“This is not my investment,” Weatherford said in an email. “It is Courtney’s investment. I have no role with U.S. Cat.”
Courtney Weatherford, a former lobbyist, is the daughter of former House Speaker Allan Bense.
In its contract paperwork with the Citizens, U.S. Cat Adjusters declared that ownership of the company was split among three board members — board chair Stephanie Curtis and managing members J. Michael Nolan and Tommy King. The three own 94.4 percent of the company, according to the state contract. Ownership of the remaining 5.6 percent of the company’s stock is not disclosed.
As House speaker, Weatherford has great ability to influence the votes of lawmakers, as he has a say on coveted committee assignments and the chairs of those committees, which in turn propose and debate legislation and approve budgets.
Raising further questions, U.S. Cat Adjusters and the two companies The Tampa Bay Times examined share a corporate mailing address.
U.S. Cat lists the same rural address in Mt. Pleasant, Texas, with Diamond K and Spain-based engineering firm CYMI, which is a contractor on a $50 million private gas pipeline project for Florida Power and Light in Palm Beach County.
In addition to having the same the Texas address, according to records, the three companies are linked to Texas construction manager Tommy King, who did not return several calls.
King is also owner of T King Construction, a company registered in Florida that lists a principal address in Texas, the same as U.S. Cat Adjusters and Diamond K.
One explanation for why Weatherford has never disclosed his connection to U.S. Cat Adjusters could be because he isn’t required to disclose it.
State financial disclosure rules limit required disclosures to specified interests, including financial institutions, cemeteries, insurance companies — not adjusters — and utilities. There is also a general income minimum of $1,000 that business interests must reach for required disclosure.
Weatherford contacted House General Counsel Daniel Nordby Friday morning to ask if he was required to report his wife’s interest in U.S. Cat and was told he need not do so.
“As confirmed by the House General Counsel, I am not required to disclose a company my spouse has an interest in,” Weatherford said in an email.
Weatherford was a critic of the state’s plan to “depopulate” the roster of policy holders of Citizens Property Insurance, a plan that would send those policy holders to private agencies.
A different plan, which Weatherford voted for and was signed into law in May, potentially lessens the amount of money a contracted adjuster, such as U.S. Cat Adjuster, can make from work for Citizens Property Insurance.
“If they have a contract with Citizens, then a smaller Citizens would reduce that contract,” said Eli Lehrer, president of R Street, a Washington, D.C.-based free market think tank. “Without knowing everything about it, that would appear to be a conflict, or at least something that should be looked into.”
Despite having an undisclosed relationship with an insurance adjuster, Weatherford is seen as friendly to the movement to resize Citizens Property Insurance, Lehrer said.
The confusing business and financial relationships of Weatherford raise questions about ethics disclosures in Florida.
Unless he is currently being paid as a board member of U.S. Cat Adjusters, Weatherford is within the law to keep his connection to the company a secret.
But do the state’s laws require enough disclosure?
“You can argue both ways,” said Ron Meyer, a Tallahassee lawyer and expert on election and ethics laws. “But someone can choose to be fully transparent, or the law allows them to be less transparent.”
Michael Van Sickler of The Tampa Bay Times contributed to this report.