Friday, October 21, 2005

Citizens' Lawyer Resigns

Lots of Florida newspapers are reporting that attorney Michael Colodny suddenly "resigned" his $1 million a year contract as head counsel for Florida Citizens Property.

Joni James, with an assist from Jeff Harrington, has the essence of the story in the St. Petersburg Times, pointing out that the 'abrupt' resignation comes "amid an ongoing probe into ethical lapses and operational concerns at the state-run insurer." In a companion piece, James details how Colodny is only one in a string of high-ranking Citizens personnel to resign or disappear from the job under a cloud of ethical charges.

Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald [free registration required] points out that the resignation came a day after the Florida state legislature's Banking and Insurance Committee "grilled [Citizens] board chairman G. Bruce Douglas and general counsel Mike Colodny" during the second consecutive day of "inquiries into operations of the state-run property insurance company." The Miami reporter explains:
Citizens has been plagued recently with concerns about self-dealing and conflicts of interest among its employees, while Hurricane Wilma's imminent arrival raised fresh concerns about Citizens' financial health.

Lawmakers focused hard on the practices of Colodny, whose law firm also has represented nine insurers who did business with Citizens. They asked Douglas to explain why he asked Colodny to choose between representing those insurers and representing the board; it [sic] asked Colodny to explain why he hired one of his accountant clients to conduct an internal investigation of Citizens.
The Associated Press adds that the private company clients Colodny's law firm represented were generally "small startup insurance companies seeking to do business with Citizens."

Only Paige St. John identifies what might have been the real trigggering event. In the Ft. Myers News-Press, she adds this nugget: Colodny resigned "after he was grilled by the Senate Insurance Committee on Wednesday and then had a private meeting with its chairman Rudy Garcia." (Emphasis added)

Public legislative scoldings like we've witnessed this week make for great theater. The politicians get to bloviate for the cameras and pose as consumer advocates. Citizens' slippery Executive Director, Bob Ricker, gets to keep his job a little longer merely by crawling on the floor, licking a few boots, and promising he'll start doing a better job of running Citizens, starting any day now.

But the real work, as St. John knows, is done behind closed doors. What do you suppose Garcia said to Colodny inside that room?

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