FLORIDA CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER TOM GALLAGHER'S WEEKLY NEWSLETTER
Volume 3, Number 50, December 11, 2006
prepare for chilly weather and the 2006 holiday
season by turning up their heaters and setting
out candles and lights, residents should keep safety in
According to the National Fire Protection
73 percent of home-heating deaths
are attributed to space heaters.
The association also reports that real or
artificial Christmas trees were the first item
in the home to ignite in an estimated
310 reported U.S. home structure fires per year
in 1999-2002. These fires caused an average of
14 civilian deaths, 40 civilian injuries, and
$16.2 million in direct property damage per
This time of year we see a large number of
preventable fires that occur in Florida’s
homes. I urge all Floridians
to be cautious, have working smoke alarms and
fire escape plans.
As state fire marshal, I encourage Floridians to follow
these simple fire safety tips:
- Make sure you
have smoke detectors and make sure they
- Create a fire
escape plan for your family and practice
carrying out the plan.
- Use flashlights
instead of candles if electrical power is
- Plug electric
space heaters directly into wall outlets. Do
not use extension cords.
- Keep space
heaters and other heat sources at least 3
feet away from furniture, walls and drapes
and never use a space heater in a bedroom.
- Before using a
fireplace, make sure the chimney flue is
open so carbon monoxide gas can escape.
- If your natural
gas is shut off or the pilot light needs to
be re-lit, contact your local gas company.
Do not attempt to turn the gas on or light
the pilot on your own.
- Water Christmas
- Don’t let tree
lights touch needles or curtains.
- Turn out lights
and snuff candles before going to bed or
leaving the house.
- Keep candles out
of reach of children and pets and use sturdy
- Have an operable
fire extinguisher readily available.
awareness are critical to help prevent home
fires. These tips can help
For more fire safety tips, visit
-- Tom Gallagher
CRIST, GALLAGHER ANNOUNCE $5.8 MILLION
SETTLEMENT TO MULTIPLE CITIES AND COUNTIES BY
BROWN & BROWN
Greater disclosure requirements in agreement
will also improve transparency in broker
Tom Gallagher, Florida’s chief financial
officer, Charlie Crist, Florida’s attorney
general and governor-elect, and Insurance
Commissioner Kevin McCarty today announced that
Brown & Brown, Inc. has agreed to reimburse up
to 400 cities and counties in Florida
approximately $4.8 million for collecting
undisclosed fees or commissions when it placed
various coverages with insurance companies.
Brown & Brown, a Florida-based insurance broker,
has also agreed to adhere to stricter disclosure
requirements in its broker transactions.
“Brown & Brown has fully cooperated with our
agencies to reimburse cities and counties in
Florida for excess fees and commissions it
collected and has agreed to fully disclose all
fees and commissions in the future,” Gallagher
said. Gallagher said that the widespread
investigation of Florida’s insurance brokers and
companies is positively changing the way the
insurance industry does business.
“Insurance brokers and companies must realize
that the people come first,” Crist said. “This
settlement is another important step in
eliminating hidden charges in this industry.”
“The enhanced disclosure requirements as a
result of this agreement will ensure greater
transparency in broker transactions for
Floridians,” McCarty said.
The $4.8 million in refunds are the result of a
two-year joint investigation into insurance
broker activities conducted by the Department of
Financial Services, which Gallagher oversees,
the Office of the Attorney General and the
Office of Insurance Regulation. Brown & Brown is
also paying $1 million to the investigative
agencies for reimbursement of investigative
costs. Under the settlement, the broker denied
wrongdoing but agreed to reimburse its clients
without any formal action taken by the three
CFO-ELECT SINK TAPS VETERAN FIREFIGHTER TO LEAD STATE FIRE
Alex Sink, elected to serve as Florida’s chief financial officer beginning
January 2, 2007, announced today that she has appointed Leslie “Les” Hallman
to serve as the new director of the State Fire Marshal’s Office. Hallman, a
25-year veteran in fire and rescue services, law enforcement and emergency
management, will assume his new duties next month.
“Les Hallman will be an outstanding addition to our team,” said Sink, who as
CFO will also hold the title of state fire marshal. “He has the knowledge
and experience and shares my commitment to protecting Floridians, promoting
fire safety and aggressively investigating arson.”
As director of the Division of State Fire Marshal, Hallman will oversee four
bureaus: the Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigations, a sworn law
enforcement agency; the Bureau of Fire Prevention, the Bureau of Fire
Standards and Training, and the Bureau of Forensic Fire and Explosives
Analysis (the Arson Laboratory).
For the last 12 years, Hallman has served as fire chief for the South Walton
Fire District, overseeing five fire stations with 120 personnel and a $16
million budget. During his tenure, he incorporated a fire-based EMS in
Walton County and helped obtain the first medical/rescue helicopter for the
In 2001, he was awarded the State Award for Administrative Excellence in EMS
from the Florida Association of EMS. He is on the board of directors of the
Florida Fire Chiefs Association and serves as vice chairman of the Florida
Firefighters Employment Standards and Training Council.
From 1995 to 1996, he was fire chief of the Tavares Fire/Rescue Department,
and from 1993 to 1995 he was a member of the management staff at the City of
Orlando Fire Department, assisting in the development of the nation’s first
Citizens Fire Academy, a hands-on community outreach program. He formerly
served as a relief engineer/firefighter EMT with Orange County Fire Rescue
Division, relief officer/Firefighter EMT with the South Okaloosa Fire Rescue
Districts and as fire chief of the Thomas Drive Volunteer Fire Department in
Panama City Beach.
Hallman will be replacing Rand Napoli, who is retiring after more than 30
years in fire services.
