Citizens Property Insurance Corp. backtracked Monday on a no-bid contract it approved late last year and said it will rebid parts of the pact.
Officials from state-backed Citizens told board members that they will allow Inspection Depot in Jacksonville to start some of its inspection management work but will put the bulk of the project out for competitive bidding by late June.
The about-face comes about a month after a potential competitor for the business filed a lawsuit against Citizens and days after Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink urged Citizens Chairman Jim Malone to rework the contract, saying "taxpayers deserve that we get the best deal for the state."
Carlos Lacasa, a Citizens board member from Miami, had also voiced concerns about it, voting against it.
But Citizens staffers had said an expedited vote was needed because the discounts add up to $700 million a year and the insurer is allowed to bypass competitive bidding in emergencies.
"That's no emergency," said Fred Bateman, an attorney representing SagoTec Group, a competing software company in Georgia that filed a lawsuit in Leon County over the decision. "An emergency is when we have a catastrophic hurricane and Citizens has to award a contract to help people keep a roof over their heads."
The decision came during a Citizens board meeting in Tallahassee on Monday. Malone opened the meeting by addressing what he called a "brouhaha" over the contract: "This is something that is being pursued ... with the appropriate oversight and controls."
Separately, Citizens on Monday approved issuing up to $2.4 billion in bonds if needed if a major hurricane strikes this year by a vote of 4 to 3, with Lacasa, William Corry and Carol Everhart dissenting.
Julie Patel can be reached at 954-356-4667 and jpatel@SunSentinel.com.