. Jimmie Valentine, who said Diane Ward, 55, had the antidepressant citalopram and alcohol in her system when she died. That could have caused hostility, anxiety and suicidal thoughts, he said. Ward is accused of killing his wife in 2009, days before she was to give a deposition in a lawsuit alleging that he blew millions of dollars on big houses and expensive cars while his business failed. Defense attorneys say Ward's wife was suicidal and he was trying to stop her from killing herself when she died.
Lost treasures help state's schools
A handwritten letter signed by Sherlock Holmes author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is among unclaimed property that's been auctioned off to benefit the state's schools. Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater said Tuesday that Saturday's auction in Ponte Vedra Beach brought in $1 million. Other items included a vintage Leica camera, an American Indian belt with 200 grams of silver and a gold Elgin pocket watch. All were left in abandoned safe deposit boxes at Florida banks.
Sierra Club sues UF for fertilizer records
The Sierra Club is suing the University of Florida for records on urban fertilizer regulations. The club, suing in Circuit Court in Fort Lauderdale, accuses the university's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences of violating Florida's open-records law by refusing access to the records. The university contends the documents are not public. They relate to an institute publication titled "Unintended Consequences Associated with Certain Urban Fertilizer Ordinances." The publication is being used by opponents to challenge city and county fertilizer regulations.
SeaWorld whale threats questioned
Government attorneys defending job safety citations against SeaWorld said Wednesday that the theme park kept incomplete records of whales' threats to trainers. The theme park is appealing the three citations and a $75,000 fine issued after a trainer's death last year. Occupational Safety and Health Administration attorney John Black questioned SeaWorld's head of animal training Charles Tompkins about past whale aggression. SeaWorld records describe 100 incidents, but Black noted that trainer Dawn Brancheau's death in February 2010 was missing from the records. Tompkins said the death was not included in the log because a report was not complete.