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

         Volume 5, Number 20, May 16, 2008

This week wildfires ravaged parts of Central Florida, damaging property, homes and land. A State of Emergency was declared on Monday, and the brave men and women of the fire service responded heroically. Because of their valiant efforts, countless homes, buildings, and lives were saved. State Fire Marshal Alex Sink toured the wildfire areas on Tuesday, encouraging state and local authorities to continue fighting the fires while aggressively investigating the causes.

State Fire Marshal Alex Sink dispatched eleven Fire Investigators and equipment to the area to assist local law enforcement, Department of Agriculture Law Enforcement, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement in the investigation of the wildland fires in Brevard County.

Investigators suspect arson in many of the fires and apprehended a subject this week suspected in at least one case. Arson is a serious criminal act that can destroy lives and property. Throughout the state last week, the State Fire Marshal’s office held events recognizing Arson Awareness Week, in an effort to inform and engage the public in fire prevention and preparation. For more information on the role of the State Fire Marshal visit http://www.myfloridacfo.com/sfm/.


CFO SINK OFFERS INSURANCE ADVICE TO FLORIDIANS AFFECTED BY FIRES

This past week as wildfires threatened homes in Brevard, Volusia and Glades Counties, CFO Sink offered the following insurance advice to homeowners affected by the wildfires:

  • If forced to evacuate your home, let your agent or insurance company know your temporary forwarding address and phone number.

  • Keep all receipts for meals, lodging and other expenses directly due to being evacuated and call your agent to find out if the Additional Living Expense coverage on your homeowners policy applies.

  • If you return to find your home damaged, call your insurance agent immediately and make emergency repairs to prevent further damage. Document the damage and repairs in writing and with receipts and photos.

  • Maintain copies of your household inventory and other documentation, including photos, to assist the adjuster in assessing the value of the destroyed property.

  • For help contacting your agent or insurance company regarding filing a claim, or to ensure that an insurance adjuster you are dealing with is licensed, call the department's Consumer Helpline at 1-877-My-FL-CFO.

  • Beware of fly-by-night repair businesses. Hire licensed and reputable service people.


CFO SINK: PASCO COUNTY COUPLE ARRESTED FOR STEALING NEARLY $200,000 FROM AN 89-YEAR OLD WOMAN
 
Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink announced the arrest of a Pasco County couple for allegedly deceiving an 89-year-old woman out of nearly $200,000 and using it toward the purchase of a million dollar home.

The couple faces four felony charges: grand theft over $100,000, crimes against the elderly, conspiracy, and operating an unlicensed and false entity as a conduit to defraud their victims.

“This is a horrendous example of two people who preyed upon a senior who trusted them with her life savings,” said CFO Sink. “I commend our insurance fraud detectives for their work in going after criminals who defraud our seniors and bringing them to justice.”

John W. Morehart, 51, of New Port Richey allegedly approached 89-year old Mary Nusser as a licensed stock broker and convinced her to invest in a hedge fund. At John Morehart’s request, Nusser signed over a blank check which was to be invested in the fund. Instead, the check was made out to his wife, Debra Morehart, 50, for $199,000 and deposited into the couple’s joint checking account.

Authorities believe the Morehart’s were aware of a prior settlement paid to Mary Nusser, in the amount of $199,000, from dealings with another insurance agent who sold her unsuitable annuities.

Over an eight month period, the couple wrote over $135,000 in checks from their joint account, using the money for a down payment and renovations on a $1.7 million Lake Tarpon home. The couple continued to provide fraudulent monthly statements to Nusser showing a rise in her investments, though no such hedge fund ever existed.

Neither of the Moreharts has ever possessed a securities license. The department has information indicating John Morehart solicited over 30 victims in Florida.

The Department of Financial Services, Division of Insurance Fraud, investigates insurance agents and agencies concerning violations of the Florida insurance regulations. 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 or log on to www.MyFloridaCFO.com/fraud.


AMSTERDAM CONFERENCE FEATURES CFO SINK ON BBC WORLD DEBATE

CFO Alex Sink was invited to attend the Amsterdam Global Conference on Sustainability and Transparency, where over 1,000 international thought leaders, experts and practitioners on the topic of sustainability and transparency convened for three days of lively discussion sponsored by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and the City of Amsterdam. Her trip was sponsored and supported by the non-profit organization GRI.  Climate change is topping the international agenda and fueling debate about sustainability, particularly the role of business in mitigating its efforts.

