Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Plug rightly pulled on life insurance scheme

The Pasco School District just discovered the accuracy of the adage that if it's too good to be true, it probably is. Administrators have pulled the plug on a private vendor's proposal offering no-cost life insurance to the district's 9,000 employees after the state Office of Insurance Regulation questioned its legality. It never should have gotten that far.

The convoluted plan called for an unidentified insurance company in Bermuda to issue policies and pay survivor benefits to an off-shore trust in the Cayman Islands instead of directly to the district or its employees' families. Essentially, the district had no guarantee of ever receiving a dollar under the arrangement, the Office of Insurance Regulation said.

Fortunately, the Pasco School Board never committed to the plan, proposed by Ohio-based Pollock Financial Group. Administrators acknowledged they were leery, but they still felt confident enough in the concept to plug it into the 2013-14 workers' contract as an additional employee benefit. They should have continued the skepticism.

As proposed, private investors would have put up $400 million to underwrite the policies. Those benefactors then would recoup tax-free returns on the premium investments while employees received an $87,500 life insurance benefit at no cost. Questions arose after the idea became public when Swiss Re, one of the world's largest reinsurance firms, disavowed a role in the plan despite statements to the contrary by Pollock representatives to Pasco school officials.

Due diligence from state insurance regulators uncovered more potential problems. Pollock Financial Group owner Mark G. Pollock and the man described as "the architect of this entire program,'' Rene Stuifzand, both filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2012. Stuifzand also has been entangled in civil allegations of fraud in lawsuits filed in New York and Illinois. Two others, William A. Kelly and Derek Siewart — identified as team members in earlier versions of the program presented to the Pasco district, the city of Sarasota and the Gulf County School Board — agreed to pay $80,000 fines in Pennsylvania after a similar legacy life insurance plan for unionized works there violated state law.

There were many red flags, and the district wisely retreated from a scheme that potentially could enrich investors without guaranteeing benefits to the surviving families of teachers, custodians, bus drivers and other school workers. The Pasco School District is spending nearly $600,000 this year to buy $35,000 life insurance policies for all employees. Providing benefits to valued employees is an accepted cost of running a private business or a public agency. Getting someone else to assume that expense was wishful thinking.

Comments
Editorial: Look hard into Tampa Bay and Pinellas CareerSource CEO, and get to the bottom of the numbers and the money

Editorial: Look hard into Tampa Bay and Pinellas CareerSource CEO, and get to the bottom of the numbers and the money

Something is seriously amiss at Tampa Bay’s two CareerSource agencies, which receive millions in federal and state money to match unemployed workers with local employers. First, the agencies appear to be taking credit — and money — for job placements...
Published: 01/22/18

A Chicago Tribune editorial: Shut down this shutdown habit

"Shutting down the government of the United States of America should never ever be a bargaining chip for any issue. Period. It should be to governing as chemical warfare is to real warfare. It should be banned."— Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., addressing ...
Published: 01/22/18
Editorial: Beware of social media targeting kids

Editorial: Beware of social media targeting kids

Ignoring all available evidence that screen time and social media exposure can be harmful to kids, Facebook recently unveiled a new messaging app targeting children under 13. It’s yet another battlefront for parents who have to constantly combat the ...
Published: 01/21/18
Editorial: Too soon for Tampa Bay to settle for buses over light rail

Editorial: Too soon for Tampa Bay to settle for buses over light rail

The good news on the transportation front is that Tampa Bay’s government and business leaders are working together like never before to connect the region’s largest cities, attractions and employment centers with a more robust mass transit system. Th...
Published: 01/20/18
Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

The smiles, applause and at least one hug belied the grim impetus for a gathering last week at a neighborhood center in Tampa — the Seminole Heights killings.The Tampa Police Department held a ceremony to thank those who helped in the investigation t...
Published: 01/19/18
Updated: 01/21/18
Editorial: Criminal charges should finally wake up FSU fraternities to hazing’s dangers

Editorial: Criminal charges should finally wake up FSU fraternities to hazing’s dangers

The death last fall of a 20-year-old Florida State University fraternity pledge revealed pervasive dangerous behavior within the school’s Greek system. Andrew Coffey, a Pi Kappa Phi pledge, died from alcohol poisoning after an off-campus party, and a...
Published: 01/19/18

Editorial: Confronting racial distrust in St. Petersburg, one conversation at a time

The St. Petersburg Police Department’s heavy presence in Midtown on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the community animosity it stirred have raised a familiar, troubling question: Can St. Petersburg’s racial divisions ever be reconciled?That big ideal ...
Published: 01/19/18
William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

A surge of Democrats seeking local legislative offices and hoping for a "blue wave" in the 2018 election continued last week, led by Bob Buesing filing to run again versus state Sen. Dana Young, R-Tampa.In addition:• Heather Kenyon Stahl of Tampa has...
Published: 01/19/18

Editorial: State’s warning shot should get attention of Hillsborough schools

The state Board of Education hopefully sent the message this week with its warning shot about the slow pace of the turnaround at Hillsborough County’s low-performing schools.The board criticized the school system for failing to replace administrators...
Published: 01/18/18
Updated: 01/19/18
Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

The Florida Legislature’s abrupt move to strip the University of South Florida St. Petersburg of its hard-earned separate accreditation and transform it back into a satellite of the major research university lacks detail and an appreciation for histo...
Published: 01/18/18