Volume 6 Number 42 October 16, 2009
This week, I had the pleasure of thanking people across the state for their service – including some of our state’s brave law enforcement officers and a group of Jacksonville business leaders who are making a difference.
In Orlando on Saturday, I spoke with members of the Florida Police Benevolent Association (PBA), highlighting how our Department’s law enforcement divisions have successfully partnered with members of the PBA to protect Florida’s citizens. On Monday in Tampa, I got to meet Jordan, the first K-9 in our State Fire Marshal Division trained to find explosives.
Then yesterday, I had the opportunity to keynote the Junior Achievement of North Florida JAGirl$ signature event, ‘Smart Women Make Change’. I spoke with business people and young women who participate in the mentoring program about how money management can lead to empowerment.
All across our state, Floridians are serving their communities, whether it’s by wearing the badge or by helping mentor a young girl. It is an honor for me to get to speak with so many inspiring people each week.
State of Florida
CFO Alex Sink delivered the keynote address on Thursday at the Junior Achievement of Northeast Florida’s JA Girl$ signature event – Smart Women Make Change – luncheon in Jacksonville.
The event recognized the accomplishments of girls from fifth grade through high school in a special program designed to teach girls the skills to manage money wisely and develop entrepreneurial skills.
The CFO was honored at the conclusion of the program with induction into the Junior Achievement of Northeast Florida Hall of Fame.
“Statistics show that just 59 percent of people under the age of 30 pay their bills on time every month,” CFO Sink told the audience. “Programs like JA Girl$ are essential in helping prepare young people, especially young women, to understand the importance of spending responsibly and that the consequences of not doing so have life-long negative consequences.”
The CFO shared with the audience the importance of the JA Girl$ mentoring component in helping instill the value of the financial literacy skills taught through the program. Half of the young adults surveyed who said they closely monitor their finances said they learned about personal finance from their parents or a trusted adult advisor.
In addition to personal financial literacy skills, the JA Girl$ program also mentors its participants in starting their own businesses and has served more than 6,200 girls in Northeast Florida since its inception three years ago.
Florida CFO Alex Sink on Saturday in Orlando spoke to the Florida Police Benevolent Association (PBA) Executive Board about the accomplishments of her sworn law enforcement divisions and her efforts to reform the state’s public pension fund.
CFO Sink highlighted the recent accomplishments of her two sworn law enforcement divisions, which often work in partnership with members of the PBA. CFO Sink’s Division of Insurance Fraud (DIF) leads the nation in fraud restitution, and is second in arrests, only to California. Her Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigations (BFAI) each year investigates over 4,000 fires in Florida, and more than 45 percent of those are determined to be arson. Under CFO Sink’s leadership, DIF has added seven new fraud prosecutors to help bring these perpetrators to justice.
CFO Sink cited over 800 arrests and more than $34 million in court ordered restitution to Florida victims of insurance fraud since she took office. “All of you are our partners in this success,” she told the PBA Board.
As one of three pension trustees on the State Board of Administration (SBA) that oversees Florida’s public pension fund, CFO Sink also emphasized her duty to protect the retirement security of Florida’s sworn law enforcement officers, and the reforms she has been working on to increase the oversight of their pension fund.
Florida CFO Alex Sink on Monday in Tampa welcomed the first canine, explosives detective, Jordan, to her State Fire Marshal team, and viewed a live demo of the K-9 force serving the Tampa area.
Jordan, a canine specially trained to detect and locate the presence of compounds containing nitrates and other materials used in the construction of explosive devices, will be based in CFO Sink’s Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigations Tampa field office. Jordan had to complete an extensive thirteen-week training program with assistance from the Tampa Police Department’s K-9 Unit to become a member of the State Fire Marshal team. She is a two-year-old German Shepherd and Labrador mix.
The Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigations has responded to 567 requests for assistance in the Tampa area so far this year, and determined 247 (44%) of those requests to have been incendiary fires.
Division of State Fire Marshal Director Julius Halas, on behalf of Florida Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Alex Sink, last week paid tribute to Florida’s fallen firefighters at the 2009 Fallen Firefighter Memorial Service. The annual ceremony was held at the Division of State Fire Marshal’s Florida State Fire College in Ocala, under the guidance of Chief Barry Baker and the Florida Joint Council of Fire and Emergency Service Organizations.
