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Fla. insurance official tightens ethics code


TALLAHASSEE, Fla.--Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty has tightened his office's code of ethics after a state inspector general's report found he inappropriately used state resources by forwarding one e-mail related to a political campaign but did not pressure insurers to make contributions.

In the Aug. 13 report, Chief Inspector General Melinda Miguel also concluded that Mr. McCarty's misconduct, which is not considered a criminal violation, did not extend to being aware of or allowing Office of Insurance Regulation employees to engage in political activities using state resources.

On Aug. 16, the Insurance Office responded by tightening its code of ethics "to further restrict any political or charitable activity on government premises, using government resources, or acting in the capacity of a state official in a political or charitable event. (Also) the Florida State Employees' Charitable Campaign is the only authorized charity that can operate" at the office, according a statement.

The inspector general's investigation began April 25 concerning Mr. McCarty's involvement in fundraising for Robin Lotane, a candidate for the Leon County, Fla., Circuit Court. Her husband, Robert Lotane, who was Mr. McCarty's communications director, reportedly used a state computer to prepare invitations for a fundraiser that Mr. McCarty agreed to host.

Mr. Lotane, who resigned after questions were raised about the fundraiser, declined to be interviewed by investigators.

In the statement, the Insurance Office noted the investigation "did not uncover any wrongdoing that was not disclosed in Commissioner McCarty's admission and apology to the Florida Cabinet," a four-person group that includes Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink.

Following a newspaper report of the planned fundraiser, Ms. Sink criticized Mr. McCarty for agreeing to host the fundraiser, which she considered "unsuitable" and possibly illegal. She and Mr. McCarty both called for the inspector general's investigation.

Mr. McCarty subsequently wrote a "heartfelt apology" to cabinet members for actions that "may be misperceived and problematic...and appear to compromise the integrity" of the office. In addition, he said he would continue his longtime support of the March of Dimes as a volunteer but would no longer act in a leadership role and resigned from the nonprofit's state board.