Feb. 20--Citizens Property Insurance Corp. Chairman Carlos A. Lacasa is fighting back.
Defending double-digit pay raises handed out last year to high-ranking executives at the embattled state-backed insurer, Lacasa expressed his "dismay and regret" over media coverage that he said "seeks to tear down and undermine the efforts of [Citizens'] hard-working staff."
Lacasa's comments were expressed in a letter sent to the Miami Herald and its sister publications, the Tampa Bay Times and Bradenton Herald. Referencing the Herald as "my hometown paper," Lacasa took issue with a Feb. 15 story that reported Citizens had hiked the salaries of top executives while "jacking up" the rates paid by policyholders.
The news of the pay increases is the latest blow to the image of Citizens, which has been criticized for lavish travel and entertainment spending and running roughshod over customers with last year's controversial reinspection campaign and policy changes.
The salary story, Lacasa wrote, was taken out of context and incomplete. Not only did the executives receive the raises in connection with "significant" new responsibilities, he argued, but they followed a three-year, companywide merit pay freeze.
Lacasa himself had asked Citizens CEO Barry Gilway to explore Citizens' pay scale after he was hired in June 2012. "We are not competitive in the labor market, but we need top talent just like any other major financial institution," Lacasa explained in an e-mail.
"And while I would be the first to say that there are many things Citizens can and is doing to tighten its belt and improve," Lacasa wrote, "I cannot help but be disappointed by the lack of context provided in what should be objective news articles about employee compensation at Citizens."
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