Consumer eViews
FLORIDA CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER ALEX SINK'S WEEKLY NEWSLETTER

Volume 4, Number 2, January 12, 2007

Dear Floridian:

The Florida Legislature will convene a special session next week to address complex issues that are affecting the affordability and availability of property insurance in Florida. We all are rooting for our legislators to come up with a plan to ease the financial pain of skyrocketing rates and cancellations, but as citizens we all have a critical role in making sure that whatever the Legislature enacts will work.

This week, the department’s Division of Insurance Fraud has arrested dozens of individuals who allegedly took advantage of the 2004 and 2005 hurricanes to scam their insurance companies. One man filed a claim for damaged furniture, but the furniture was safely taken to his ex-wife’s home as part of a settlement.

These stories would be laughable if they didn’t lead to real financial pain for the rest of us policyholders left to pick up the tab through higher premiums. There is no legitimate reason to commit insurance fraud. If you suspect insurance fraud, please call our Fraud Fighters hotline at 1-800-378-0445. We offer a reward of up $25,000 for information directly leading to an arrest and conviction.

That’s how seriously we take insurance fraud, and that’s how seriously all Floridians should take it.
 
Sincerely,

--Alex Sink


SINK ANNOUNCES NEW APPOINTMENTS

Alex Sink, Florida’s Chief Financial Officer, announced the appointments of Dan Sumner as Interim General Counsel and Kathy Baughman McLeod as Deputy Chief of Staff.

“I’m pleased to announce the appointments of Mr. Sumner and Ms. Baughman McLeod, two highly talented professionals, to my administration,” said Sink. “Their leadership experience and commitment to accountability will be an asset to the Department of Financial Services and the people of Florida.”

Dan Sumner, Interim General Counsel— Bringing three decades of legal expertise and public service, Mr. Sumner has accepted the position of Interim General Counsel, serving as the chief legal advisor to CFO Sink. Mr. Sumner will supervise the Divisions of Legal Services, Risk Management, and Rehabilitation and Liquidation; and as Interim General Counsel will represent the Chief Financial Officer in litigation in federal and state courts and administrative tribunals. Mr. Sumner previously served as the Assistant Director of the Division of Workers’ Compensation, and held numerous legal and insurance roles under the former Department of Insurance prior to Cabinet reorganization. In addition to his other duties, Mr. Sumner is currently serving on a voluntary basis as the interim executive director of the recently reactivated PCJUA.

Kathy Baughman McLeod, Deputy Chief of Staff—With a dozen years experience in the private, public and non-profit sectors surrounding Florida government, Ms. Baughman McLeod has accepted the position of Deputy Chief of Staff. In her new role, Ms. Baughman McLeod will lead the development, implementation, management and enforcement of policies governing the areas of Cabinet Affairs, Legislative Affairs and Communications. In addition to her private sector experience, Ms. Baughman McLeod has held prior positions at the Florida Department of Community Affairs, the Trust for Public Land, and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Like CFO Sink, Ms. Baughman McLeod is a member of Leadership Florida.


CFO SINK ANNOUNCES NEARLY $700,000 IN HOMELAND SECURITY FUNDS AWARDED TO STATE BOMB TEAM, LABORATORY

Alex Sink, the chief financial officer of Florida and state fire marshal, announced that the Division of State Fire Marshal’s Explosive Ordinance Device (EOD) Unit and Forensic Laboratory have been awarded nearly $700,000 in homeland security funds to buy equipment to protect Florida communities.

“We can never let our guard down when it comes to being prepared for a potential disaster, whether natural or manmade,” Sink said. “We are committed to doing all we can to make sure we are trained, equipped and ready, and I thank the Department of Homeland Security for supporting us in that.”

The EOD unit, or bomb team, is part of the Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigations, and its members are trained to safely handle, transport, dispose of and investigate explosive or incendiary incidents. The members also educate hundreds of state, local and civilian personnel every year. The bomb team is currently ranked number 12 in the nation for the number of calls responded to for all bomb teams and number two in the nation for state government bomb teams. The grant money will be used to buy a robot, bomb suits and other equipment for the bomb team as well as equipment for the division’s Bureau of Forensic Fire and Explosives Analysis, which operates the state laboratory that supports fire and arson investigations.

The State Fire Marshal’s Office has helped local fire departments get more than $32 million in homeland security funds for equipment and training. The funds have helped local agencies establish, train and equip 50 technical rescue teams, seven urban search and rescue teams and to better equip and train 28 existing regional hazardous materials teams.

Homeland security funds also paid for the placement of a permanent urban search and rescue training center at the Florida State Fire College that is the only “post-blast” collapse simulator providing fire and smoke conditions in the United States.


SINK ANNOUNCES FREE COURSES SCHEDULED FOR CONTRACTORS INTERESTED IN MY SAFE FLORIDA HOME PROGRAM

Alex Sink, Florida’s chief financial officer, announced that free courses will be offered to licensed contractors who are interested in participating in the My Safe Florida Home program.  The four-hour course will teach contractors the techniques and standards for effective wind-resistant retrofit improvements.

“Our mission is to strengthen homes in Florida against the devastating effects of storm damage,” said Sink, who oversees the Department of Financial Services.  “Contractors who participate in this program will play a key role in better protecting families and properties from catastrophic losses.”

