TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Citizens Property Insurance Corp. President Barry Gilway defended Florida's taxpayer-funded property insurer of last resort Tuesday against accusations that came to light in an internal agency report obtained by the news media.
"The last time I looked around," Gilway told Citizens' board of governors at a meeting in Tallahassee, "we were still in the United States of America. And we still have some basic rights and those rights, by the way, include innocent until proven guilty."
The internal report shows a personnel manager got drunk at the Coyote Ugly Saloon in Ybor City on a business trip and allegedly told a subordinate he was fired after an argument. Another employee is accused of running a sex toy business out of a Citizens' office. In another incident, an employee was given a nearly $80,000 severance while under investigation for inappropriate behavior. Gilway says he doesn't condone the actions of the employees.
"I think they're disgusting in many cases, but let's not tarnish the reputation of 99.99% of Citizens' employees," Gilway said.
Gilway has also faced criticism for firing the employees who wrote the internal report that exposed the accusations. He has said they were not fired for the report.
Sean Shaw is a former insurance consumer advocate for the state of Florida and founder of Policyholders of Florida. Shaw says Gilway's comments seemed very defensive. He also believes the public's trust in Citizens has been damaged.
"If this was their attempt to restore the public's confidence in them, I think they better try again," Shaw said.
Citizens Insurance officials point out the alleged misconduct happened under the previous president.
"We have a new day in this company and we will win back the credibility of this company in the eyes of the public," said Citizens Board Chairman Carlos Lacasa.
Gov. Scott has ordered the chief inspector general to investigate the firing of the employees who wrote the report.
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