Citizens Sinkholes…The Whole Truth Again!

I’ve been waiting for the dust to settle–for the editorials to be written, victory to be claimed by Senator Fasano and trial lawyers; accolades to be placed and misplaced–before writing about  Citizens sinkhole rate hearing.

And, of course, I’ve been waiting for the statutorily mandated, actuarially sound rate request to be  significantly reduced, as it has been.

It’s time now to pay homage to the powerful few who got what they did not need or earn, at the expense of so many who don’t deserve to pay.

There are very few news articles that reflect a clear understanding of this complex issue.  Some did a better job than most. You can read two of those by clicking here.

Unfortunately, most editorials favored preconception over fact; like the one published by the St. Pete Times. Click here.

The Times was right to compliment Kevin McCarty’s handling of the situation; under the circumstances he did what he had to do. However, while Senator Fasano speaks for several thousand homeowners who want unfair subsidies from several million; and, while Sean Shaw and Chip Merlin speak for lawyers and public adjusters–the media has a wider, more profound responsibility to speak for and expose the whole truth!

With a room full of TV camera’s it’s easy, even typical, for some to chide and finger point–particularly at public servants muzzled by fear of retribution. News outlets, however, should not join those who attack the integrity of honest, hardworking public servants. Citizens experts, staff and contractors, did what they were required by law to do – file actuarially sound rates for sinkhole activity coverage!

Supported by followers that he and Sean Shaw had primed in a separate meeting across the hall and for weeks before the hearing, Senator Fasano said  “shame on Citizens!”

Shame? I say…shame on those who, seemingly without conscience, publicly deride hardworking honest people performing the most thankless insurance job in America!

While we’re at it; shame on the St. Pete Times which rewards falsehood and exaggeration with blind, one-way copy.  “Pulled out of thin air” it said, referring to the work of educated professionals whose certifications and livelihoods were at stake. It should’ve asked Sean Shaw and Chip Merlin  whose blog was giddy over the results, which one of the hundreds of spreadsheets containing reams of data submitted by Citizens were wrong?  The Times should explain, specifically, which rates were “pulled out of thin air.”

Using an understatement of galactic proportions the Times said… “despite all of the spreadsheets and historical data, setting insurance rates remains awfully political”.

But…whose fault is that? Citizens staff? Independent and certified actuaries on salary or negotiated fee’s?  Or…The Times for spreading rhetoric from  those making millions off of driveway cracks?

Were the three fully qualified actuaries and one Ph.D. economist who testified that the filing was sound, all lacking “competency”?  Were the pages of discussion in Citizens’ public Actuarial Memorandum explaining how SB-408 was taken into consideration, all that “vague”?

Did the Times editorial board bother to read or even request a copy of the memorandum?

The Times said Citizens was out of touch!  What would be more out of touch; following the law by filing actuarially sound rates, or ignoring financial motives of trial lawyers who use consumer fronting groups to bullhorn their point of view?

Citizens staff and outside experts showed their request to be less than half what it would be without the SB-408 reforms.  And, Citizens board demonstrated even more concern by voting for a 50% cap. Why is the media impugning their motives instead of expressing concern for those consumers who will pay for such benevolence?

And who, exactly, precipitated the so called consumer “panic” The Times mentioned?  Was it Citizens, Senator Fasano, Sean Shaw? Or, was it the media for regurgitating propaganda without demanding full disclosure.

I thought Sean Shaw and Chip Merlin were being sincere, saying they would take another look and get back to me. It was apparently lip-service, however, a trial lawyer delay tactic. Now, since The Times won’t do it,  I’m left on my own to question what drives their advocacy.

Remember, according to the study conducted by the Senate B&I committee a majority of the claims for sinkhole cosmetics go to credit card debt, vacations and mortgage payoffs. Why is defending this unjust enrichment so important to lawyers who claim to advocate for consumers?  Why is it worth the complete erosion of tax revenues in Hernando and Pasco counties?  Why is it worth destroying property values of so many innocent homeowners on fixed incomes?

Nobody disputes that higher rates is a bitter message but,  the messengers should not be shot.  Rates follow costs. Citizens has been selling dollar bills for about 12 cents. The real solution was SB-408 which reformed cosmetic “sinkhole” coverage by stopping the big payoff for lawyers and public adjusters whose clients actions prove they didn’t even need the coverage.

Now, it’s time for the whole truth–lawyers like Sean Shaw and Chip Merlin need to either tell everyone what they gain promoting cosmetic sinkhole claims or Citizens and the OIR need to do it for them.

The St. Pete Times might not care.  The media overall may not care.

But, those who do care should finally be given the whole truth!


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