|Senators seek probe of flood insurance
FURGURSON III, Staff Writer
Maryland's two U.S. senators have asked federal officials for
further help with flood insurance problems stemming from last year's
Tropical Storm Isabel.
In Oct. 14 letters to Attorney General John Ashcroft and
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, the senators
called for an investigation of insurers' settlement practices and
the restoration of an independent audit of claims.
Sens. Barbara A. Mikulski and Paul S. Sarbanes
asked Mr. Ashcroft to begin looking at charges by a Talbot County
man that insurers' handling of claims exploited many Isabel victims
and amounted to fraud.
The senators urged
Mr. Ridge to reverse a National Flood Insurance Program decision to
halt a promised independent review of flood claims.
The program, run by the Federal Emergency
Management Agency within the Department of Homeland Security, has
shown reluctance to meet with victims whose settlements are still in
question, according to the senators.
Neither senator had received a response as of
"I am concerned that FEMA has
decided not to move forward with an independent review of
outstanding cases," Ms. Mikulski said yesterday. "An independent
review is critical to ensure that victims of Hurricane Isabel
receive fair and equal treatment."
furor that erupted after many victims of the September 2003 storm
learned that their flood insurance wouldn't cover the cost of
repairing their homes, the Flood Insurance Program was instructed to
take a second look at Isabel claims.
the 880 Marylanders who asked for that second look, more than half
got more money. The review was abandoned because of a class-action
lawsuit filed last summer by Isabel victims, according to a letter
summarizing a Sept. 14 meeting between the senators and FEMA Federal
Insurance Administrator David Maurstad.
Meanwhile, more than 160 Maryland
including 38 in Anne Arundel County, are still living in federally
issued mobile homes, facing a second winter of frozen pipes and
plumbing while their homes await renovations or rebuilding.
Eileen Thaden and some of her neighbors in the
Cedarhurst neighborhood in south county are among them.
Last month she asked Ms. Mikulski to find out
why her flood insurance case had been closed, still at least
$100,000 short of what she says it will take to make her house whole
"NFIP sent me a letter saying my
case was closed. I had 30 days to appeal it and did so," she
About 10 days ago she got another
letter repeating that the case was closed, despite assurances by Mr.
Maurstad in a Sept. 14 meeting with the senators that he would have
personnel available to meet with victims who still have disputed
"We laid out 15 specific points
still at issue, and they did not address any of them." Mrs. Thaden
In a report prepared for Baltimore
County Executive Jim Smith, flood victim advocate Steve Kanstoroom
of Talbot County found that claims adjusters were using computer
programs that were outdated or based on new construction estimates
that are far cheaper than actual remodeling and restoration
He also found that claim reviews
were being "conducted by the same adjusters and adjusting firms that
originally mishandled the claims."
said in a phone interview that FEMA is "beating the drum that there
are no victims left, just a few malcontents.
"These families are not malcontents. They are
desperate. They are trying to stand up and be counted," he
Mr. Kanstoroom and Mrs. Thaden met
last week with Department of Planning Secretary Audrey Scott to urge
that Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich also write to federal officials and ask
the state to re-contact Isabel victims to see how they're
"The governor has more power in
his little finger than all these (victims) put together," Mr.
Kanstoroom said. "If he could just write that letter it would help
Contacting victims again
is necessary, they said, to get a clear picture of how many families
have yet to recover.
Besides the 160
families still in trailers, said Mrs. Thaden, "there are others
still staying with friends or relatives, some living in damaged
homes. There are a lot of displaced families here, now, a year
to The Capital
Published October 21, 2004, The Capital, Annapolis,
Copyright © 2004 The Capital, Annapolis,