Monday, June 18, 2018
Business

Citizens investigation raises new questions about ethics lapses

TALLAHASSEE — Two former Citizens Property executives, who left the state-run insurance company for violating conflict of interest rules, were developing an online software company with their supervisor and receiving hefty pay raises, documents show.

Edward B. Baldwin and Christopher H. Dunn, both high-level executives at Citizens, resigned on May 17 after an internal audit found they formed Silvershore Partners last November with their then-boss, Eric J. Ordway, and used Citizens computers to access a website for the company during work hours.

Ordway, 48, left the company in December after starting ProfileGorilla, an online software company that specializes in helping businesses track sales, payroll, contracts and other management issues. An investigation into whether or not Ordway and partners used proprietary data from Citizens for private gain is still underway, Citizens auditors said Tuesday.

"The forensic audit is focusing on computer software to see if Citizens data was downloaded and removed,'' said Michael Peltier, a Citizens spokesman.

But the controversy also has raised questions about how much Yong Gilroy, Citizens chief insurance officer, knew about Ordway's relationship with the employees he supervised. Gilroy has ties to each of the four officers at Silvershore Partners.

Gilroy worked with Ordway and Dunn at Atlanta-based Home Depot Corporation, hired Ordway at Citizens in 2009, signed off on raises for Baldwin, and has a previous business relationship with the fourth partner, Ty Miller of BrightClaims, Inc., a Citizens vendor.

"Auditors are also looking at all contracts with BrightClaims to ensure everything is above board,'' Peltier said. But Gilroy is not being questioned as part of that, he said.

"Our chief of internal audit determined that Yong (Gilroy) did not have prior knowledge of secondary employment,'' he said.

Ordway, 48, told the Times/Herald that he told Citizens leadership he was starting his company a month before they formed the partnership, and he did not believe any of them were violating Citizens ethics rules because the start-up was not making any money.

"I can understand where I probably made the wrong move because, technically, I was still an employee,'' he said. "None of Citizens' developers have worked on our project. We've invested our own capital."

Ordway hired Dunn in 2010 and, according to a review of company personnel records, both Gilroy and Ordway approved salary increases for Baldwin and Dunn over the past three years — the time period auditors said they were developing their software.

When Ordway, Baldwin and Dunn attended a Jacksonville event for entrepreneurs in April to market ProfileGorilla, another Citizens employee spotted them and sent an email to Citizens officials to inform them of the potential conflict.

Baldwin and Dunn then filled out a form disclosing their secondary employment. Gilroy signed off on it, adding a note that the partners "are not to discuss or market to any of Citizens vendors until their employment is terminated."

But after an internal investigation, auditors concluded the men had violated the company's code of ethics. They placed Dunn and Baldwin on administrative leave and asked them to either quit working on ProfileGorilla or leave Citizens by May 17. The men choose to leave Citizens.

"It didn't appear they had taken any company assets or stolen any company secrets,'' said Peltier, the Citizens spokesman. "It was clear they had made a mistake, but it didn't precipitate harsh punishment."

Baldwin, 32, was a claims adjuster in Jacksonville with computer software development experience in 2009 when he was hired by Citizens to be a vendor relations manager, earning a $75,000 annual salary. When he resigned, he was earning $112,000.

Ordway and Gilroy had approved a 15.7 percent raise for him in 2010, a 17.5 percent raise in 2011 and a 11 percent raise in 2012, according to company documents. Each raise increase included detailed reviews of the work Baldwin had done and commendations from Ordway.

Ordway said the increases were justified because they were "taking on new roles and responsibilities."

Dunn was referred to Citizens by Ordway and, according to his personnel file, was one of three people interviewed for the job of vendor relations manager. He was hired for $90,000 in 2010 and was given a raise to $105,000 — a 16.6 percent increase — by Ordway and Gilroy. He did not respond to requests for comment.

Baldwin said Tuesday that he didn't see a pay increase until April 2013 and never considered his work with ProfileGorilla a conflict.

ProfileGorilla "was not live, had no customers, and generated no revenue,'' he said in a statement. "It was a concept, not unlike anyone in the state who has a dream for a new startup or to work for themselves."

Auditors note, however, that the rules state that employees are obligated to report secondary employment if it includes "marketing personal or professional services … whether or not compensation has actually been received."

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