Three Florida firefighters who gave their lives in the line of duty were honored, including Lieutenant Rafael Vazquez of Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue who passed away on March 3, 2008, Firefighter Johnny Bajusz of Layton Volunteer Fire Department – Monroe County Fire/Rescue who passed away on January 16, 2008, and Chief Thomas Santner of North Bay Fire District who passed away on February 6, 2005. Director Halas presented their families with the Fallen Firefighter Memorial flag and medallion, and expressed his gratitude for the firefighters’ service to the people of Florida. Eighteen fallen firefighters from other states around the country were honored as well.
“The annual Fallen Firefighter Memorial Service is always a bitter sweet event,” said Director Halas. “We are so proud of our firefighters and their dedication, yet very saddened for the families who endure the loss of a loved one. It was my privilege to pay tribute to these brave men and women on such a significant occasion.”
Florida’s fallen firefighters are forever remembered by the Florida Fallen Firefighter Memorial statue at the Florida State Fire College, created by Gainesville-artist Don Murray and dedicated in January 1992.
CFO Alex Sink was in Jacksonville promoting the importance of financial literacy programming for girls this week and visited with WJXT and WTLV television morning anchors to promote Junior Achievement’s JA Girl$ program. While at TV 12, CFO Sink had the opportunity to meet and talk with Jacksonville sports celebrity and former NBA player Artis Gilmore who was in the studio for a celebration of Jacksonville University’s 75th Anniversary.
Gilmore is a former professional basketball star in the American Basketball Association (ABA) and the National Basketball Association (NBA). He played college basketball for the Jacksonville University Dolphins and led the Dolphins to the NCAA title game in 1970. Gilmore holds the record for the highest rebounds per game average in Division I history.
An eleven-time professional all-star, an ABA Rookie of the Year and an MVP, Gilmore remains the NBA career leader in field goal percentage. He currently serves as a special assistant to the president of Jacksonville University.
Deputy Chief of Staff Daniel Sumner this week was presented with the International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions (IAIABC) 2009 President’s Award. Deputy Sumner was honored for many years of contributions to the Association on its Executive Committee, his service as President of the Association, and his many innovative contributions to the State of Florida.
The IAIABC is a not-for-profit association representing government agencies charged with the administration of workers’ compensation systems throughout the United States, Canada, and other nations and territories. Its mission is to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of workers’ compensation systems throughout the world.
Congratulations, Deputy Sumner, on your tremendous leadership in improving workers’ compensation in Florida and across the globe!
Outstanding investigators and employees with CFO Sink’s Divisions of Insurance Fraud (DIF) and Workers’ Compensation (DWC) received awards from the Florida Workers’ Compensation Task Force for their accomplishments in the fight against workers' compensation fraud.
The Florida Workers’ Compensation Fraud Task Force is a cooperative organization formed in 1992 to review and make recommendations for the prevention, investigation, and prosecution of various types of workers’ compensation insurance fraud. DIF and DWC are two of the many agencies and organizations that comprise the task force.
Award Recipients from the Department of Financial Services include: Carol Porter, District Supervisor, Ft. Myers, Division of Workers' Compensation, Bureau of Compliance; Detective Richard "Rick" Matthews, Division of Insurance Fraud, St. Petersburg; Detective David "Dave" Lindsey, Division of Insurance Fraud, St. Petersburg; Major Geoffrey R. Branch, Bureau Chief of Workers' Compensation Fraud, Division of Insurance Fraud; Bureau Chief Tasha Carter, Division of Workers' Compensation, Bureau of Compliance; and Andrew Sabolic, Assistant Director, Division of Workers' Compensation.
As Florida’s CFO, Sink oversees the Department of Financial Services’ Division of Workers’ Compensation, which conducted nearly 30,000 onsite investigations of worksites to determine employer compliance for the 2008-2009 fiscal year. The division also recently launched a new whistleblower web site, which makes it easier for citizens to submit complaints online about suspected non-compliance and provides real-time feedback to complainants.
