A bipartisan group of Senate leaders today called on state Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler to resign, calling his actions in office “appalling” and “unacceptable,” after he fired a whistle-blower who came forward with allegations of abusive and inappropriate workplace behaviors.
“The claims of inappropriate workplace conduct were disturbing on their own and called into question Commissioner Kreidler’s ability to effectively lead his office,” said Senate Republican Leader John Braun. “But firing a whistleblower is completely unacceptable, and quite frankly, the final straw.
“As elected officials, we are responsible for creating a respectful workplace and assuring the men and women we work alongside to serve the public are treated with dignity. We should be rewarding staff who are brave enough to speak up when they witness illegal or unethical behavior, not trying to silence and fire them.”
Braun, R-Centralia, also noted that the Legislature has an obligation to exercise oversight of executive officers who attempt to avoid and undermine their own ethics rules.
“There has to be accountability for these actions,” added Braun. “Commissioner Kreidler should do the right thing and step down immediately.”
Sen. Mark Mullet, chair of the Senate Business, Financial Services and Trade Committee, said there is no justification for Kreidler to remain on the job.
“This is clearly grounds for removal. Firing a whistleblower? Commissioner Kreidler needs to resign immediately and allow someone else to go to work restoring the integrity of this important agency,” said Mullet, D-Issaquah.
“To be honest, I’m disturbed by this but not at all surprised. This is consistent with the behavior he’s shown over the past couple of years in his dealings with the Legislature and with stakeholders. Now he’s placing himself above the ethics rules of his own agency and firing the whistleblower who called him out on his actions.
“Commissioner Kreidler has shown he is not fit to continue in his position. 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 Mullet.
Sen. Perry Dozier, R-Waitsburg, serves as ranking member on the Senate Business, Financial Services and Trade Committee. In that capacity, he regularly works with staff from the Office of the Insurance Commissioner and said his heart goes out to workers living in fear of termination just for speaking up.
“The men and women who work at the Office of the Insurance Commissioner are dedicated public servants,” said Dozier. “They deserve to be able to do their work without being demeaned and abused.
“The disturbing allegations in this case should have been a wake-up call for the commissioner, causing him to reevaluate his behavior, apologize and take steps to restore the working relationship between him and his staff. Instead, he chose the worst option available – to remain in office and use that position to further abuse his power and the people’s trust by firing the whistleblower.
“This type of behavior is something that should not be tolerated from anyone in public office. 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,” added Dozier.