Gov. Inslee, state Dems call on Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler to resign

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Both parties in the Washington State Legislature are calling on Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler to resign after he fired a top aide who formally complained that Kreidler bullied him and was “antagonizing staff.”

The firing of Kreidler’s legislative liaison Jon Noski followed criticism in recent months from current, former and potential Office of Insurance Commissioner (OIC) employees who said Kreider, a six-term Democrat, verbally mistreated staff and also, at times, used racially offensive language.

“In the legislative process, you have to have thick skin,” says Noski. “But there was something different about this particular atmosphere, where there was a lot more toxicity and hostility that came in sort of unpredictable intervals.”

Gov. Jay Inslee sent out a statement on Friday, joining a growing chorus of calls for Kreidler to step down.

“Following Commissioner Kreidler’s admission that he treated staff poorly and used inappropriate language in the office, he committed to learning and doing better. The events of the last several months demonstrate he is unable to fulfill his leadership responsibility,” Inslee said. “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.”

Sen. Mark Mullet (D-Issaquah), chair of the Senate Business, Financial Services & Trade Committee, similarly opined that Noski’s firing is “clearly grounds for removal” in a written release sent out on Thursday.

A day later, the state Democratic Party echoed that sentiment in a joint statement of its own.

“To fire a whistleblower — someone who had the courage to step forward in the first place — is not only unacceptable and unethical, but directly goes against the Democratic values of our party, which is committed to protecting workers and creating safe working environments,” State Party Chair Tina Podlodowski and Vice Chair David Green said in a joint statement. “Mike has lost the trust of his employees — and his party. He can no longer faithfully serve the people of Washington state, and we call for him to step down.”

Republican Minority Leader Rep. J.T. Wilcox Tweeted his thoughts on the matter early Friday morning.

Noski, 42, has retained an attorney and said he’s exploring legal options, but declined to say if he felt the firing was retaliatory.

“I’m not surprised, I’m disappointed,” Noski said. “I liked my job and I liked the people I worked with and I am going to miss being able to work for the OIC.”

Kreidler released a statement Friday disagreeing with the governor’s call for him to step down.

“Gov. Inslee and I have worked and served together for many years and I generally respect both his perspective and his efforts to further the causes we both care about,” Kreidler said. “However, I disagree with his conclusion regarding my ability to continue my duties as an independently elected official.

“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.

“I take full responsibility for my past behavior and recognize the impact it has had on those around me and the people I serve. I have pledged to do better and stand by that commitment. 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.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.