Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Business

Interim Citizens president created job for his former aide

Ultimate expense: a new state job

Of all the expenses Tom Grady ran up in his brief tenure at Citizens Property Insurance, none was greater than this: He created a job for his former legislative aide.

The day after Grady became Citizens' interim president in March, Jacob Pewitt applied to the company and was promptly hired as "special assistant to the president'' at $50,000 a year. The position didn't exist before — Citizens already had a $67,500-a-year "executive assistant to the president'' — and it hasn't been filled since.

It was the second state job in seven months that the 30-year-old Pewitt landed at a time when Gov. Rick Scott was pushing to downsize both Citizens and state government.

Pewitt got the first job in September, soon after Grady, a friend of Scott and former state representative from Naples, became commissioner of the Office of Financial Regulation. Pewitt joined the office as a $46,390 "senior management analyst.''

Because Pewitt had worked for Grady in the Legislature, "no other reference checks were made for Mr. Pewitt due to Commissioner Grady's knowledge of him and his work,'' an OFR employee emailed colleagues.

On March 12, the same day Grady started as interim director at Citizens, Pewitt resigned from OFR to follow him to the state-run insurance company.

"I am sad to go but I must take another opportunity that has been presented to me,'' Pewitt wrote in his resignation letter.

Pewitt, who has a master's degree in political science, did not respond to requests for comment. Grady said Pewitt's job was akin to chief of staff and called it "an important and necessary and altogether different position'' than what Citizens already had.

Like scores of other Citizens employees, Pewitt carried a corporate credit card. He spent $2,137 on travel, records show. On one trip to Tampa, he put in for mileage for driving Grady back to his hotel after a Board of Governors meeting even though Grady had rented a car at company expense.

Just three months after joining Citizens, Grady was passed over for the permanent president's job and left the insurer on June 15. Citizens asked Pewitt to quit the same day.

"We didn't need the position,'' said board chairman Carlos Lacasa, adding, "I wasn't crazy about it'' when Pewitt was hired.

Pewitt got a payout of $3,846. Grady received $31,194, although he declined to sign a separation agreement that included a confidentiality clause, as departing executives typically do.

During Grady's short stint at Citizens, the existing executive assistant to the president remained on board. She is now working with the new president, Barry Gilway.

As for Pewitt, who on the social network site LinkedIn calls himself an "experienced political operative,'' he went back to Naples in June — working at Grady's law office.

Susan Taylor Martin can be contacted at [email protected] Jeff Harrington can be contacted at [email protected]

Comments
The ‘most interesting man in the world’ will be tending bar in Tampa on Friday

The ‘most interesting man in the world’ will be tending bar in Tampa on Friday

"Stay thirsty, my friends," the most interesting man in the world is coming to Tampa to tend bar on Friday. Jonathan Goldsmith, the face that launched a thousand memes, will be slinging cocktails at Tampa’s trendy Hall on Franklin, the food hall anno...
Updated: 16 minutes ago
So far, Pasco’s tourism base: Floridians, Canadians

So far, Pasco’s tourism base: Floridians, Canadians

NEW PORT RICHEY – The typical tourist in Pasco County this year most likely is a Floridian.But there are lots of Canadians here as well. Nearly 80 percent drove, rather than flew, to the region. Forty percent stayed in hotels, but more than a quarter...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Girls hockey could replace boys lacrosse on Pasco tourism calendar

Girls hockey could replace boys lacrosse on Pasco tourism calendar

NEW PORT RICHEY – Hockey pucks could replace lacrosse balls as the required sports equipment for the holiday tourism season in Wesley Chapel.The Wickenheiser World Female Hockey Festival, founded by Canadian hockey player Hayley Wickenheiser, is seek...
Updated: 2 hours ago
St. Pete Pier public arts committee to meet with finalists, make decision

St. Pete Pier public arts committee to meet with finalists, make decision

ST. PETERSBURG — The pier public arts committee is expected to decide today which artist or artists will have their work showcased in the new 26-acre Pier District. The committee, which selected six finalists with the help of consultant Ann Wykell, w...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Disney World hiring 3,500, offers signing bonuses up to $5,000

Disney World hiring 3,500, offers signing bonuses up to $5,000

ORLANDO — In an ever-tightening job market, Disney World is doubling its hiring bonuses for some summer jobs, even for unskilled or part-time positions — as it seeks to hire for 3,500 positions.A housekeeper hired this year at Disney World’s resorts ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Amazon will now deliver to certain cars across Tampa Bay

Amazon will now deliver to certain cars across Tampa Bay

SAN FRANCISCO — Amazon latest perk ... free delivery to your car. The Seattle company said Tuesday that it has begun delivering packages in 37 cities — including Tampa and St. Petersburg — to Prime members who own newer General Motors or Volvo vehicl...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Hernando Chamber boosts small business with videos

Hernando Chamber boosts small business with videos

SPRING HILL — Jaden Trotter claims he was basically shy. When a new sandwich shop opened a year and a half ago, he applied for work as a delivery driver, a job not requiring a lot of people skills.But Ryan Noruzi, owner of the local Jimmy Johns franc...
Published: 04/24/18
Armed Forces History Museum collection has a new home, but new owner is a mystery

Armed Forces History Museum collection has a new home, but new owner is a mystery

LARGO — The contents of the Armed Forces History Museum have been sold, but no one is ready to talk about the future of the collection of military memorabilia.A collector named John Piazza used his personal collection to start the public museum, whic...
Published: 04/24/18
Swimmer Michael Phelps to headline Crystal Lagoon grand opening Saturday

Swimmer Michael Phelps to headline Crystal Lagoon grand opening Saturday

WESLEY CHAPEL — Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps will splash down Saturday at the Crystal Lagoon in Wesley Chapel’s Epperson development.Phelps, a global ambassador for Crystal Lagoons, will appear at the grand opening of the first Crystal Lagoon...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Big visitor calls at Port Tampa Bay

Big visitor calls at Port Tampa Bay

TAMPA — The 750-foot-long Ireland, one of the biggest cargo vessels ever to call at Port Tampa Bay, arrived Sunday.The Ireland is on its inaugural voyage, having left a shipyard in China for a stop in Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula to pick up 64,865 shor...
Updated: 8 hours ago