Scott, cabinet select watchdog for Citizens Property

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Bruce Meeks, a Tallahassee attorney who spent nearly eight years as an inspector general with the State Board of Administration, has been offered a similar role to serve as the new watchdog at Citizens Property Insurance Corp.

Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet agreed Tuesday to offer the Citizens inspector-general position, which has been advertised for up to $200,000 a year, to Meeks.

"The inspector general is going to hold Citizens accountable," Scott said after the meeting. "We've got have Citizens held accountable. We have to watch how they spend the money."

The position, created by the Legislature in the spring as part an overhaul of the state-backed Citizens, 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.

Meeks, a co-manager and partner with the Law Offices of Roberts & Meeks, was not immediately available for comment Tuesday.

In addition to his service with the State Board of Administration, Meeks also worked under former Democratic Attorney General Bob Butterworth, serving as personnel director from 1995 to 1998 and as executive deputy attorney general until 2002.

Chris Gardner, chairman of the Citizens Board of Governors, said he looked forward to working with Meeks.

"Any time we increase transparency and oversight capabilities at Citizens, we improve the public confidence and everybody benefits," Meeks said in a prepared statement.

Meeks was selected from four finalists after a list of 88 applicants was whittled down by a committee of state inspectors general headed by Scott's inspector general Melinda Miguel.

Miguel said Meeks already knows the Tallahassee environment and was the only finalist who had experience writing ethics opinions while serving as an inspector general.

"I think that gave him a little bit of an edge," Miguel said.

The other finalists were: Hector Collazo Jr., the inspector general for the Pinellas County clerk of circuit court since 2005; Thomas Raftery, inspector general for the Delaware River Port Authority, Camden, N.J.; and R. David Holmgren, the deputy inspector general for inspections and evaluations at the U.S Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

Lisa Miller, a former deputy insurance commissioner who now lobbies for insurers, said she didn't know Meeks, but that just having the position gives Citizens more internal oversight.

"You can't have enough eyes in this organization," Miller said. "Citizens, as we heard today, is improving, going well, and we want to continue that momentum. I think this inspector general can just see things in a different light. There is no downside to that."

Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty said Scott's goal is to "have Citizens held to the same standards as other state agencies."