Four finalists remain for Citizens’ watchdog job

Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet will select from among four finalists to be the new internal watchdog at the state-backed Citizens Property Insurance Corp.

Hector Collazo, Jr., the inspector general for the Pinellas County clerk of the court, and Thomas Raftery, a former member of the FBI who is now with the Delaware River Port Authority, received the most support from a three-member selection committee that has spent the past two months narrowing the list of applicants for the Citizens inspector-general position.

However, the committee, headed by Scott’s inspector general Melinda Miguel, decided to advance all four names after background checks were completed last week.

"I just assume that we do all four, give them (Scott and the Cabinet) the broader rather than the narrow," said committee member Tom Kirwin, the inspector general for the Department of Financial Services.

The other finalists are Bruce Meeks, a former member of the state attorney general’s office who is now a partner with the law office of Roberts & Meeks in Tallahassee, and R. David Holmgren, a deputy inspector general for inspections and evaluations at the U.S Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

Meeks and Holmgren were each backed by two members of the selection committee.

Miguel said she could support any of the four being appointed to the new post.

"Each of the four is very diverse in their backgrounds," Miguel said. "Each of the candidates had a unique background, differing educations that I think having that diversity is important for them (Scott and the Cabinet) to consider."

The Cabinet is scheduled to next meet Sept. 24, but it is unknown if the appointment will be made at that time.

The list of applicants had been narrowed from 88 in July to the four in mid-August.

The position, advertised for up to $200,000 a year, was created by the state Legislature in the spring as part a larger overhaul of Citizens. The position was included in the package because of concerns raised by Scott and others about travel spending by Citizens employees and about the firing of the agency’s Office of Corporate Integrity.

The finalists:

•  Collazo Jr.: Inspector general for the Pinellas County clerk of circuit court since 2005.

A veteran of the U.S. Air Force, where he was a law-enforcement specialist, Collazo also spent seven years as the investigative manager for the Dallas, Texas, Auditor’s Office

•  Raftery: Inspector general, Delaware River Port Authority, Camden, N.J., since Feb. 2012.

His background includes nearly 12 years with the FBI, where he worked undercover operations targeting public corruption and government fraud. He also spent one year as a special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.

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

Holmgren came to his current agency after serving as a deputy inspector general and acting inspector general with the U.S. Marine Corps in Washington, D.C.

•  Meeks: Co-manager and partner with the Law Offices of Roberts & Meeks, Tallahassee.

Meeks spent nearly eight years as inspector general with the state Board of Administration. He also worked in attorney general’s office under former Democratic Attorney General Bob Butterworth, serving as personnel director from 1995 to 1998 and as executive deputy attorney general until 2002.