State House Speaker Will Weatherford is a founding member and former director of a Texas company that since 2008 has received $826,676 from Florida’s state-run insurance company, according to records obtained by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting.
Weatherford, a Republican who represents Wesley Chapel, has never disclosed his and his wife Courtney’s relationship with Mt. Pleasant, Texas-based U.S. Cat Adjusters, which has been a contractor for Citizens Property Insurance for five years — while Weatherford was a member of the Florida House of Representatives.
Weatherford declined to be interviewed for this story, but in an emailed response to questions, the House speaker said he has made no money from his connection to U.S. Cat.
“Since the company’s inception, neither Courtney nor I have ever received a single dollar of income,” Weatherford wrote. He acknowledged that he was “listed” as a board member for several years.
Weatherford has not reported the relationship to U.S. Cat Adjusters on state financial disclosure forms.
“The question is, does Weatherford own stock in [U.S. Cat Adjusters]?” said Lance deHaven-Smith, a professor of public administration and policy at the University of South Florida.
He doubted Weatherford’s claim of no interest.
“He would have to have an interest beyond sitting on the board. He’s not doing this as charity. What is being raised here is the possibility of a rather obscure but significant conflict of interest that would be hard to track and hard to know if there are violations of the spirit of the law.”
This isn’t the first time Weatherford has left questions about potential conflicts of interest unanswered, and U.S. Cat Adjusters isn’t the only company to which Weatherford has connections he won’t explain.
In July, The Tampa Bay Times outlined Weatherford’s recent financial disclosure, which reported $31,500 in income from Simpson Environmental Services, an asbestos removal company owned by state Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, and $52,000 from Texas construction firm Diamond K.
Simpson Environmental Services earned $267,432 in state contracts between 2007 and 2012. Since February, Simpson has been retained for $520,000 worth of work, including $356,000 for three projects for the state Department of Transportation. Earlier this year, Weatherford told a reporter that he helps Simpson “develop private clients.”
Between 2007 and 2009, Weatherford listed Breckenridge Enterprises as his employer, telling The Times he believed it was Diamond K’s DBA. Weatherford later told the newspaper that Breckenridge is the payroll administrator for Diamond K, not one of his employers.
Questions in Texas
Weatherford is listed in U.S. Cat Adjusters’ formation documents in Texas as a managing member and director in 2006, the same year he was first elected to the Florida House of Representatives.
Although the company filed an amendment to its business records in 2007, reporting that Weatherford’s wife, Courtney, would replace him on the board, the Florida politico remained a board member in the company’s annual filings until 2010, when Courtney’s name replaced his, records show.
Weatherford’s office provided Courtney’s K-1 tax forms showing her with a 2.8 percent interest in U.S. Cat Adjusters beginning in 2006. She is not listed as a board member in documents filed with the secretary of state in Texas through 2009.