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Citizens attacks media after watchdog reporters uncover scandal

“Preposterous” “absurd,”  “disgusting” and “shameful” were words used Tuesday by the president of the beleaguered Citizens Property Insurance Corp.

Was he talking about the bra-stripping human resource executive who got drunk at the Coyote Ugly Bar during a business trip? No.

Was he referring to the underwriting executive who received more than $80,000 in severance after being accused of having an affair with an underling? Nope.

Could he have been talking about the Citizens’ employee who ran a sex toy operation out of Citizens’ mail room? Not at all.

Gilway reserved such harsh language for members of the media, whose watchdog journalism uncovered these and other improprieties that have taken place at the taxpayer-backed Citizens in recent years.

During a special hearing to address many of the allegations of corporate misconduct at Citizens, Gilway and members of Citizens board spent considerable time attacking the reporters and columnists that have written about the scandal surrounding the company.

While the reports have been poignant enough to spur two investigations by Gov. Rick Scott’s chief Inspector General in the past three months, Gilway and board members spent much of Tuesday’s launching thinly-veiled attacks against the authors of those reports.

The board also pointed out that many of the allegations—including huge severance payments to disgraced employees, sexual improprieties, employee favoritism and the altering of incriminating documents—had occurred under a previous president.

“I feel bad about what happened in the past administration,” said board member Carol Everhart.

Gilway joined Citizens in June.

Blame was also deflected to the Office of Corporate Integrity—which uncovered piles of incriminating evidence against top executives and was disbanded last month.

Gilway said the explosive 73-page report drafted by the Office of Corporate Integrity was riddled with inaccuracies and unworthy of being presented to the board. Instead, boardmembers were presented with a 5-page report, omitting many of the specific details in the longer draft by OCI.

Gilway did take a bit of blame for closing the Office of Corporate Integrity at a time when Citizens’ was being investigated for lavish executive spending on travel and meals. Gov. Scott, Chief Financial Officier Jeff Atwater, and other top elected officials have openly criticized that decision.

“The bad decision was not to eliminate the Office of Corporate Integrity,” said Gilway.  “The bad decision was how we did it. Dumb.”