Citizens Property Insurance audit raises questions about insurer's 'culture'

5:46 PM, Feb 28, 2013   |    comments
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 PDF Document: Citizens Letterhead 02.27.2013

Tampa, FL - Corporate corruption. Sex in the office. Pornography at work. Cannabis seeds in the bathroom.

Just a day at the office at Citizens Insurance, according to a company-released a list of 474 complaints dating back to 2008.

The 24-page release was supposed to assure the public the insurance giant is capable of policing itself. Instead, the internal audit of 474 internal complaints since 2008 is yet another potential embarrassment for the state-backed insurer.

READ: Citizens internal complaint review (PDF)

It lists claims of fraud, theft and corruption in the work place, sexual harassment, sexual discrimination, even pornography on a company computer so offensive it was referred to the FDLE.

"There has been a culture there that has been troubling," said Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford.

Weatherford says he's been assured that "culture" is improving.

But Citizens, which disbanded its corporate integrity office last year, was also recently embarrassed by reports of lavish spending on trips, restaurants, parties and pay raises.

"I need to read the report so I can actually understand all the different allegations that are in there, but it does sound troubling," said Weatherford.

Citizens has an office in Tampa where it handles customer policy claims. In many cases, those customers have seen their premiums increase year after year. And they are less than happy with this latest development.

Richard Hearn, who's been a customer for two years and saw increases in both, says if Citizens would run a tighter ship, maybe his premiums wouldn't have to increase.

"You know they're still getting their big bonuses and stuff and we're paying for it," he said.

Marlene Schultz, another customer, says if she had a choice, she'd look elsewhere.

"Why should I pay the price from everybody else benefitting from it?" she asked.

The insurance company says all 474 internal complaints were dealt with and action was taken where warranted, but it appears most were labeled "unfounded" or a warning was issued.

In one case, an employee was fired for making threats against fellow workers.

In the case of the pornography investigated by FDLE, the worker was given a warning.

Citizens CEO Barry Gilway calls it part of an ongoing effort to strengthen policies and corporate integrity. He says the insurer is also "bolstering travel and procurement policies to better conform to state guidelines."

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