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EDITORIAL: Citizens' spending -- on itself -- is out of control [Florida Keys Keynoter, (Marathon, Fla.)]

By Florida Keys Keynoter, (Marathon, Fla.)
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Feb. 20--Citizens Property Insurance Corp. raised prices for Florida policyholders by 10.8 percent last year. That brought in an additional $250 million.

That was on top of $200 million in additional charges from a controversial re-inspection program that hit more than 250,000 homeowners with higher premiums.

Combined, that's $450 million in new revenue for a state-run insurer that claims $15 billion held in reserves isn't enough.

While all this was going on, Citizens' top executive was passing out big fat raises like a kid in a candy store, according to a report in Sunday's Miami Herald.

Citizens President Barry Gilway doled out $2.1 million in across-the-board, 3 percent salary increases for employees. Adding salt to the wound, the Herald reported that he also gave top executives raises in excess of 10 percent. This at the same time state employees haven't had a raise in six years.

The company's chief financial officer got a $31,000 pay hike shortly after she was tagged for excessive travel spending in an inspector general's report.

Citizens' general counsel, Dan Sumner, got a $25,000 raise just days after the company's internal investigators were fired after they blew the whistle on large severance packages that implicated Sumner among other company insiders.

Later, a report by the independent Office of Insurance Regulation "found that Citizens had spent $604 million on contracts with private vendors, often in no-bid deals and without pushing for more competitive price," the Herald reported.

State regulators said these deals with private vendors "ate up 20 cents out of every $1 paid to Citizens by policyholders."

When will this madness stop?

Even Gov. Rick Scott has lost patience with the way this insurer of last resort has been operating, ordering his own inspector general to examine the firings of the internal auditors and reports about lavish spending and contract abuses.

On Friday, Citizens announced new (it said "stricter") policies for contracts with outside vendors. But it has yet to explain how Citizens managed to mistakenly give $2.5 million to another insurance company and then had to take it back when news media and even lawmakers began asking questions about the "takeout" deal.

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Some takeout.

Why should Florida property owners be paying the tab for such incompetent big spenders? It's long past time for the governor and Cabinet to take action and clean up the mess at Citizens Property Insurance Inc. and its incompetent governing board.


(c)2013 the Florida Keys Keynoter (Marathon, Fla.)

Visit the Florida Keys Keynoter (Marathon, Fla.) at

Distributed by MCT Information Services



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