Citizens internal watchdog list narrows to four candidates

Bckground checks will be undertaken throughout the next week on four finalists for the new internal watchdog job at Citizens Property Insurance Corp.

A three-member selection committee shortened the list of applicants Thursday for the job, which was created after Gov. Rick Scott and others raised concerns about travel spending by Citizens employees and the firing of the state-backed agency's Office of Corporate Integrity.

Two, three or all four of the finalists will be advanced Aug. 23 by the committee to the state Financial Services Commission — made up of Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam — for a final selection next month.

Melinda Miguel, Scott's inspector general who heads the selection committee, praised the expertise of the four finalists as "good, solid" candidates for the position that is advertised at up to $200,000 a year.

"I imagine that once the background screening and reference checks processes are completed we'll have a good slate of candidates to put forward for the next step," Miguel said.

The four finalists are:

•  Hector Collazo Jr.: Inspector general for the Pinellas County clerk of circuit court, and a former law enforcement officer.

•  R. David Holmgren: Deputy inspector general for inspections and evaluations at the U.S Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

•  Bruce Meeks: attorney with the Law Offices of Roberts & Meeks, Tallahassee.

•  Thomas Raftery: Inspector general, Delaware River Port Authority, Camden, N.J.

The position, which will be funded by Citizens, was part of a new insurance law Scott signed May 29.

The committee met for about five minutes Thursday to discuss their recommendations.

Raftery and Collazo both received the support of all three committee members, as names were advanced following interviews last week — in person and via Skype — with 12 of the 88 applicants for the job.

Meeks and Holmgren each received two votes in support heading into Thursday's meeting.

No other applicants received more than one vote to undergo the background checks.

Miguel, whose report on travel spending in February also recommended enhanced internal controls at the state-backed insurer, supported the candidate-selection process.

"I think to go through the process of three inspectors general is really a sound process for the governor and the members of the Financial Services Commission to count on," Miguel said.

Miguel was joined on the committee by the inspectors general from the Department of Financial Services, Tom Kirwin, and Office of Insurance Regulation, Bonnie Deering.