A bipartisan group of state senators announced on June 16 they are calling for Washington state Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler to resign after he allegedly fired a whistleblower 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, R-Centralia. “But firing a whistleblower is completely unacceptable, and quite frankly, the final straw.”
In the statement, Braun said elected officials have a responsibility to create a respectful workplace and that staff “should be rewarded” when they are “brave enough to speak up when they witness illegal or unethical behavior” rather than being fired.
Sen. Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah, the chair of the Senate Business, Financial Services and Trade (BFST) Committee, said it was 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,” Mullet said. “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.”
Mullet’s Republican counterpart on the BFST Committee, Sen. Perry Dozier, R-Waitsburg, works regularly with the staff in Kriedler’s office.
Dozier said Kreidler’s staff are “dedicated public servants” who shouldn’t be penalized for doing their jobs. He said the earlier allegations regarding Kreidler’s behavior should have caused him to change his conduct and apologize, but instead, Kriedler said, “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.”
In a separate statement, Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig, D-Spokane, also called for Kreidler to resign. Billig said previous allegations against Kreidler had caused him concern but the firing of a whistleblower could not be tolerated.
“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,” Billig said.
After Gov. Jay Inslee asked Kriedler to step down last week, the insurance commissioner released a statement saying he would not.
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