The diverse and engaging program culminated in a BBC World News Debate that will be broadcast on the BBC World News channel this weekend , moderated by BBC presenter Nik Gowing. As a member of the panel, CFO Sink discussed the financial risks of climate change for investors.

The topic: "How accountable is business?"

The World Debate asks whether companies, already forced to report on their finances, should also have to reveal details of their impact on the environment and society? How transparent do we expect companies to be and can we trust them to come clean? Can openness and profitability go hand in hand?

The panel : Alessandro Carlucci, CEO Natura; Gerd Leipole, Executive Director of Greenpeace International; Maud Olofsson, Deputy Prime Minister of Sweden; Sir Michael Rake, Chairman of British Telecom; Florida CFO Alex Sink and Bruno Prior, Director of Summerleaze, a renewable energy company.


MY SAFE FLORIDA HOME PROGRAM NEARS 35,000 GRANTS
Program will continue offering free wind inspections until it reaches goal of 400,000

Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink today announced that the My Safe Florida Home (MSFH) program is projecting it will exceed the Florida Legislature’s goal of approving 35,000 homeowners for grants by the end of May.  The first-come, first-served program will stop accepting new grant applications at that time. MSFH will continue to work with homeowners currently making improvements to their homes.

The MSFH program will transition to an inspection-focused program beginning June 2008, offering free wind inspections for eligible homeowners until it reaches the Legislature’s goal of performing 400,000 inspections or until the program sunsets in June 2009.

"With hurricane season less than one month away, I encourage Floridians to sign up for a free wind inspection to learn how to harden their homes against hurricane damage,” said CFO Alex Sink, who oversees the Department of Financial Services. “The response from homeowners has been overwhelming, and I thank the Legislature for creating this program and allowing us to enable more than 35,000 Floridians to make their homes more storm-resistant.”

Homeowners who have already received an inspection and meet other statutory requirements may apply for a grant online at www.MySafeFloridaHome.com  or by calling toll-free 1-866-513-MSFH (6734). In addition to completing an application online or over the phone, homeowners are required to provide the MSFH program with proof of homestead and insurance for matching grants or proof of homestead and income for low-income grants. Deadlines for applying for a MSFH grant and the submission of these required application documents are listed below.
 
Grant Application Methods Grant Application Deadlines
Apply online Saturday, May 31, 2008
Apply over the phone Friday, May 30, 2008
 
Mail proof of homestead and insurance for matching grants

Mail proof of homestead and income for low-income grants
Postmarked by Friday, June 13, 2008
 

In 2007, the Florida Legislature directed the MSFH program to provide inspections for at least 400,000 site-built, single-family, residential properties and provide grants to at least 35,000 applicants before June 30, 2009. To date, the MSFH program has approved approximately 32,292 homeowners for mitigation grants and has paid 6,930 grants totaling more than $22.4 million. The MSFH program has also provided more than 222,981 free wind inspections. Participating homeowners receive a wind inspection report, which suggests ways homeowners can harden their homes against storm damage and informs homeowners if they are currently eligible to save money on their wind insurance premiums. To date, 59 percent of homeowners who have received a free wind inspection are eligible for discounts on their wind insurance premiums averaging $217 statewide. For additional information, log on to www.MySafeFloridaHome.com.


CLYDE GASKINS RECOGNIZED BY CFO SINK FOR FIFTY YEARS IN STATE GOVERNMENT 

At this week's Cabinet meeting, Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink offered a resolution honoring Clyde Gaskins, who has been a state employee in Florida in the Department’s of Insurance, General Services and Financial Services for the past 50 years.

Gaskins began his career with the State of Florida in 1958, in the former Department of Insurance with a beginning salary of $225 per month. Gaskins has outlasted 12 Governors and eight Insurance Commissioners. According to the Division of Retirement, there are only five state employees on the retired payroll who have had more years of service than Clyde.

During his many years in the data processing area, Clyde Gaskins has observed significant innovations in hardware and software technologies, as well as milestones in areas such as commercial applications and artificial intelligence.

