Investigation of insurance commissioner ends

Kevin McCarty is criticized solely for using state resources for a judicial campaign .

By TOM ZUCCO and JENNIFER LIBERTO, Times Staff Writers
Published August 21, 2007

TALLAHASSEE - A four-month investigation into whether Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty pressured insurance lobbyists to support the wife of his former communications director ended Monday with the Florida Chief Inspector General's office asking for a revised code of ethics.

The 159-page investigation found that while McCarty in one instance used state resources for the political campaign of a judicial candidate, he did not authorize his employees to do the same and did not pressure companies his office regulates to contribute to the campaign.

In April, Bob Lotane, the former communications director, acknowledged using a state computer to start composing a campaign invitation for his wife, Robin, a candidate for Leon County Circuit Court judge. Bob Lotane has since resigned and Robin Lotane dropped out of the race.

Despite the finding there was no "pressure" on insurance industry lobbyists, McCarty acknowledged to investigators he had solicited contributions for the campaign from a few people in the industry. He made calls on a cell phone borrowed from an insurance lobbyist. McCarty apologized in a letter to the Florida Cabinet for his involvement in the campaign.

None of the inspector general's recommendations were punitive, instead focusing on how the Office of Insurance Regulation should remind staff of policies against using state resources for political or charitable campaigns. The inspector general also advises that OIR should revise its code of ethics to address political and charitable fundraising in the work place.

The only questionable finding that the inspector general identified was that McCarty used state resources for political campaign purposes when he forwarded an e-mail about political fundraising that he received on his work e-mail account to Bob Lotane's work e-mail account.

In an interview with the inspector general, McCarty said he did not know that he was to be the sole sponsor of a political fundraiser for Robin Lotane. He did say he planned to go to the fundraiser at the Governor's Club until he had a meeting with state Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink a few hours before the fundraiser. When she raised concerns about his connection to the fundraiser, he decided not to attend, McCarty told investigators.

According to a statement Monday from the OIR, the chief inspector general's report, "did not uncover any wrongdoing that was not disclosed in (McCarty's) admission and apology to the Florida Cabinet."