Prior to participating in the program, a contractor must have a valid contractor’s license and complete a four-hour course on techniques and standards for effective wind-resistant retrofit improvements.  The Department of Financial Services has been working with the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH) to offer these courses around the state, and upcoming contractor trainings have been scheduled in the following areas:

• January 23 in Tallahassee – Kelly Training Center, 2555 Shumard Oak Blvd.

• January 25 in Orlando – Rosen Shingle Creek, 9939 Universal Blvd.

• February 5 in St. Petersburg – All Children’s Hospital, 701 4th Street South.

• February 6 in Naples – Comfort Inn and Suites, 3860 Tollgate Blvd.

• February 7 in Hollywood – Hillcrest Golf and Country Club, 4600 Hillcrest Drive.

All contractor trainings will begin at 8 a.m. and conclude at 12 p.m.  For additional details, log on to www.flash.org.

Homeowners who have undergone free home inspections through the My Safe Florida Home program and live in high-risk areas will be able to apply for matching grants of up to $5,000.  The grant funds must be used to implement improvements specified in the inspection reports, and homeowners will be required to use a participating contractor.  The list of participating contractors, organized by county and type of work performed, will be available on-line at www.mysafefloridahome.com

Sink urges all homeowners interested in making home-hardening improvements to verify that the contractors they are doing business with are licensed. For more tips on how to choose a contractor log on to www.mysafefloridahome.com and click on “5 Tips for Choosing a Contractor.”


THE FLORIDA CABINET MEETS JANUARY 18

Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink will be onboard for her first Cabinet meeting on Thursday, January 22. She is one of three state-wide elected officials comprising the Florida Cabinet with Attorney General Bill McCollum and Commissioner Charles Bronson. 

The governor is the popularly elected chief executive of Florida, but the three members of the Cabinet are elected by the people and serve as a collective decision- and rule-making body for the state along with the governor. Each Cabinet member serves a four-year term with a two-term limit and is wholly responsible for the administration of at least one state department. CFO Sink oversees the Department of Financial Services. The Governor is responsible for the administration of most other state agencies.

 

Together with Governor Charlie Crist, the Cabinet acts as the board of directors for the following agencies: 
 

State Board of Executive Clemency

State Board of Administration

Division of Bond Finance

Department of Veterans' Affairs

Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles

Department of Law Enforcement

Department of Revenue

Administration Commission

Florida Land and Water Adjudicatory Commission

Electrical Power Plant and Transmission Line Siting Board

The Board of Trustees Internal Improvement Trust Fund

Financial Services Commission

                  
Cabinet Day serves as Florida’s town meeting with the public’s business transacted in an open forum. These meetings afford the general public an opportunity to watch their state government in action. 


Cabinet meetings are publicly noticed and usually occur every other week on Tuesdays in the Cabinet meeting room of the Capitol building.  Each Cabinet member has aides on staff for Cabinet duties, important for conducting Cabinet business. Cabinet aides weigh public opinion, communicate with other members' aides, and engage in investigating and researching issues. Before the Cabinet meets, the aides thoroughly brief Cabinet members on the issues. Cabinet aides' meetings usually occur on Wednesdays prior to Cabinet meetings so that proponents and opponents of issues will have a public forum in which to express concerns.
 

The next Cabinet meeting will be held on January 18, 2007.


*Chief Financial Officer Sink serves with Governor Crist and Attorney General McCollum as the State Board of Administration.


TAMPA MAN FACES FELONY CHARGES FOR SELLING BOGUS PIP INSURANCE CARDS
Unlicensed agent sold fake cards for $100 each

Alex Sink, Florida’s chief financial officer, announced the arrest of a Tampa man accused of posing as an insurance agent and selling bogus personal injury protection (PIP) auto insurance cards. 

Andre Coachman, 37, worked at Coat Used Auto Sales, located at 4170 East Hillsborough Ave., and was arrested Tuesday by detectives with the Department of Financial Services’ Division of Insurance Fraud.  Coachman is charged with providing false/fraudulent proof of insurance and transacting insurance without a license, third-degree felonies punishable by up to five years in prison and $5,000 in fines. He was booked into the Hillsborough County Jail with bond set at $5,000.

Sink is urging anyone who suspects they may have bought a bogus insurance card from Coachman or from anyone else to call the Division of Insurance Fraud’s Tampa office at 813-972-8602 or, outside of Tampa, 1-800-378-0445.

“This individual put Floridians at risk of not having insurance coverage in the event they were injured in an accident,” said Sink, who as Florida’s CFO oversees the department.

Detectives began investigating Coachman after seeing fliers advertising the $100 insurance cards on telephone poles.  Working undercover, they visited Coachman and bought one of the cards, then verified that Coachman was not licensed to sell insurance in Florida and did not have an appointment to sell insurance for Twin Cities Fire Insurance Company.

Florida drivers are required by law to carry at least $10,000 in PIP and $10,000 in property damage liability coverage.

The Department of Financial Services, Division of Insurance Fraud, investigates various forms of fraud in insurance, including health, life, auto, property and workers' compensation insurance.  Anyone with information about this or any other suspected insurance fraud is asked to call the department's Fraud Fighters Hotline at 1-800-378-0445.


Consumer Services HelpLine (800) 342-2762

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