Senator: Citizens' officials should explain expense reports

Article Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel

By Paul Owers

Published September 3, 2012


State-backed Citizens Property Insurance Corp. said it’s considering new policies for employee expenses after executives racked up big bills on recent business trips.

The Tampa Bay Times and The Miami Herald reviewed hundreds of expense reports filed by Citizens officials and found cases of $600-a-night hotel stays and dinners at swanky restaurants.

State Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, sent letters last week to Gov. Rick Scott and members of his Cabinet, saying they should insist that Citizens officials answer for the charges.

In his own letter to Scott, new Citizens President Barry Gilway wrote that he would be happy to appear before the Cabinet.

Gilway also said he is reviewing the insurer’s expense policies. While the company has necessary controls in place, it expects to adopt stricter standards for restaurant and hotel charges “to benefit our policyholders and the people of Florida,” Gilway wrote.

Citizens will discuss the issue at its board meeting Friday.

Fasano is a frequent critic of the insurer of last resort as it raises rates and reduces coverage. Citizens, with 1.4 million policies, hopes to push homeowners toward the private market, saying it’s concerned it may not have enough money to pay claims after a major hurricane.

“Citizens’ top executives and board members have been shameless in the way they lavishly spend tax dollars on travel and related expenses,” Fasano said in a statement Friday. “While crying poor mouth they stay in posh hotels, eat expensive meals, and engage in international travel. While so many of their customers are struggling to cut their personal budgets so they can pay their ever increasing premiums, Citizens’ higher-ups are living high on the hog on the public dime.”