OUTGOING DIRECTOR OF INSURANCE TESTIFIES BEFORE HOUSE SUBCOMMITTEE ON COASTAL INSURANCE CRISIS
FITSNews â€“ February 13, 2007 â€“ S.C. Insurance Director Eleanor Kitzman, who was thrown under the bus by S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford last week after he failed to follow her recommendations regarding a brewing coastal insurance crisis, testified before a House subcommittee today on what has now become a full-blown crisis that has cost over 20,000 coastal residents access to storm insurance.
Confirming a SC Hotline report published on February 6, Kitzman testified that Sanford’s office indeed prohibited her from implementing an order that would have helped mitigate the disaster months ago.
“It was my recommendation that the wind pool be expanded and an order to that effect was provided to the governor’s office,” Kitzman testified in response to questioning by S.C. Rep. Skipper Perry (R-Aiken).
“You weren’t able to sign it because you didn’t have a pen or you weren’t able to sign it because you were told not to?” Perry asked Kitzman jokingly.
“I was instructed not to expand the wind pool without further approval from the governor’s office,” Kitzman replied.
Quoting from the SC Hotline report, the wind pool line is “a boundary that determines which coastal areas are eligible for wind and hail insurance given South Carolinaâ€™s vulnerability to hurricane conditions.” Moving the boundary as Kitzman recommended would have kept approximately 20,000 coastal residents from losing their storm insurance according to representatives from insurance companies Allstate and Farm Bureau, who alone have non-renewed approximately 15,000 policies within the last five months.
In response to questioning from State Rep. Tracy Edge (R-Horry) Kitzman was also asked whether or not the governor’s office may have failed to take action regarding the wind pool boundary owing to his 2006 reelection bid.
“Did the governor’s reelection bid have anything to do with his lack of decision-making?” Edge asked Kitzman.
“I did get a call from someone on the governor’s staff advising me that the governor had made a statement like that in an editorial board meeting and to be ready in case I received any calls,” Kitzman testified.
Not only did Kitzman prepare an expansive report dealing with the coastal insurance problem (including the wind pool recommendation), she also prepared draft legislation that would have managed moving the wind pool line in a manner consistent with economic, not political considerations.
“I think the state is at a great loss with you stepping down,” State Rep. Wallace Scarborough (R-Charleston) told Kitzman.
“You were handicapped,” Subcommittee Chairman Bob Leach (R-Greenville) told Kitzman, before adding jokingly. “We’re not going to name names.”