Reports of his troubling workplace conduct have cost Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler the faith and confidence of state leaders across the political spectrum.
For that reason, and because Washington’s elected representatives must uphold the highest standards of integrity, the longtime civil servant should resign.
For more than two decades, Kreidler has advanced policies that protected Washington’s insurance consumers while holding the insurance industry accountable. On his watch, Washington became the first state to require health insurers cover prescription contraceptives. It enacted strong protections against surprise medical billing. His commission took health insurers to task for denying coverage to transgender patients. Kreidler has been a national leader in helping state regulators develop guidelines for evaluating insurers’ climate-change risks.
But none of that excuses the abusive, insensitive and otherwise problematic treatment of his own staff that Kreidler has been accused of, and in some cases admitted.
In April, he apologized for using “careless language” after news reports revealed allegations of his bullying, racist and sexist remarks in front of staff. More recently, it was revealed that the office fired a top aide who complained of mistreatment. Kreidler says he was dissatisfied with the at-will employee’s work performance and his office did try offering the employee another assignment before terminating his employment, but the employee declined.
Kreidler says he will not step down, despite calls for his resignation from Gov. Jay Inslee, the Democratic and Republican leaders in both the state House and Senate.
Instead, he intends to hire a consultant to determine whether recent complaints reveal a broad, systemic issue or are “related to COVID-19 reopening and telework decisions.”
This reeks of blame-shifting. Certainly, the last two years have been stressful. But as a leader, Kreidler is responsible for maintaining a professional, supportive work environment in bad times as well as good.
Since Kreidler is an elected, not appointed, official, he is only directly accountable to the voters and the inclinations of his own conscience. With more than two years remaining in his term, voters won’t have a timely chance to signal their displeasure.
That means Kreidler should take the honorable step of standing down.