in Houston, Texas
Legislators to probe severance packages for two former top lieutenants at TWIA
Friday, Feb 18, 2011, 03:28PM CST
By Lee Ann O'Neal
Capitol dome

State Rep. John Smithee has called a Tuesday committee hearing with officials of the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association after Texas Watchdog reported the agency had given tens of thousands of dollars in severance pay - and a pickup truck - to two former top lieutenants.

Smithee had promised “to get to the bottom of this” after being shown the severance agreements earlier this week. The Amarillo Republican chairs the House insurance committee and has been looking at ways to restructure TWIA, a quasi-public agency that sells last-resort insurance to homeowners along the Gulf Coast.

The payouts were to two officials intimately involved in the processing of millions of dollars in claims in the wake of Hurricane Ike. Reggie Warren, the former vice president of claims, received $114,273 and a 2010 Ford pickup truck, and Bill Knarr, former catastrophe office manager, received $47,289, under the agreements signed last month.

The two had been named in a Hurricane Ike legal petition filed by Houston plaintiff’s lawyer Steve Mostyn. The petition alleged that TWIA’s six primary adjusting companies had offered Warren gifts and trips and had “discussed inappropriate relations in quid pro quo for a position on TWIA’s preferred adjusting list.”

Reached last week, Knarr and Warren referred calls to TWIA. A spokeswoman for the agency said only that “they have resigned.”

Smithee tells the Houston Chronicle that his understanding is that the two were terminated for cause. “If that’s the case, I don’t understand why they’re paying a big severance package. If it’s without cause or you’re buying out a contract, you might be able to justify it, but giving a car away raises some issues,” as does a section in the agreements barring the two from criticizing TWIA, he says.

View the severance agreements for Warren and Knarr.

***
Contact Lee Ann O’Neal at 713-980-9777 or leeann@texaswatchdog.org.

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Photo of Texas state Capitol dome by flickr user kinez, used via a Creative Commons license.
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