Scott summons Citizens to explain ‘rebuff’ of his foreign travel ban reported by Post

Article Courtesy of The Palm Beach Post

By Charles Elmor

Published August 2, 2014


The office of Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday called the CEO of state-run insurer Citizens to an Aug. 19 Cabinet meeting to explain why the company rejected the governor’s recommended ban on foreign travel by board members, brought to light by reporting in The Palm Beach Post.

“Governor Scott previously called on Citizens board members to change their travel policy so it prohibited international travel and permitted only essential employees to attend board meetings,” wrote Karl Rasmussen, director of cabinet affairs in the governor’s office, in a letter to Citizens CEO Barry Gilway. “Recent media stories report that only have these requests been rebuffed, but Citizens board members have continued international travel, sometimes at excessive costs to state taxpayers.”

Gilway said in a statement: “I received the governor’s request today and am really looking forward to updating the cabinet on this issue.”

The Post reported Sunday that Citizens chairman Chris Gardner exceeded company travel limits on his second trip to Bermuda this year, repaying the difference after the Post asked for the records. One customer called the travel “outrageous” as Citizens policyholders struggle with higher costs or the loss of coverage completely.

Citizens initially approved a $425-per-night bill at the Fairmont Southampton resort in Bermuda for Gardner for a two-day stay in April, records show. The cost exceeded a $373 limit for Bermuda hotels that Citizens imposed on itself to reassure the public last year.

On Wednesday, the newspaper reported travel by a board member defied a 2013 recommendation from Scott after his inspector general found “insufficient controls” on travel spending at Florida’s biggest property insurer. “Citizens board members must immediately change their travel policy to prohibit any international travel,” Scott said last year.

Gilway responded that Scott’s recommendations are always carefully considered, but in this case he urged Gardner to be closely involved in the 2014 negotiations on reinsurance, or back-up coverage that could reduce assessments on policyholders after storms.

The governor appoints three of nine Citizens board members and oversees its management along with other Cabinet officials.