Make us your home page
Instagram

Florida Senate panel criticizes Citizens chief then gives him support

Barry Gilway says he was naive when he started, but now, “I learn every single day.”

Barry Gilway says he was naive when he started, but now, “I learn every single day.”

TALLAHASSEE — The president of Citizens Property Insurance Corp. faced a grilling from lawmakers Monday, but ultimately received a unanimous vote of support after explaining his response to a series of recent scandals at the company.

Barry Gilway assured lawmakers that he had acted decisively to address issues that ranged from lavish executive travel spending to an unpopular home reinspection program to a laundry list of corporate improprieties.

"I may be 67, but, man, I learn every single day," said Gilway, acknowledging that he was "naive" when he became CEO last June and had made some mistakes.

The hearing itself was a sign of Gilway's rocky tenure. The Legislature hauled the CEO before the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee for an up-or-down vote, instead of a committee overseeing insurance or business issues.

Lawmakers, mostly those from coastal regions where Citizens has the greatest market share, reflected the displeasure of their constituents as they questioned Gilway.

Sen. John Legg, R-Lutz, said his constituents were "unhappy" about rate increases, coverage cutbacks and Citizens' calculation of home values, which can be higher than other estimates.

Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, hammered Gilway over the home reinspection program that has cost Floridians more than $200 million in higher insurance rates in recent years.

"People went out and invested money in hardening their homes," she said, "under the premise that their insurance rates would go down."

Gilway, who is paid a $350,000-a-year salary, pointed out that many of the problems were in place before he joined Citizens, and that he had been working to soften the blow of some of the company's austerity measures. He pointed out that homeowners who lost discounts during the reinspections could get another reinspection, free of charge.

Gilway took a much more conciliatory tone on Monday than he did last year when the Times/Herald first began reporting about the company's internal scandals — which included drunken exploits, allegations of sexual harassment and use of the company credit card at strip clubs. At the time, Gilway blasted media coverage as "shameful" and "pathetic."

On Monday, Gilway credited the media for helping to shine a light on many of the internal problems at Citizens. He gave himself a "D" grade for how he has worked with the media, but an "A" for managing the insurer of 1.3 million policies.

"Without the media attention on expenses, it wouldn't be addressed as succinctly as we addressed it," he said.

Gilway, who has four decades of experience in the insurance industry, gathered support from a swath of lawmakers, who said they were willing to give him a chance.

"Prior to our meeting last week, I was prepared for us to give you a little harder time than we've given you today," said Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater. "To me, attitude's about 80 percent of the game. And I think you've got the right attitude."

Contact Toluse Olorunnipa at tolorunnipa@MiamiHerald.com or on Twitter at @ToluseO.

Florida Senate panel criticizes Citizens chief then gives him support 04/01/13 [Last modified: Monday, April 1, 2013 9:22pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. New DEP secretary says there's no conflict in political side businesses

    News

    TALLAHASSEE — When Noah Valenstein, the newly appointed head of the Department of Environmental Protection, was applying in April to be the state's top environmental regulator, he left one thing off the application: Companies he started and his wife runs have been paid nearly $1 million by politicians and lobbying …

     Noah Valenstein got the job as secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection on Tuesday May 23rd, on a unanimous vote by Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet. He will take the helm on June 5, with a salary of $150,000 per year. [Florida Governor's Office]
  2. New stores coming to Tyrone Square Mall, like Bath & Body Works

    Retail

    Tyrone Square Mall will welcome a half dozen new stores, like Bath & Body Works and MidiCi's The Neapolitan Pizza Company, this summer.

  3. Target Corp. reaches $18.5 million settlement with 47 states over data breach

    Retail

    Target Corp. has agreed to pay Florida $928,963 out of a newly-announced $18.5 million settlement over a huge data breach that occurred in late 2013.

    Forty-seven states and the District of Columbia have reached an $18.5 million settlement with Target Corp. to resolve the states' probe into the discounter's massive pre-Christmas data breach in 2013. 
[Associated Press]
  4. Gov. Rick Scott's family history of alcohol abuse could decide 'liquor wall' bill

    Legislature

    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott must decide Wednesday whether to let Walmart and other big-box stores sell liquor, and he says a factor in his decision is the history of alcohol abuse in his family.

    Florida Governor Rick Scott is considering a veto of a bill that would allow Walmart, Target and other big box retail stores to sell liquor. [Andres Leiva | Tampa Bay Times]
  5. Tampa lands Super Bowl in 2021

    Bucs

    TAMPA — Record rainfall in Los Angeles ultimately may end Tampa Bay's drought of hosting the Super Bowl.

    Mike Tomlin celebrates with LaMarr Woodley and Troy Polamalu after the Steelers beat the Cardinals in 


Super Bowl XLIII  on February 1, 2009 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. [Times files (2009)