I-Team: Citizens' insurance travel called "excessive"

Trips to Bermuda, Switzerland questioned

Florida's largest property insurer, taxpayer-backed Citizens Insurance, is under fire for what a new report calls "excessive" travel expenses.

The Chief Inspector General's report, requested by Governor Scott, found Citizens employees spent $1.3 million in travel expenses in the 8-month period from January to August of 2012. The report says Citizens' travel would be excessive under state agency travel standards.

Citizens' officials have argued in the past that since they are not a government agency, they don't have to follow state guidelines for travel. The report recommends they begin following the state guidelines.

The report uncovered examples including Citizens' CFO arriving on a Friday for a meeting in Bermuda on a Monday, leading to a longer hotel stay. The CFO also allegedly upgraded her hotel room, costing an extra $500. The president is reported to have stayed in a more expensive hotel than other employees, and also once took a limo to the airport.

Citizens' argued in each case these were necessary expenses, but they're agreeing to cut back on travel.

"Citizens therefore will implement changes to our travel and expense procedures that will more closely mirror the travel guidelines followed by Florida's state agencies," said president and CEO Barry Gilway, in a written statement.

Governor Scott is calling for Citizens to stop all international travel.

In the past, the insurance company has argued limiting their travel will make it impossible to compete with other insurance companies and could threaten coverage for the 1.4 million Floridians who rely on them.

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