FLORIDA CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER ALEX SINK'S WEEKLY NEWSLETTER
Volume 4, Number 27, July 6, 2007
Our country has remained safe and strong,
thanks to the sacrifices of our American heroes, our veterans and our
troops, many of whom are serving far from home and will not be with
their families and friends this Fourth of July. Please remember our
brave military service men and women this week.
Also keep our first responders in mind as you celebrate. The events of
Sept. 11, 2001, brought into clear focus the sacrifices they make and the
risks they take every time they respond to a call. Further, during the past
several years, Florida's first responders have been the first on the ground
following eight hurricanes, numerous tornadoes and hundreds of wildfires.
Many of you may choose to celebrate with fireworks or sparklers this
year, but remember that fireworks are illegal to use in Florida except with
a permit or a specific exemption, and can be very dangerous both to people
and property. Sparklers, hundreds of which are legal to use in Florida, can
be equally dangerous. Firefighters responded to more than 300 incidents
involving illegal fireworks and sparklers last year, the majority of those
around the Fourth of July holiday.
Protect your family and loved ones and celebrate safely, and be extra
cautious of starting a fire that could produce extra work for our first
responders this holiday.
CFO SINK URGES FLORIDIANS TO
CELEBRATE JULY 4th SAFELY
Hundreds of accidents reported every year from fireworks and sparklers
Florida Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Alex Sink is urging
Floridians to comply with fireworks laws as they make their Fourth of July
plans, in light of the high risk of injury and the state’s recent wildfires.
Florida fire departments last year reported that they responded to 250
incidents involving sparklers and 90 incidents involving fireworks.
“Floridians must think about fire safety as they celebrate this Fourth of
July,” said CFO Sink. “With the serious risk of injury and the danger of
wildfires, we owe it to our families and our firefighters to be extra
Anyone using fireworks must have a permit from their local government or for
certain agricultural purposes be exempted by law. Without a permit, it is
illegal in Florida to use fireworks, which include: shells and mortars,
multiple tube devices, Roman candles, rockets and firecrackers, when such
use is not in strict compliance with Chapter 791.012, Florida Statutes.
Floridians should not sign “waivers” in order to purchase fireworks. Signing
a waiver will not clear you of responsibility should you be caught illegally
using fireworks, which is a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to one
year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
There is still a risk of injury with the use of legal sparklers. When lit,
some sparklers can reach temperatures between 1,300 and 1,800 degrees - at
least 200 degrees hotter than a standard butane lighter.
For a list of hundreds of sparklers that are legal to use in Florida, as
well as safety tips, visit the State Fire Marshal’s web site at
2007 Sparklers List.
To celebrate safely, CFO Sink advises Floridians to follow these
Use sparklers and other
legal novelties on a flat, hard surface. Do not light them on grass.
Use sparklers in an
open area. Keep children and pets at least 30 feet away from all ignited
Light only one item at
a time and never attempt to re-light a “dud.”
Don’t use any unwrapped
items or items that may have been tampered with.
Keep a fire
extinguisher or water hose on-hand for emergencies. It’s a good idea to
drop used sparklers in a bucket of water.
CFO SINK TO STATE EMPLOYEES: MAXIMIZE STATE BONUS BY
INVESTING IN DEFERRED COMP
Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink today unveiled a new initiative
that gives state employees a way to maximize their annual bonus by investing
it in the State of Florida Deferred Compensation Plan. Administered by the
Department of Financial Services, the Deferred Compensation plan is an
individual tax-deferred retirement vehicle funded with employee
State employees choosing to participate will be able to invest as much as
$897 in their own personal retirement account as opposed to receiving their
bonus as a lump sum payment of approximately $673.
“As the state’s Chief Financial Officer, part of my job is to help promote
smart financial moves for Floridians,” said CFO Sink, who runs the
department. “By investing their bonus in a retirement account, state
employees have the opportunity to put an additional $200 to work for them
instead of the government.”
In the 2007 General Appropriations Act, the Legislature provided for $1,000
bonuses for all full-time state employees, to be paid November 7, 2007.
Until this year, employees were forced to receive bonuses as lump-sum
payments, subject to 20 percent federal taxes and Social Security and
Medicare taxes. After all the taxes are deducted, most state employees will
be left with a net check of only $673.
However, state employees taking advantage of the opportunity to invest their
bonus will defer having to pay the 20 percent federal government tax and
will receive as much as $897 to invest in a retirement account. Eligible
state employees can invest all or part of their bonus and will receive
information about this new initiative from the state’s deferred compensation
program in early July.
The deferred compensation program allows state employees to delay, or
"defer," receiving a portion of their income until a later date and was
established by the state under section 457(b) of the Internal Revenue Code.