Leon County Circuit Court Judge John C. Cooper has ordered American Keystone Insurance Company based in Ponte Vedra Beach into receivership for the purpose of liquidation. The Florida Department of Financial Services is appointed Receiver.
Floridians who have homeowners insurance with American Keystone should immediately contact their insurance agent to secure coverage with a new company. All policies will be cancelled effective 11:59 p.m. on November 8, 2009, unless otherwise terminated prior to that date.
“Given that this liquidation order comes during hurricane season, it is imperative that homeowners who have coverage with American Keystone immediately contact their agents to secure new coverage,” said Florida CFO Alex Sink. “We will continue working diligently to help make the transition as smooth as possible for policyholders.”
Consumers with questions relating to American Keystone policy and coverage issues should call the company’s customer service department at 1-877-350-9777 until November 8. Questions relating to claims should be directed to the Florida Insurance Guaranty Association (FIGA) at 1-866-928-4310 or the policyholder’s agent.
American Keystone, a Florida corporation licensed in 2007, primarily wrote homeowners, condominium unit owners, personal inland marine, and residential condominium association policies in the state. The company has approximately 7,800 policies in force, including homeowners, commercial, residential and wind policies.
The liquidation order and other related information can be found at http://www.MyFloridaCFO.com/Receiver/. For any other questions, Floridians can call CFO Sink’s Insurance Consumer Helpline at (850) 413-3089 or toll-free at 1-877-My-FL-CFO or visit www.MyFloridaCFO.com.
CFO Sink introduced a resolution for the Governor and Cabinet to recognize October 18th through the 24th as City Government Week in the State of Florida. Tallahassee City Commissioner Mark Mustian accepted the resolution as a board member of the Florida League of Cities.
City Government Week offers an important opportunity to spread the word to all the citizens of Florida that they can shape and influence this branch of government which is closest to the people. This week and every week are very important times to recognize the important role played by city government in our lives.
The Florida League of Cities and its member cities have joined together to teach students and other citizens about municipal government through a variety of different projects and information.
Read the resolution.
Florida has been lucky this hurricane season; however, that luck should not be turned into complacency. Now more than ever Floridians should be on alert and ready for a disaster.
Get more hurricane tips and resources at the Department Web site located at www.MyFloridaCFO.com.
As the daily barrage of media stories about Florida’s home sales and foreclosure rates continues, Florida homeowners are finding relief at CFO Sink’s Florida Housing Help Workshops.
On October 10, over 60 Marion County residents attended a FHH workshop held at Central Florida Community College in Ocala.
“The people were very patient, professional and courteous and relieved my fears with reference to not losing my home,” said a woman named Laura on a survey. “Thank you.”
Attendees ranged from homeowners to real estate professionals looking to learn more about foreclosure help and financial literacy.
“It is great talking to a real, live person,” said another homeowner.
Struggling homeowners are encouraged to attend FHH events to have the opportunity to speak with HUD certified counselors, community resources, lenders, and free legal aid.
Be sure to check the Florida Housing Help calendar of events for a workshop near you.
Florida Housing Help events:
Friday, October 16 from 1:00 – 5:00 p.m. Florida Housing Help The Cultural Center of Charlotte County, 2280 Aaron Street, Port Charlotte
Wednesday, October 21 from 5:00 – 8:00 p.m. Florida Housing Help Joseph P. D'Alessandro Office Complex (State Building), 2295 Victoria Ave., Fort Myers
Wednesday, October 28 from 5:00 – 8:00 p.m. War on Poverty-Florida (inside Gateway Mall)
Gateway Mall, 5196-A Norwood Ave, Jacksonville
Saturday, November 7 from 10:00 – 4:00 p.m. Florida Housing Help Englewood Neighborhood Center, 6123 La Costa Drive, Orlando
Community Planning Month was recognized on Tuesday at the Cabinet meeting. Val Hubbard, past President, American Planning Association, and Roosevelt Petithomme of the Florida Department of Transportation and current chair of the American Planning Association, Florida Capital Area Section, accepted the resolution on behalf of the association.
Community planning provides an opportunity for all residents to be meaningfully involved in making choices that determine the future of their community.
Each October, states across the country participate in National Planning Month activities in an effort to raise awareness of the benefits proper planning has on communities and the environment.
