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Report finds 'excessive' travel spending at Citizens Property Insurance Corp.

5:15 PM, Feb 15, 2013   |    comments
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- A new report on travel expenses at Citizens Property Insurance Corp. finds the company's employees and board members lavishly spent taxpayers' money for hotel stays, meals and alcohol.

Gov. Rick Scott ordered his inspector general to study travel expenses at Citizens following reports that employees were living large on tax dollars as they booked rooms at luxury hotels and bought expensive meals at swanky restaurants.

The report finds 39 Citizens employees, managers and board members spent $1.3 million on travel-related expenses between January and August of last year.

Some examples include: a manager spent $633 per night for a three-day stay at the Bermuda Fairmont Princess Hotel, as much as $539 per night for a hotel in New York and $236 for a six-hour "day use" of a hotel room for a meeting in Zurich, Switzerland.

The report also shows Citizens did not place limits on meals and lodging for board members, allowed the purchase of alcoholic beverages at dinner meetings, improperly delegated the responsibility for controlling expenses to the individual rather than the individual and management, and found many examples where travel expenses exceeded state travel laws.

Citizens did have its own policies for travel-related expenses at the time, but the report says those rules were ambiguous and did not require employees to travel in the most economical way.

The inspector general recommends that Citizens be forced to follow state travel laws.

Citizens President/CEO Barry Gilway issued a statement saying the company would aggressively look for ways to tighten its financial belt.

"Clarifying and strengthening our internal procurement procedures will be the first of many concrete improvements made as Citizens lives up to its commitment to hold itself to the highest levels of financial and ethical integrity," said Gilway.

Here's a breakdown of Citizens' travel-related expenses from January 1 - August 31, 2012:

Airfare $163,625.95
Car Expense $454,111.27
Lodging $441,746.82
Meals $138,320.33
Other $2,340.24
Room Fees $107,751.41
Total $ 1,307,896.02

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