Make us your home page
Instagram

Gov. Scott says Citizens execs should give big raises back

Barry Gilway, president of Citizens Property Insurance, says the company is “aggressively looking for ways to tighten its financial belt.”

Associated Press

Barry Gilway, president of Citizens Property Insurance, says the company is “aggressively looking for ways to tighten its financial belt.”

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott blasted top executives at Citizens Property Insurance Corp. for "foolish" behavior Wednesday, calling on them to give back large pay raises they received last year.

"First off, they have these outrageous pay raises," Scott said in an interview. "They ought to give that back. Those ought to go back."

The raises, first reported by the Times/Herald, came as the state-run company was increasing home­owners' insurance rates and scaling back coverage. In the Times/Herald interview, Scott said no one told him about the pay hikes — some as large as $31,000 — and made it clear that he did not approve.

Citizens has been involved in a number of controversies in the last year as news of the company's spending habits has come to light. Expenditures unearthed by the Times/Herald, independent auditors and Scott's chief inspector general include gourmet dinners, alcohol, international travel and stays in $600-a-night resorts.

A Citizens spokesman said the company will "revisit" its board-approved compensation plan and "make a revised recommendation at the March meeting." The company did not say whether executives would return the raises.

In an opinion piece published Wednesday in the Bradenton Herald, Citizens' board chairman Carlos Lacasa said that the company has "sound internal governance" and the raises were merited due to increased responsibilities and comparisons with the private insurance industry.

"The raises also followed three straight years of no merit raises and were accompanied by a decrease to benefits in the form of increased health insurance premiums and higher co-pays," Lacasa wrote.

Scott said his staff had heard Citizens' rationale for raising the salaries, but he remained critical of the pay increases, which went out to some of the highest-paid executives at the state-run insurer. Thousands of employees at state agencies have not received a raise in six years.

On several occasions, Scott criticized executives' use of the corporate credit card to buy alcohol, including purchases brought to light by Chief Inspector General Melinda Miguel.

Citizens responded to Miguel's findings by saying that Lacasa had reimbursed the company for $300 in alcohol purchased at a company dinner last June. Receipts obtained by the Times/Herald show that seven or eight officials at Citizens ordered about $369 of red wine and Grey Goose vodka during a $918 dinner at Orlando's Ocean Prime restaurant.

"We shouldn't be reimbursing them for alcohol," Scott said. "This is a state-organized entity. It shouldn't be any different."

Citizens has agreed to adopt policies that more closely mirror travel laws that govern state agencies, with president Barry Gilway saying the company is "aggressively looking for ways to tighten its financial belt."

Soon after becoming president, Gilway approved raises topping $175,000 for a handful of executives and $2.1 million in additional raises for all employees. The executive raises went into effect last year between August and October. At the same time, internal investigators were looking into evidence that Citizens had paid out more than $750,000 in severance packages, including large awards to executives who resigned after misconduct allegations. After unveiling the questionable severance packages, the internal investigators were fired.

Scott, who has steered clear of taking major policy positions on the politically thorny issue of property insurance, did not hold back when it came to weighing in on the salary raises.

Breaking from his normally mild demeanor, the governor used words like "ridiculous," "foolish" and "outrageous" to describe the spending decisions at Citizens.

"When I see some people doing some foolish things — this is a government-organized entity," said Scott. "People shouldn't be doing these things."

Higher pay for Citizens' executives

Name (position)2012 salary2013 salary
Barry Gilway (president)$350,000$350,000
Sharon Binnun (CFO)$224,000$255,000 (+14%)
Daniel Sumner

(general counsel)
$192,000$215,000 (+12%)
Curtis Overpeck

(chief information officer)
$180,250$210,000 (+16.5%)
Yong Gilroy

(chief insurance officer)
$224,000$255,000 (+14%)
Christine Ashburn

(director of legislative

and external affairs)
$105,000$130,000 (+24%)

Gov. Scott says Citizens execs should give big raises back 02/20/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 11:29pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Shares in Tampa's Health Insurance Innovations rebound from stronger earnings report

    Corporate

    TAMPA — After a sharp drop in its stock price in August and September, Health Insurance Innovations on Monday announced strong revenue and net income gains in preliminary numbers for its third quarter of the year. The company also announced a $50 million stock buyback over the next two years meant to bolster its …

    After losing more than half its market value between August and September, shares in Tampa's Health Insurance Innovations are rebounding."The new share repurchase program underscores our confidence in our business strategy, financial performance, and the long-term prospects of our company while also allowing us the financial flexibility to continue to invest in our business," company CEO Gavin Southwell announced Monday. [Courtesy of LinkedIn]
  2. Trigaux: Campaign aims to leverage tourism ads to recruit millennials, businesses

    Economic Development

    TAMPA — Tampa Bay's unleashing one of its best weapons — a cadre of successful entrepreneurs and young business leaders — in a marketing campaign already under way but officially …

    Erin Meagher, founder of Tampa coconut oil products company Beneficial Blends, is part of a group of business savvy millennial entrepreneurs and managers who are helping to pitch the work-live-play merits of the Tampa Bay market in a new marketing campaign called Make It Tampa Bay. The campaign is backed by Visit Tampa Bay and the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. and aimed at recruiting more millennial talent to relocate and stay in the Tampa Bay area. [Courtesy Tampa Hillsborough EDC, Visit Tampa Bay]
  3. Florida gas prices drop 25 cents on average over past month

    Autos

    Gas prices are on a downward tear post-hurricane. Tampa Bay fell to $2.34 per gallon on Sunday, down 10 cents over the week, according to AAA, The Auto Club Group. Across the state, gas fell 7 cents over the same period to average $2.47 per gallon.

    Gas prices across the state fell 25 cents over 31 days. | [Times file photo]
  4. Entrepreneur expands interests with Twisted Crafts

    Business

    SOUTH TAMPA — Playgrounds of Tampa owner Mike Addabbo is expanding into the do-it-yourself industry with his new endeavor: Twisted Crafts.

     Jennifer and Michael Addabbo pose in their latest entrepreneurial enterprise: Twisted Crafts. Photo courtesy of Twisted Craft.
  5. Amazing Lash franchise expands to South Tampa

    Business

    SOUTH TAMPA — Jeff Tolrud opened the doors to his third Amazing Lash Studio franchise earlier this month, this time in South Tampa.

    When customers walk in, the studios have the same look and feel throughout the country, operator Jeff Tolrud said of Amazing Lash Studio. Tolrud opened his third in Hillsborough County earlier this month. Photo courtesy of Amazing Lash.