Top State Senators Call On Washington Insurance Commissioner To Resign
The top Democrat and the top Republican in the Washington state Senate called Thursday for elected Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler, a 78-year-old, six-term Democrat, to resign.
They were joined by the Democratic chair and the ranking Republican on the Senate committee that oversees the insurance industry.
In response, Kreidler – through a spokesperson — said he won’t leave office.
The calls for Kreidler to step down come after the Northwest News Network reported Wednesday that Kreidler’s office had fired an employee, Jon Noski, who in February submitted a written complaint about Kreidler’s treatment of staff.
“I had serious concerns regarding the Insurance Commissioner following the initial troubling reports of his behavior toward OIC employees,” said Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig, a Spokane Democrat, in a statement.
“Now that he’s decided to fire the employee who had the courage to come forward in the first place, it’s become clear that the Insurance Commissioner did not learn from these past incidents and I believe it is time for him to step down.”
In a separate statement, Senate Republican Leader John Braun of Centralia called the initial allegations of staff mistreatment by Kreidler “disturbing on their own.”
“But firing a whistleblower is completely unacceptable, and quite frankly, the final straw,” Braun said.
Also calling for Kreidler’s resignation were Sens. Mark Mullet and Perry Dozier, the Democratic chair and ranking Republican of the Senate Business, Financial Services and Trade Committee with oversight of the insurance industry.
“Commissioner Kreidler has shown he is not fit to continue in his position,” Mullet said in his statement. “The role of this agency is too important to spend the next two-and-a-half years with staff afraid to speak up when they see something wrong.”
Added Dozier: “I agree with my colleagues and leaders in both parties, enough is enough. It is time for Kreidler to go so that someone who can effectively and ethically do the critical work of this office can step in.”
The calls for resignation came less than 24 hours after the announcement of Noski’s termination. Noski served as Kreidler’s legislative liaison, a role that required him to advocate with lawmakers on behalf of the insurance commissioner’s office.
In February, Noski submitted a written complaint detailing instances of mistreatment by Kreidler. It included a particularly harsh dressing down of Noski following a legislative committee hearing on the use of credit scores by insurance companies — an issue of particular concern to Kreidler.
“The commissioner said that I am an impotent embarrassment who might need to be replaced because of my incompetence,” Noski wrote in his complaint. “The commissioner said I must enjoy getting pissed on and asked if he needed to wipe my ass.”
The Northwest News Network first reported on Noski’s complaint in March.
In an interview at the time, Kreidler didn’t deny the allegations, but said he would dispute some of the specifics.
Other current and former insurance commissioner staff also told the Northwest News Network they had been subject to or witnessed what they described as Kreidler’s growing volatility and mistreatment of some employees.
“I’m talking about meanness, deliberately cutting people down publicly to humiliate them, not letting bygones be bygones,” one former employee who asked not to be identified said.
For his part, Kreidler said in a February interview that he was “surprised” and “saddened” to hear his conduct was having a negative effect on staff and said it wasn’t his intention.
“I’m going to double down to make sure that I am more careful in dealing with people,” Kreidler said at the time. “Quite frankly it wasn’t an issue that was front and center for me.”
Ultimately, Noski’s complaint was dismissed without an investigation after Kreidler’s chief deputy determined that there was no basis to consider action against Kreidler.
Noski, an at-will employee with no civil service protection, was fired on Tuesday, the day he returned from medical leave.
Asked Thursday to respond to the calls for him to resign, a spokesperson for Kreidler wrote in an email: “The commissioner does not have any plans to step down.”
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