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Tuesday, February 27, 2024
Feb. 27, 2024

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In Our View: Insurance Commissioner Kreidler should resign

The Columbian

Following revelations about disparaging office conduct, it is difficult to imagine state Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler effectively performing his duties to serve the people of Washington. For the good of his office and the state, Kreidler should resign his position.

The Columbian is not the first to call for Kreidler’s resignation. On Friday, Gov. Jay Inslee released a statement that read in part: “Commissioner Kreidler assured his employees and the public he would work to improve his relationship with staff, but instead he terminated an employee who spoke out about these issues. All staff deserve respect regardless of their at-will status. Therefore it’s my belief we need different leadership in this position and I believe he should resign.”

A statement from the state Democratic Party said: “We were deeply disappointed and troubled over the first set of complaints against Mike Kreidler earlier this year, and had hoped his apologies and training efforts were sincere and afforded him an opportunity to reform his actions and behaviors. But it is now abundantly clear: He learned nothing.”

Notably, Kreidler is a Democrat. He is serving his sixth term in the position, which is elected statewide, and in 2020 won reelection with 65 percent of the vote. But party affiliation or the previous will of the voters has little to do with whether an elected official can effectively perform their duties. The manner in which a state executive runs their office has an impact on how that office serves the people of Washington.

In recent months, numerous potential and former employees disclosed instances in which Kreidler was demeaning or rude, focused on race or used derogatory terms for minority populations. In February, Jon Noski, the agency’s legislative affairs director, filed a formal complaint alleging that Kreidler had bullied him.

Last week, Noski was fired upon returning from medical leave. That decision directly led to calls for Kreidler’s resignation.

In response to those calls, Kreidler said: “I cannot comment on the details of an individual personnel matter but the conclusion that an important and valued employee’s departure was because he filed a complaint against me is not true and does not reflect the full context of the story.”

Kreidler’s performance has faced public scrutiny over the past year. He unilaterally decided to prohibit the use of credit scores in determining premiums for insurance policies, after the proposal was rejected by the Legislature.

Whether or not he has the authority to implement such a policy must remain separate from questions about whether he should remain in office. Like party affiliation, policy decisions are different from broader doubts about whether Kreidler can effectively perform his job.

“I have pledged to do better and stand by that commitment,” he said Friday. “At the same time, I intend to continue serving alongside the dedicated people of our agency and to work on the important consumer protection issues ahead.”

That seems unlikely in the wake of the latest controversy. While we do not know the full story surrounding Noski’s departure from the department, we do know that there is a toxic atmosphere that has drawn multiple complaints and that Kreidler’s management is damaging for the people of Washington.

The insurance commissioner’s office touches every resident of our state, regulating health insurance, auto insurance, homeowner’s and renter’s insurance. The public deserves somebody who can manage it with the utmost integrity and effectiveness.