Citizens Property Insurance Corp., which came under heavy scrutiny last year for firing four internal investigators who had discovered evidence of executive misconduct, has announced that new forensic accountants have been hired to root out fraud.
Citizens has hired three forensic professionals, forming a team that Joe Martins, the company’s Chief of Internal Audit, says will “provide an unprecedented level of internal oversight.”
The abrupt disbanding of the Office of Corporate Integrity last year raised eyebrows, especially after the Herald/Times unveiled documents showing that the investigators had drafted an explosive report shortly before being ousted.
The report included evidence of large severance packages for disgraced employees, mishandled internal investigations, altered documents and a number of embarrassing workplace mishaps.
Citizens claimed that the firings were part of a restructuring effort, and the company announced Friday that the hiring of new forensic professionals is part of that effort.
Gov. Rick Scott said the OCI firings “concerned” him and asked his Inspector General to investigate last year. The report on that investigation, which follows another investigation into excessive travel spending at the state-run insurer, is expected to be released soon. In addition to the two inspector general reports, Citizens has come under fire for giving out large raises to executives, failing to negotiate large contracts and inadvertently giving away $2.5 million to another insurance company (the money has since been recouped).
Yesterday, Scott said he was “very disappointed” in what is going on at Citizens and he has asked the executives to return the large raises they received last year. Citizens said the raises were necessary to help the company compete with the private insurance industry, where compensation is higher.
The company's board is expected to address the salary issue at its next board meeting, but it's unclear if the executives will follow Scott's orders and return the money they've already received.
Citizens’ press release is below.