Make us your home page
Instagram

Confidence fades as Citizens Property antics become public

Citizens Property Insurance was created in 2002 by the state to protect Floridians unable to find private insurance coverage.

Now who will protect us from Citizens' bad behavior?

A series of remarkably poor decisions — from flamboyant executive travel to canning the very staff investigating ethical lapses at the insurer — leaves Citizens in a wretched position with both its own beleaguered policyholders and a frustrated public. The few shreds of credibility still attached to Citizens may soon be in jeopardy as more dirt comes to light from a 73-page internal draft report detailing gross improprieties, sexual misconduct and fat severance checks for disgraced Citizens employees.

Even the failure of the draft report, gutted by Citizens, to see the light of day is outrageous. Thanks to reporting by Toluse Olorunnipa of the Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald bureau in Tallahassee, details of the document are now public.

Citizens president Barry Gilway last month terminated the four staff investigators working on this report, buried the report findings and shuttered Citizens' "Office of Corporate Integrity." After newspapers criticized these events, Gilway said better qualified fraud experts would replace the four and bemoaned the media's misrepresentations. As he stated in his Oct. 26 letter in the Palm Beach Post:

"A review showed that the former Office of Corporate Integrity lacked financial forensics experts who could identify and initiate investigations of internal fraud or policy violations. Most complaints investigated turned out to be workplace complaints and employee performance issues more appropriately handled by management and Employee Relations."

If Gilway suggests the details about Citizens in the report (much of it happened before Gilway arrived) is the work of such inadequate watchdogs, what would a high-powered probe discover?

Now Gilway is set to meet today with the insurer's board of directors to discuss this matter. Citizens chairman Carlos Lacasa says restoring public confidence is a priority.

One meeting may not do it.

As reported in the Tampa Bay Times and other Florida newspapers, the report finds:

• Citizens underwriting vice president Paul Palumbo received severance pay of more than $80,000 in 2010 as the company "closed without investigation" an inquiry into "inappropriate behavior and sexual harassment."

• Chief administration officer Susanne Murphy identified herself as the company's corporate counsel but was not a member of the Florida Bar. After company officials changed documents relating to her employment history, a 2010 Citizens review recommended no action.

• Two intoxicated management-level employees "removed their bras in front of employees" in a Coyote Ugly bar incident in Ybor City in 2009. Company officials advised counseling.

We can skip the part about the adult novelty business.

Gov. Rick Scott has asked state Inspector General Melinda Miguel to investigate the firings of the four Citizens Property investigators.

How telling that Citizens was created as insurer of "last resort." The definition of "last resort" is "a means to an end adopted only in desperation."

Robert Trigaux can be reached at trigaux@tampabay.com.

Confidence fades as Citizens Property antics become public 11/26/12 [Last modified: Monday, November 26, 2012 11:00pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Heights Public Market to host two Tampa Bay food trucks

    Business

    TAMPA — The Heights Public Market announced the first two food trucks for its "rotating stall," which will feature new restaurants every four months. Surf and Turf and Empamamas will be rolled out first.

    Heights Public Market is opening this summer inside the Tampa Armature Works building.
[SKIP O'ROURKE   |   Times file photo]

  2. Author Randy Wayne White could open St. Pete's biggest restaurant on the pier

    Food & Dining

    ST. PETERSBURG — The story begins with Yucatan shrimp.

    St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin, pilot Mark Futch, Boca Grande, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, and author and businessman Randy Wayne White,  Sanibel, exit a Maule Super Rocket seaplane after taking a fight around Tampa Bay off the St. Petersburg waterfront, 6/28/17.  White and his business partners are in negotiations with the City of St. Petersburg to build a fourth Doc Ford's Rum Bar & Grille on the approach to the St. Petersburg Pier with a second event space on the pier according to White. The group met near Spa Beach after a ground breaking ceremony for the new pier. "We want to have our business open by the time the pier opens," said White. Other Dr. Ford restaurants are located on Sanibel, Captiva and Ft. Myers Beach. SCOTT KEELER   |   Times
  3. Guilty plea for WellCare Health Plans former counsel Thaddeus Bereday

    Business

    Former WellCare Health Plans general counsel Thaddeus M.S. Bereday pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement to the Florida Medicaid program, and faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison. A sentencing date has not yet been set, acting U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow of the Middle District …

    WellCare Health Plans former general counsel Thaddeus M.S. Bereday, pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement to the Florida Medicaid program, and faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison. A sentencing date has not yet been set, acting U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow of the Middle District of Florida stated Wednesday. [LinkedIn handout]
  4. DOT shows alternatives to former Tampa Bay Express toll lanes

    Transportation

    TAMPA — State transportation officials are evaluating at least a half-dozen alternatives to the controversial Tampa Bay interstate plan that they will workshop with the community for the next 18 months.

    Florida Department of Transportation consultant Brad Flom explains potential alternatives to adding toll lanes to Interstate 275 during a meeting Wednesday at DOT's Tampa office. Flom presented seven diagrams, all of which swapped toll lanes for transit, such as light rail or express bus, in the I-275 corridor from downtown Tampa to Bearss Ave. [CAITLIN JOHNSTON | Times]
  5. Claim: State pressured CFO, used secret recordings to shut down Universal Health Care

    Banking

    ST. PETERSBURG — The founder of St. Petersburg's Universal Health Care alleges that Florida regulators conspired with the company's chief financial officer to drive the once high-flying Medicare insurer out of business.

    Federal agents raided the headquarters of Universal Health Care in 2013, ordering employees to leave the building. The insolvent St. Petersburg Medicare insurer was then in the process of being liquidated by state regulators.
[DIRK SHADD   |   Times file photo]