Thursday, August 16, 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]

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