But when OCI went back to review the external investigations, it found cases where the law firms had been less than thorough in their probes, perhaps shielding executives from full scrutiny.
In one case, Citizens brought in an outside law firm to investigate an anonymous tip that Murphy, the Chief Administration Officer, had been misrepresenting herself as a lawyer for years. While the law firm determined the allegation to be “unsubstantiated,” a later probe by the Office of Corporate Integrity found that the law firm failed to include relevant information. After OCI unveiled documents showing that Murphy—who is not a member of the Florida Bar—had identified herself as “corporate counsel,” and “attorney” at Citizens, she resigned abruptly.
OCI found that Citizens paid more than $2.4 million to external law firms handling investigations into employee misconduct that ranged from drunken misconduct during company retreats to sexual harassment.
In 92 percent of the cases investigated by outside law firms, the allegations were determined to be “unsubstantiated.” For comparison, Citizens’ Office of Corporate Integrity found only 48 percent of the allegations it investigated were without merit.
According to OCI’s findings, some Citizens employees caught up in scandals were given a slap on the wrist when they should have been fired.
Employees within the Human Resources department were shielded from disciplinary action, even as other employees were fired for committing similar offenses.
“From the files reviewed and results previously presented, there appears to be a certain level of favoritism towards personnel within Human Capital Management in that their own staff is treated differently than those in other departments,“ reads a 5-page report released by Citizens’ chief auditor last week.
Two investigations into similar allegations offer a useful example:
A Citizens underwriter was fired after supervisors discovered that she was using her company computer and the mailroom to promote “Pure Romance,” a female sex toy business. The employee would regularly accept packages at work, and would disappear for long periods of time. Images of various sex toys — and their prices — were found on her company computer.
But two other employees who were also caught promoting side-businesses while on the clock at Citizens were not disciplined.
Both were members of the Human Resources department, and one had been involved in an earlier scandal in which she got drunk after a company event in Tampa, stripped off her bra and danced on top of a table at the Coyote Ugly bar. She was simply given a warning.
Restoring public trust
The various scandals unearthed by the Office of Corporate Integrity represent yet another black eye for Citizens, which has had more than its fair share of public hiccups this year.
The company has sparked widespread consumer outrage with its unpopular home reinspection program, reports of exorbitant corporate travel spending and a plan to transfer $350 million to private insurance companies in low-interest, forgivable loans.
The chairman of Citizens’ board of directors, Carlos Lacasa, said Tuesday that restoring public trust in the company is tantamount.
In a letter to Gilway, Lacasa agreed to a request to address the various controversies at the next board meeting.
“Given these factors and the need to set the record straight with respect to matters concerning the public, it is vital that we make every effort to restore the public trust as quickly as possible,” he wrote.