Citizen IG tasked to review insurer’s post-employment ethical guidelines

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Citizens Property Insurance Corporation’s Board of Governors Chairman Chris Gardner and President/CEO and Executive Director Barry Gilway on Monday asked Citizens’ Inspector General to review policies and procedures regarding post-Citizens employment to address questions raised about the ability of former employees to seek jobs in the private market.

On Monday, Matt Galka of the Capitol News Service reported on an ethics law loophole allowing high-ranking executives at the state-run insurance agency to work for companies only months after awarding million-dollar contracts.

Critics, such government watchdog Integrity Florida, are also calling for legislators to close the loophole.

In a letter sent  to newly appointed Citizens Inspector General Bruce Meeks, Integrity Florida representatives asked for an official review.

“The public deserves to know if Citizens executives are privately gaining from their positions with the state-run insurer,” the letter states. “Whether or not the contracts cited in the (Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times) story provided the best deals for the public should also be examined.”

As reported by Mary Ellen Klas on Sunday, a number senior staff members from Citizens — Florida’s largest insurer — left for companies hired to provide services or handle claims. those part of the “exodus” include Yong Gilroy, former chief insurance officer at Citizens, who left in 2013 to work for Bankers Insurance Group after the state signed two multi-million dollar contracts. Lance Malcolm, Citizens former vice president of claims, also left  after presenting to the Citizens board in May 2013 a contract renewal with Crawford & Co., resulting in $8 million for adjuster services. Crawford hired Malcom in September 2013.

Despite having confidence that Citizens is complying with all current legal and ethical requirements, Gardner and Gilway requested that Meeks review state law and corporate restrictions as they relate to Citizens employees seeking positions with companies that do business with Citizens, the state’s insurer of last resort.

Meeks, whose position was created by lawmakers in 2013, was appointed by, and serves at the pleasure of, the Financial Services Commission (FSC). Under the law, Citizens’ staff may not prevent or prohibit the Inspector General from initiating, carrying out, or completing any audit, review, evaluation, study or investigation.

“Over the last two years, Citizens has made increased oversight and transparency a top priority and has carefully reviewed and strengthened its internal oversight procedures regarding travel expenses, procurement and governance,” Gardner said. “I look forward to a review by our Inspector General to ensure that post-employment guidelines are also appropriate given Citizens’ unique role as a government entity providing insurance similar to the private market.”

Citizens senior managers and members of the Board of Governors are governed by Part III of Chapter 112, Florida Statutes, which in part sets restrictions for post-Citizens employment.  Less-senior employees are governed by Citizens’ internal code of ethics under the supervision of Citizens’ Ethics Officer.

The requested review is the latest effort by Citizens to continue improvements made to standardize management and internal oversight to ensure Citizens is operating in a transparent and ethical manner, according to Gilway.

“Citizens is committed to maintaining appropriate safeguards to ensure that our post-employment guidelines meet Citizens’ high standards for ethical conduct,” he said.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.