The Florida Chapter of the American Planning Association endorses National Community Planning Month as an opportunity to highlight the contributions sound planning and plan implementation make to the quality of our communities and environment. Read the resolution.
Citibank, N.A., Hagatna, Guam, has contacted the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) to report that counterfeit cashier's checks bearing the institution's name are in circulation.
The counterfeit items display the routing number 121405034, which is assigned to Citibank, N.A. The items have ornate top and side borders. A security feature statement is displayed along the top border on either side of the words "CASHIERS CHECK." The words "NAME OF REMITTER" and "ADDRESS" appear in the lower-left corner of the items. A thermochromic icon appears in the top-right corner.
Authentic checks display a security feature statement embedded within a darkened top border. The words "CASHIER'S CHECK" appear vertically along the left side of the checks. The words "LOAN NO." and "REMITTER" appear in the lower-left corner. The bank's logo is top-centered. The bank's location and the statement "Cleared through the U.S. Federal Reserve" are displayed in the top-left corner.
Be aware that the appearance of counterfeit items can be modified and that additional variations may be presented.
Information about counterfeit items, cyber-fraud incidents and other fraudulent activity may be forwarded to the FDIC's Cyber-Fraud and Financial Crimes Section, 550 17th Street, N.W., Room F-4004, Washington, D.C. 20429, or transmitted electronically to firstname.lastname@example.org. Questions related to federal deposit insurance or consumer issues should be submitted to the FDIC using an online form that can be accessed at http://www2.fdic.gov/starsmail/index.asp.
With 13 divisions and many programs available to serve Floridians, there is much to learn about financial services from the home page of the Department of Financial Services. Links for consumers, insurance agents and adjusters, employers and state vendors will help you find the information you need. The slide-down list on the left gives a detailed view of the site, and the buttons on the right will lead you to our special programs.
In order to continue to improve our service to you, we would like to know what you think about our current web site. Your opinion is important to us and it will only take a few minutes to complete the questionnaire. Participation is voluntary and anonymous. Thank you for helping us improve our services. Please begin by clicking on the Internet Survey.
Every family and household should have a budget. Simple or complex, it will help compare what is coming in with what is going out so that a realistic view can guide spending and saving.
List your necessary expenses and your discretionary purchases by category on a monthly basis to help stabilize your spending habits.
Get in the habit of allocating a percentage of your income to your savings first. This fund can grow over the years to pay for education, a home purchase and retirement.
One of the most important money-saving activities for any family is to avoid debt. There is nothing more detrimental to your family's financial health than debt that accrues interest payments every month.
Spend within your budget and use credit cards only when you know you can pay them off each month.
These steps will help you become debt free and see an increase in your available cash and savings.
Floridians spend more time outdoors for more months of the year than their counterparts up north. For this reason, homeowners tend to feature outdoor lights as an amenity for many homes. At times, this can add considerable costs to your electricity bill, but with a few reconfigurations, you can save significant amounts of energy.
Here are some tips on how to save money and protect the environment:
1. Save money! Consider switching out traditional low voltage landscape lights with new LED lighting. A regular halogen lamp has a 4,000 hour life, whereas an LED bulb lasts over 40,000 hours. LED lighting systems use approximately one quarter the electricity compared to old-style halogen lamps. Changing to an energy-efficient LED system will pay for itself over time.
2. Be sensitive to nature! Outdoor lights can be distracting to birds and may cause them to fly into windows by accident. Turn your outdoor lights off at night to avoid distracting them. Artificial lighting also disorients baby sea turtles at night and makes it very difficult for them to find the ocean. If you live along the beach, try to turn your lights off at night to help the baby sea turtles find their way home. Use a timer so your outdoor lights are in use for just a few hours in the evening, perhaps when you may wish to feature your landscaping for dinner guests.
3. Use clean energy! If you are a member of a homeowners association and live in a gated community, ask the board to consider solar street lamps instead of gas or electricity. An increasing number of Florida neighborhoods are switching to solar, and the long-term energy savings will more than pay for the installations.
4. Lower your energy footprint! Using fewer lights with cleaner energy and newer technologies will lower your energy bill, add to the resale value of your property, and contribute to better stewardship of Earth's limited resources.