El Jefe

Topless Dancing and Big Severance: Citizens Insurance Complaints About the Media Are Pathetic

The board of Citizen Property Insurance met yesterday to consider important ways of trying to make its basically insolvent company financially sound. 

But instead of coming up with a financial plan, the wise men of the state-run windstorm insurer blamed the media -- mostly the Tampa Bay Times and the Miami Herald -- for digging up ridiculous bills racked up by company leaders and retaliatory firings of those who spoke up against impropriety. 


Citizens is a mess. There hasn't been a major hurricane in Florida for seven years, yet the company can't get its financial house in order. 

And its practices are questionable. After a recent reinspection of my house, for instance, the company raised my premium by $2,000 annually. When I called to ask about the change, I got doublespeak and then was sent an incomprehensible 26-page report. Finally, after hiring an expert, I discovered the entire $2k was due to the fact that there were no shutters for two hard doors that had been approved by an inspector two years before.

The company didn't return letters and emails complaining about my inspection for months.

Then, of course, there were the reports of a female employee dancing topless on a bar after a company event in Tampa and giant severance packages for employees who left Citizens in disgrace.

If you worked for Citizens, you'd be apologizing,. But the company's president, Barry Gilway, says it was the media's overhyping of minor improprieties that angered the public. And Board Chairman Carlos LaCasa, a legistator who once got into a fistfight with a fellow legislator, called a Palm Beach Post editorial on cleaning up Citizens "shameful."

Well, gentlemen, I would suggest it's time to reflect on your own failures. After all, we taxpayers and property owners have made you wealthy.

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Chuck Strouse is the former editor in chief of Miami New Times. He has shared two Pulitzer Prizes and won dozens of other awards. He is an honors graduate of Brown University and has worked at newspapers including the Miami Herald and Los Angeles Times.
Contact: Chuck Strouse