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Topic: mike kreidler

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June 17, 2014 at 8:12 AM

Gag order in insurance-commissioner ruckus makes case for reform

Attorney Phil Talmadge and client Patricia Petersen testify at Monday's hearing of the Senate Law and Justice Committee.

Attorney Phil Talmadge and client Patricia Petersen testify at Monday’s hearing of the Senate Law and Justice Committee.

Even if lawmakers couldn’t ask specific questions about the alleged-nasty-business at the Washington state Office of the Insurance Commissioner, a hearing Monday in the state Senate presented an outstanding argument for reform. It started with the careful way that administrative law judge Patricia Petersen had to choose her words.

Petersen started a ruckus last month when she said her bosses in Commissioner Mike Kreidler’s office have been leaning on her in order to obtain favorable rulings. At Monday’s hearing of the Senate Law & Justice Committee, she spoke publicly for the first time since her accusation — but she labored under a gag order from Kreidler that prevented her from talking specifically about her case.

So Petersen found another way to make her point. In general, she told the committee it is a big mistake for judges to answer to the agency heads who employ them. In the aggregate, it would be “a travesty” if people who appeal state-agency decisions don’t get a fair hearing. “And if a judge is told by a party [to a case] to decide his or her cases in a certain way and one party can threaten the judge’s job if the case is not decided in that party’s favor, then the central pillar of our democracy is corroded.”

The fact that she had to tell her story that way — at Kreidler’s insistence — ties the whole thing up with ribbon and a bow. In written complaints filed previously, Petersen says she was threatened with a negative job evaluation because she wouldn’t submit to control; she now is on administrative leave while Kreidler’s office coordinates an investigation of itself. Maybe speaking generally is the right thing to do in this situation — the matter is bigger than the Office of Insurance Commissioner. Petersen’s job hangs by a thread because she has challenged a system that allows state agencies to dictate the outcome of administrative hearings. The problem ought to appall anyone who believes the judicial system should operate with a semblance of fairness.

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Comments | Topics: insurance commissioner, mike kreidler, patricia petersen

June 2, 2014 at 6:07 AM

At least some are asking right questions in Insurance Commissioner case

Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler

Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler

At least some Olympians seem to be asking the right questions about a rather nasty allegation of misconduct in the Washington Office of the Insurance Commissioner.  Among them is state Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, chairman of the Senate Law and Justice Committee, who plans a hearing June 16 that will put the matter on center stage.

A former Spokane County District Court judge, Padden says he is disturbed at the accusation that has been leveled by administrative law judge Patricia Petersen. She claims her boss in the office threatened her job in order to obtain favorable rulings.

“I just know, from 12 years as a district court judge, that independence is a bedrock principle the entire judiciary should embrace,” Padden says.

Padden is a Republican and Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler is a Democrat, but the Senate committee’s inquiry is precisely what Olympia should be doing – poking, prodding, exposing facts and dealing with the central issue of the case. If only those who are more directly responsible felt the same way.

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Comments | Topics: insurance commissioner, legislature, mike kreidler