“Florida has one of the most advanced response systems in the country, and I
am pleased that CFO-elect Sink has chosen someone with a strong record of
involvement in and commitment to fire and emergency services in our
communities,” Gallagher said.
GALLAGHER ANNOUNCES ARREST OF PALM BEACH MAN
FOR INSURANCE FRAUD
Tom Gallagher, Florida’s
chief financial officer, announced the arrest
of the owner and operator of Ron Mor
Drywall, Inc. on a charge of workers’
compensation premium fraud for allegedly
underreporting payroll to his workers’
compensation carrier to avoid more than $67,000
Ronald Salvatore Mauro, 64,
of South Palm Beach, was arrested this morning
following an investigation by the Department of
Financial Services, Division of Insurance
Fraud. Mauro was booked into the Palm Beach
County Jail and faces up to 15 years in prison,
in addition to fines and restitution, if
“Those who avoid paying
appropriate premiums create an uneven playing
field for other employers and put their
employees at risk,” said Gallagher, who oversees
the department. “We are determined to ensure
that employers comply with the law and that
appropriate action is taken against those who do
Legislative reforms and
aggressive investigative and compliance efforts
have saved employers more than $1 billion in the
past three years, as rates have dropped more
than 40 percent since 2003.
The investigation, based on information provided
by Zurich North America Insurance, the company’s
general liability carrier, and Comprehensive
Employers Insurance, (First Commercial
Insurance), the company’s workers’ compensation
carrier, that Ron Mor Drywall failed to report
more than $374,000 in payroll to Comprehensive
Employers Insurance during the 2002 policy
period. Investigators said had Mauro correctly
reported his payroll, the company would have
been assessed $67,501 as premium owed for
workers compensation coverage for the 2002 audit
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 is asked
to call the department's Fraud Busters Hotline
STATE FIRE MARSHAL ARSON DETECTIVE NAMED 2006
INVESTIGATOR OF THE YEAR BY FLORIDA ADVISORY
COMMITTEE ON ARSON PREVENTION
The Florida Advisory
Committee on Arson Prevention (FACAP) has named
an arson investigator in the State Fire
Marshal’s Office as the organization’s
Investigator of the Year.
Detective Chris Scovotto has served with the State Fire
Marshal’s Office, Bureau of Fire and Arson
Investigations, since 1999, and currently serves
in the bureau’s North Region where he is
credited with building strong working
relationships between law enforcement and the
In the past 12 months, Detective Scovotto has been the primary
investigator in 60 cases. Fifteen of the fires
investigated were determined to have been
incendiary, and eight of the cases involved the
use or threatened use of a destructive device.
Detective Scovotto made arrests in 15 of these
23 cases, resulting in a clearance rate of 65
Detective Scovotto is
recognized for providing prosecutors with
thorough arrest information, and his
investigative practices have resulted in formal
charges being filed in virtually all of his
HOLIDAY SHOPPING ONLINE
you shopping online for the holidays? U.S. online retail sales this holiday
season will increase 23% over last year to reach $27 billion, according to
Forrester Research. Almost one-fifth of the consumers surveyed say that the
Internet will be the place where they shop the most during the holidays.
Consumers of all ages find shopping for holiday
gifts online to be convenient, fast and easy.
Shopping on line may be a convenience, but the consumer needs to protect and
safeguard personal information while online. The following shopping tips
from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) can help you be a well-informed
Know with whom you are dealing, as anyone can set up
Confirm the online seller’s physical address and phone number. If you
get an email or pop-up message from the seller asking for financial
information, do not reply or click on the link in the message.
Legitimate companies do not ask for information via emails or pop-ups.
Read between the lines.
Read the seller’s description of the product closely, especially the
fine print. Words like refurbished, vintage or close-out may indicate
that the product is less than perfect; brand-name items with too-good
to-be-true prices could be counterfeit.
Calculate the costs. Check out websites that compare prices, then
judge by factoring shipping and handling into the total cost of the
order. Then consider these costs in relation to your budget and compare
with the cost of shopping locally.
Pay by credit card.
DO NOT SEND CASH under any circumstance.
If you pay by credit card online, the Fair Trade Act may protect your
transaction. Under this law, you have the right to dispute charges under
certain circumstances. In the event that your credit card is used
without your knowledge or permission, you generally are liable for no
more that $50.00 in charges per card. Many companies do not hold
consumers responsible for any unauthorized charges made online, and some
card issuers may provide additional warranty, return and/or purchase
Check out the terms of the deal, like refund polices and
delivery dates. Can you return it for a full refund? Who pays for S&H or
restocking fees? What is the delivery date? The law requires sellers
to ship items as promised or within 30 days after the order date if no
specific date is promised. Can the recipient return your gift? If so,
ask that a receipt be included in the package.
Keep a paper trail. Print and save records of your online
transactions, including the product description and price, the online
receipt, and copies of any emails you exchange with the seller. Read
your credit card statement when received for unauthorized charges.
Do not send your financial information by email.
Email is not a secure method for transmitting financial information like
credit card, checking account, or Social Security numbers. Make sure
the seller’s website is secure, such as a URL that begins with https
(the ‘s” stands for secure). Unfortunately, no indicator is foolproof;
some fraudulent sites have forged security icons.
Use anti-virus software and a firewall and update them
This is necessary for anyone transmitting personal information and
purchasing online as an active browser and email user. Anti-virus
software protects your computer from viruses, and possible spam emails
sent through your account. A firewall will help keep hackers from using
your computer. If you do not have these protective programs, purchase
and install them or seek professional assistance to do so.
It should let you know what personal information the website operators
are collecting and how they are going to use it. If you do not find a
business to another site that is more secure.
Consumer Services HelpLine (800) 342-2762