(The Center Square) – The Speaker pro tempore of the Washington State House of Representatives thinks her colleagues should discuss possible action against state Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler, who has refused to resign amid allegations of abusive behavior toward employees.
Asked about possible legislative sanctions against the commissioner, state Rep, Tina Orwall (D-Kent) told The Center Square, “I certainly want to reach out to our Speaker and make sure we are having those conversations. I think that’s something our Speaker and leadership team need to discuss.”
Kreidler, 78, has been in office since 2001. He has been under fire for allegedly poor treatment of staff members including angry outbursts, using inappropriate language, bullying and antagonizing staff members.
Matters came to a head after Kreidler fired legislative liaison Jon Noski, who had filed a whistleblower complaint with the Office of the Insurance Commissioner on Feb. 4 alleging “emotional outbursts towards me and other staff for trivial reasons that are often misunderstandings of reality.”
“I think we’re all pretty disappointed and appalled,” Orwall said. “It takes a lot of courage for a state employee to be a whistleblower. A lot of us have been wondering what the legislature should do.”
At a minimum, Orwall would like to see that the legislature establishes clear authority for investigating reports of retaliation. The state auditor investigates whistleblower complaints but does not have the authority to investigate claims of retaliation, according to Orwall.
“This is deeply concerning,” Orwall said. “Our state employees have very challenging and very essential jobs. We need to make sure they have a safe and supportive workplace.”
Republican leaders have stated they think the legislature should take action against Kreidler if he does not resign.
“A censure is obvious,” House Minority Leader J. T. Wilcox told The Center Square when asked about possible legislative action against Kreidler.
“We could vote on resolutions expressing this in a way that might be painful for him and might make the point more strongly,” Wilcox said, adding, “I think there are things we could do to make his office much less comfortable for him that might provide even stronger encouragement.”
Senate Republican Leader John Braun is willing to consider impeachment. He told The Center Square, “It’s a question first for the House of Representatives, but if the House votes for impeachment and Commissioner Kreidler still does not resign, then the Senate absolutely should follow through.”
The legislature is not scheduled to convene again until January. However, either the governor or the legislature itself can call for a special legislative session under Washington law.
Commissioner Kreidler’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.