Deferred compensation participants must notify the program of their choice
by September 1, 2007. State employees who are not currently participants in
the state’s deferred compensation plan will also have the ability to
participate if they join the program by August 15, 2007. Participants are
able to choose from six investment companies screened by the state to manage
their assets. For more information about the state’s deferred compensation
program, please visit
FIRST MEETING OF THE FINANCIAL LITERACY COUNCIL
Financial Literacy Council met Monday in Tallahassee to outline their goals,
strategies, and identify key issues of which they will focus over the next
few years. Monday’s meeting established Obdulio Piedra of Miami-Dade as the
council’s chairman and identified the council’s mission statement: to help
all Floridians make informed financial decisions.
The next meetings of the council will be held via conference call on July
11, 2007 and in-person meeting in Tampa on August 11, 2007.
The council, authorized in 2006 by House Bill 825, was created to study the
financial problems that affect consumers, particularly young persons,
seniors, working adults and small business owners, which arise from a lack
of basic knowledge of financial issues. The council will also develop
recommendations to aid CFO Sink’s department-- the Department of Financial
Services-- in developing programs and resources aimed at increasing
financial literacy among Floridians.
For more information on the council visit
TASK FORCE ON CITIZENS PROPERTY
INSURANCE CLAIMS HANDLING AND RESOLUTION ISSUES FIRST REPORT
In an ongoing effort to improve Citizens’ policyholder and applicant
services, Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink convened the fifth
meeting of the legislatively-created Task Force on Citizens Property
Insurance Claims Handling and Resolution this past Thursday in Tallahassee.
The task force is directed to develop recommendations for Citizens to
complete claims remaining from the 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons and
completed their first report at this meeting. The report has been sent to
the Governor, Chief Financial Officer, President of the Senate and Speaker
of the House.
First Report is available on the Web site dedicated to the task force,
its duties, appointments, and upcoming meetings. Floridians who would like
to learn more about the task force may visit the Web site at
The Citizens task force was created by House Bill 1A during the 2007 special
session of the Florida Legislature. The task force is composed of: Chairman
and Florida’s Insurance Consumer Advocate Bob Milligan; Vice Chairman and
Senator Mike Fasano; Representative Julio Robaina; Michael B. Twomey Sr.,
Attorney; Mike Lancashire, VP, The Main Street America Group; Heather
Carruthers, Fair Insurance Rates in Monroe County; and Tim Loftin, VP of
Claims at Citizens Property Insurance Corporation.
The Task Force will continue to meet and review Citizens’ action plans and
processes to ensure that Citizens’ policyholders receive the highest
possible level of service, develop legislation on pertinent issues, monitor
the implementation of the Office of Internal Audit and provide interim
reports through July 1, 2008.
FORMER INSURANCE AGENT SERVED
WARRANT IN JAIL ON ORGANIZED FRAUD CHARGES
A Lake County man, already in jail, was served a warrant on Thursday
charging him with organized fraud stemming from allegations that he sold
payroll and workers’ compensation insurance products that he was not
licensed to sell.
Courtney Pleasant, 27, was served the warrant while incarcerated at the Lake
County Jail on unrelated charges. Pleasant, whose license was revoked last
September, formerly operated Legendary Insurance & Financial Services,
located at 2222 W Main St. in Leesburg.
Pleasant had been licensed to sell life and health insurance products, but
represented and promised to provide payroll services and provide workers'
compensation insurance products that he was not licensed or authorized to
provide. An investigation by the Department of Financial Services, Division
of Insurance Fraud, revealed that along with not providing workers'
compensation coverage, Pleasant failed to forward the withheld taxes and
kept the money for himself. Pleasant withheld over $16,000 in taxes and
$2,800 in workers' compensation and administration fees. Once it was
determined that Pleasant had not paid the required taxes, the victims were
responsible to not only pay the taxes owed, but also pay penalties and
Pleasant was previously arrested on April 14, 2006, and June 9, 2006, for a
scheme to defraud and 18 other counts of theft, forgery, and fraud. He was
convicted of these charges and sentenced to two years community control, 15
years probation with a 10-year suspended sentence, and was ordered to pay
restitution. Since that sentencing, Pleasant violated the conditions of his
probation with unrelated criminal charges and remains incarcerated at the
Lake County Jail.
The charges against Pleasant are being prosecuted in Lake County by the
State Attorney's Office, 5th Judicial Circuit of Florida.
The Department of Financial Services, Division of Insurance Fraud,
investigates fraud in all types of insurance, including health, life, auto,
property and workers’ compensation. To report information about this case or
any other possible insurance fraud case, call the department’s fraud hotline
at 1-800-378-0445. A reward of up to $25,000 is offered for information
leading to a conviction.
Consumer Services Helpline (800) 342-2762