Serving the State of Florida with distinction, Clyde Gaskins has earned the respect and admiration of his peers, his community and the State of Florida. And, Clyde has no plans to retire!


CFO SINK RECOGNIZES PRUDENTIAL FINANCIAL DAVIS PRODUCTIVITY AWARDS

At a meeting of the Florida Cabinet, Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink offered a resolution recognizing the Prudential Financial Davis Productivity Awards, which honors state employees who increase public service productivity and promote innovative ideas.

Once a year, the Davis Productivity Awards recognize employees who have gone beyond the call of duty to provide efficient and high quality service. The awards promote innovation and maximize service to Floridians.

This year marks the 20th year for the Davis Productivity Awards, presented by Prudential Financial. Since its inception, more than 12,000 state employees have been nominated for producing $5.9 billion dollars of added value to Florida’s taxpayers.

Nominated state employees are eligible to receive cash awards of $250 to $2,500, commemorative plaques, and certificates of commendation. Employees nominated include, individuals, teams, work units and agencies that exceeded their job descriptions and performance expectations in ways that improved service delivery and added value for Florida taxpayers and businesses. 

The following Prudential Financial Productivity Award members were recognized by CFO Sink at Tuesday’s meeting for the Florida Cabinet:

  • Dominic Calabro, President & CEO, Florida Tax Watch
  • David Smith, Chairman, Florida Tax Watch
  • Martha Barnett, Chair-elect, Florida Tax Watch
  • Mike Jennings, V.P. Government Relations, Prudential
  • Bonnie Basham, Awards Program Judge
  • Paul Lewis, Jr., Progress Energy Florida (sponsor)
  • Clarissa Dunlap, Executive Director, Prudential – Davis Productivity
  • Diana Calabro, Assistant, Prudential – Davis Productivity Awards

Prudential Financial, manager of $616 billion for millions of Americans as customers in 30 other countries, has been the program’s continuing Anchor Sponsor.

For more information visit www.floridataxwatch.org.


Money-Smart Idea of the Week

Idea: Fight Leaks
Your expensive cooled air might be leaking right out of your house through drafty windows and doors. Your heating and air conditioning ducts are another way that cool air can be easily lost, making your air conditioner work harder than it should.  Insulating and sealing windows and doors will save energy costs in summer and winter months.  Many air conditioning and heating ducts may develop leaks over time. Have your ducts properly sealed and insulated and you could save as much as 10% in energy costs according to the Environmental Protection Agency. If you think your duct system is leaky, have it checked out by a Heating, Ventilation and Air-conditioning (HVAC) technician.


CFO SPONSORS CABINET RESOLUTION ON BIKE FLORIDA AND 15 YEARS OF RIDING

At this week's meeting of the Florida Cabinet, Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink offered a resolution recognizing Bike Florida, a not-for profit organization dedicated to providing education and awareness programs, promoting bicycle safety and offering bicycling opportunities for Floridians and visitors. Established in 1994, Bike Florida encourages bicycling as an alternative mode of travel with the increased awareness of climate change impacts and expense of individual fossil-fuel-related travel.

Bicycling is a low cost recreational activity that can be appreciated at any age and provides an excellent physical activity that increases heart health.
Florida’s system of greenways and trails, funded by preservation dollars, allow bicyclists to utilize hundreds of miles of access in a safe and aesthetically beautiful environment.  Bike Florida is celebrating its 15th year of providing springtime week-long bicycling tours throughout Florida with an emphasis on visiting rural communities.


CFO SINK ADDRESSES LAW DAY IN WAKULLA COUNTY

Monday marked the 16th Annual Seafood Cookout in honor of Law Enforcement Appreciation Month in Wakulla County. CFO Sink joined Wakulla County Sheriff David Harvey, Wakulla Bank President and event sponsor Walter Dodson, and local residents in honoring three law enforcement officers for their excellence during 2008.

  • Law Enforcement Officer of the Year – 2008
    Sgt./ Lt. of Road Patrol Ronald Cexton “Boonie” Mitchell, Wakulla County Sheriffs Office
  • Correctional Officer of the Year – 2008
    Booking Sgt. Julie Martin, Wakulla County Sheriffs Office
  • Citizens-Volunteers in support of law enforcement for 2008
    Sheriff’s Mounted Posse and the men & women of the Sheriff’s Reserve Unit
    .

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