Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Editorials

Drain the Citizens ethics swamp

Before four internal investigators were dismissed last month, it's now clear that the top echelon of Citizens Property Insurance Corp. — including its new president — were aware the quartet had compiled an extraordinary file on dysfunction at the state-run insurer. The details are far more salacious than the sanitized report released last week to the company's audit committee, and they are a damning counterpoint to president Barry Gilway's initial claim that the four employees of the Office of Corporate Integrity were terminated to make way for restructuring.

Gov. Rick Scott has called for an investigation by his own inspector general, the second in recent months. Scott and the Legislature need to follow the evidence wherever it leads and hold Citizens to account. The company must be run in the interest of Floridians, not its insiders.

It was bad enough learning earlier this year that the top leaders at Citizens — even as they were hatching plans to dump customers and raise premiums — felt entitled to treat themselves to lavish meals, car services and resort hotels while on official business.

Gilway, upon accepting the job in June, promised to put an end to all that. But in hindsight, he was apparently learning more about the lack of integrity within the company's ranks. The Office of Corporate Integrity had compiled a 73-page report highlighting an assortment of improprieties, most between 2008 and 2011. But before that report became public, the four were terminated in October and handed confidentiality agreements.

Last week, a sanitized, five-page version of the report was released to the company's three-person audit committee. But it wasn't until the Times/Herald Tallahassee bureau's Toluse Olorunnipa pieced together the details from other public records that the governor called for a second investigation by his inspector general. A subsequent Times/Herald article Wednesday exposed even further a working environment short on integrity. The improprieties included executives accused of misconduct receiving five-figure severance packages, a cover-up that the legal counsel was not a member of the Florida Bar and disparate treatment of human resources employees caught using company resources to run side businesses. One who ran a sex toy business was fired; the other was not, even though she had also removed her bra and danced on a table at an Ybor City bar during a company retreat.

All this from a company whose board has sought end runs around a legislative 10 percent cap on annual increases in hurricane premiums; voted to raid the company's reserves to bribe private insurers with $350 million in sweetheart loans to take policies out of Citizens; and launched reinspections of thousands of Florida homes, looking for any reason to eliminate mitigation discounts that homeowners get for hardening their homes against a storm.

These policy initiatives have been done with the implicit blessing of Scott, whose only proactive agenda with Citizens has been to support reducing its exposure in the event of hurricanes. But Scott's singular private-insurance-industry-friendly focus is misplaced. The company has a record $6 billion in reserves and Floridians are still struggling to find affordable property insurance — which remains an absolute necessity if the state's real estate market is to continue to rebound. The governor's and Legislature's first priority must be ensuring that this state-run company accepting hard-working Floridians' money is accountable and well-run.

Comments
Editorial: They value guns, not kids

Editorial: They value guns, not kids

They value guns over kidsSix days after 17 were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High by a teen-ager firing an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, the Florida House refused to even debate a bill banning the sale of assault weapons. The vote, 71 to 36, wasn...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are traveling to the state capital today and declaring "never again.íí A prominent Florida Republican fundraiser vows he wonít raise another nickel until his party approves new gun controls. Across F...
Published: 02/19/18

Editorial: No more doubt about Russian meddling in election

The latest indictment by the Justice Department special counsel, Robert Mueller, refutes President Donald Trumpís claims that Russian interference in the 2016 election was a Democratic hoax. The indictment details the lengths Russian conspirators too...
Published: 02/19/18

Another voice: Tips should belong to workers, not their bosses

The Trump administration is under fire for proposing a Labor Department regulation that could result in hotel and restaurant employers dipping into the tips customers leave for their employees, depriving the nationís 14 million hard-working restauran...
Published: 02/18/18
Updated: 02/20/18
Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Itís not popular in Washington or virtually anywhere else these days to express concern about the rising federal deficit. Congressional Republicans who used to be deficit hawks first voted to cut taxes by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, then rais...
Published: 02/17/18
Editorial: Buckhorn should not appeal verdict in firefighterís case

Editorial: Buckhorn should not appeal verdict in firefighterís case

The city of Tampa should have taken Tanja Vidovic seriously from the start when the Tampa firefighter complained about her treatment in the workplace. Now that a jury and judge have spoken, itís time for City Hall to cut its losses, learn from its mi...
Published: 02/15/18
Updated: 02/16/18
Editorial: CareerSource troubles mount as public trust drops

Editorial: CareerSource troubles mount as public trust drops

The dark cloud enveloping Tampa Bayís job placement centers keeps growing. There are accusations of forged documents, evidence of nepotism and concerns about grossly inflated performance numbers that could be tied to receiving more public money and b...
Published: 02/15/18
Updated: 02/16/18
Editorials: Prayers and platitudes after shootings arenít enough

Editorials: Prayers and platitudes after shootings arenít enough

Even before the victims of another mass shooting at another public school were identified, Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, state legislators and members of Congress rushed to South Florida or to social media to offer their thoughts and p...
Published: 02/15/18
Editorial: DCF review should get to the bottom of Hillsborough foster care issues

Editorial: DCF review should get to the bottom of Hillsborough foster care issues

The Florida Department of Children and Families is right to call for a timely and "comprehensive" review of Hillsborough Countyís foster care system. Though the probe is a reaction to a recent case involving a child who was left unattended, the revie...
Published: 02/14/18

A Washington Post editorial: Modernize 911 calling before it becomes an emergency

This Friday marks the 50th anniversary of the first 911 emergency call placed in the United States. Since then, uncounted lives have been saved and people helped. It has been a great accomplishment of government.But even as an estimated 240 million 9...
Published: 02/13/18
Updated: 02/14/18