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

Volume 4, Number 8, February 23, 2007

Dear Floridian:

When I ran for the office of Chief Financial Officer, I promised Floridians that I would be the watchdog of their tax dollars and the state's financial interest.  I believe my election means voters want me to do just that.  

This week, that process got under way and I am pleased that the Governor has joined me in this mission.  Together, we announced our effort to search for the best practices to increase efficiency in state government, with the goal of bringing fiscal accountability to state contracting.  The Council on Efficient Government will begin by reviewing three of the state's largest technology contracts and determine how the state can be more efficient and cost-effective in administering these important services. 

As a member of the council, I will work with my colleagues to examine current government projects and work to develop practices that best serve the public and are of the utmost effectiveness. 

As an elected official, it is my duty to protect Floridian’s pocketbooks and to ensure sound and efficient spending.

--Alex Sink


GOVERNOR CRIST AND CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER SINK SEEK BEST PRACTICES FOR EFFICIENT GOVERNMENT
Governor Crist appoints Council on Efficient Government

Governor Charlie Crist was joined by Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink to launch Florida’s search for best practices to increase efficiency in state government. The search will be led by the Council on Efficient Government, created by the Florida Legislature in 2006. The Council will first review three projects already underway: People First, MyFloridaMarketPlace and Project Aspire.

“Government must be both efficient and effective, and the Council will lay a framework to help us achieve the best value for our tax dollars,” said Governor Crist.

The review of current projects will serve as a starting point for evaluating how to reap the most benefit from the systems. Moving forward, the Council will work with state agencies to identify other opportunities to develop best practices for evaluating future governmental contracts. The Council will then develop best practices for the implementation of innovative ideas for improving efficiency.

“Today we are taking the first step toward increased fiscal accountability in state contracting,” said CFO Sink. “It is our highest duty as elected officials to be frugal and efficient with the people’s tax dollars.”

“Government should not let large, complex ideas stand in the way of providing quality customer service,” said Secretary South. “As we explore the successes of large corporations and other government organizations, we should learn how we can provide high quality services more quickly.”

In addition, Governor Crist appointed four of the seven members of the Council on Efficient Government:

  • Secretary Linda H. South of the Florida Department of Management Services, who by statute serves as chair the Council;

  • Chief Financial Officer Sink, who will serve as the Cabinet member other than the Governor;

  • Secretary Holly Benson of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation;

  • James Zingale, executive director of the Florida Department of Revenue;

The three remaining Council members appointed by Governor Crist will be individuals from the private sector. They are required to collectively have experience with implementing complex projects in the business environment, including purchasing, contracting and increasing operational efficiency. Governor Crist will nominate two of the individuals and has requested the third nomination from Chief Financial Officer Sink. The private-sector appointments are subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.


CFO SINK ANNOUNCES UNCLAIMED PROPERTY BUREAU
SET TO RETURN $150 MILLION


Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink announced that the Department of Financial Services’ Bureau of Unclaimed Property has already returned more unclaimed property to rightful owners in the last seven months than was returned during all of the previous fiscal year, which ended June 30, 2006.

Last year, the bureau paid a record $101 million in claims, exceeding the $100 million plateau for the first time. Last week, however, the bureau had already surpassed that figure for the current year, putting it on pace to potentially return more than $150 million by June 2007.

“We are holding more than one-billion dollars’ worth of unclaimed property accounts for Floridians who have lost track of it,” said CFO Sink, who oversees the department. “We have made it a top priority to track down rightful owners and get their property back to them as quickly as possible.”

In January, CFO Sink personally delivered a substantial check to a South Florida fishing boat captain. The check was from stock accounts, remitted to the department last August, that the Broward County man and his sister never knew their grandfather had bought for them years ago.

The Bureau is currently holding 7.8 million accounts, mostly from dormant accounts in financial institutions, unclaimed utility deposits, insurance benefits, premium refunds, uncashed checks and trust accounts. The state’s holdings also include property such as watches, jewelry, coins, stamps and historical items from abandoned safe deposit boxes.

Unclaimed property can be claimed for free at any time by the rightful owners or heirs by logging on to www.fltreasurehunt.org or by calling the Bureau at 1-88-VALUABLE. Until claimed, the unclaimed funds are transferred to the state’s School Trust Fund to benefit public schools. Since the program’s inception in 1961, more than $1.5 billion has been transferred to the fund.


CFO SINK ANNOUNCES CONFERENCE CALLS, MEETING SCHEDULE FOR WINDSTORM MITIGATION STUDY COMMITTEE

The Windstorm Mitigation Study Committee met Thursday, February 22, 2007, and Friday, February 23, 2007, in the Cabinet Meeting Room in the Florida Capitol.

The Windstorm Mitigation Study Committee will conduct conference calls next Monday-Wednesday, February 26-28, 2007, from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., and will meet Thursday and Friday, March 1-2, 2007, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., in Room 37 of the Senate Office Building. 

The next meetings of the Windstorm Mitigation Study Committee will be held:

DATES: Conference calls Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, February 26-28, 2007, 8-10 a.m.

Thursday and Friday, March 1-2, 2007, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m
LOCATION:   Room 37, Senate Office Building 


MARION COUNTY MAN ARRESTED ON CHARGES OF WORKERS’ COMPENSATION FRAUD, FALSE AND MISLEADING STATEMENTS

Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink announced the arrest of a Marion County man on charges of workers’ compensation fraud and providing false and misleading statements.  From July 28, 2005, until his arrest earlier this week, Marshall Lake, 59, allegedly represented his condition as being worse than it was and received nearly $22,000 worth of medical treatment and medication.

Lake, of Summerfield, was booked into the Marion County Jail on a $10,000 bond.  The charges against him will be prosecuted in Marion County by the State Attorney’s Office, Fifth Judicial Circuit of Florida.  The arrest stems from an investigation by the Department of Financial Services, Division of Insurance Fraud.  The case agent was Detective Kurt Harmon.   If convicted on the charges, Lake faces up to 10 years in prison, in addition to fines and restitution.

 “At a time when many Floridians are struggling to pay premiums, this man was exploiting the system – at the expense of taxpayers,” said CFO Sink who oversees the department.  “This office is committed to protecting Floridians and their pocket books from these types of crimes.”

While Lake was being provided medical treatment for low-back pain from a 1984 workers' compensation injury, the claims adjuster requested surveillance of Lake to document his daily activities and verify that medical treatment was medically necessary and causally related to the original industrial accident.  The surveillance captured Lake using a cane and back brace on the visits to his doctor, but on occasions immediately before and after these visits he did not use the devices.   Other surveillance not associated with doctor visits revealed Lake was active and moving freely without these assistive devices. 

Lake allegedly continued to provide misleading information during his deposition and this testimony was contradicted by the video surveillance.   Lake’s treating workers' compensation physician viewed the surveillance and concluded he was providing false information regarding his physical abilities.  

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 case or any other suspected fraud is asked to call the department's Fraud Fighters Hotline at 1-800-378-0445.  A reward of up to $25,000 may be offered for information leading to an arrest and conviction.


Consumer Services HelpLine (800) 342-2762

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