A letter from Rep. Brian Kennedy, D-Dist. 38-R.I., vice president of the National Conference of Insurance Legislators, Troy, N.Y., assailed the “closed door meetings” of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. Kennedy contends the policy violates state sunshine laws.
In an interview with National Underwriter, Kennedy detailed the chain of events he says prompted him to write the April 30 letter and to make the issue public.
NU: What specific incidents made you feel states’ sunshine laws are being violated?
BK: I have attended the last 3 NAIC meetings in St. Louis, San Antonio and New York in the capacity of NCOIL vice president. At the San Antonio meeting [December 2006], the commissioners were meeting. I started to walk into the room and an attendant explained that it was a commissioners-only meeting. I thanked him and went into the room and took a seat. Legislative strategy was being discussed.
NU: What happened then?
BK: A NAIC staff person came over and explained that it was a commissioners-only session. I thanked the staff person and continued to listen to the discussion. A second NAIC representative, Andy Beal, came over and explained that it was a commissioners-only discussion. [Beal is NAIC deputy executive vice president and chief legal officer.]
I asked him whether the discussion concerned a budget, staff or pending litigation. I was told it did not and said there was not a reason to close the meeting.
I said I would exit the room. Outside, I saw Brett Palmer [NAIC managing director-government relations, Washington] and expressed my displeasure to him. I said it was not appropriate [to be told to leave], given that commissioners serve the states and their laws.
NU: What kind of response did you receive?
BK: Al Iuppa [then-president of the NAIC] apologized, but also said that commissioners felt it [a closed door meeting] was an appropriate thing to do. I decided to wait and see how things progressed in March.
NU: Were things any different during the spring meeting [New York, March 2007]?
BK: At the opening reception, Cheye Calvo [formerly an NAIC government relations legislation and policy manager, Washington, now establishing a private consulting practice], sought me out and told me not to attend the Commissioners’ Roundtable. He sought me out. I voiced my concerns to Cheye.
I expressed my concerns to the commissioner in my state [Joseph Torti] and said he had taken an oath of office that doesn’t stop because you attend a NAIC meeting.
At the end of the meeting, I was asked to present the commissioners an update of NCOIL activities and a summary of what happened at the NCOIL meeting in Savannah. Commissioner Bell raised the issue of open meetings.
I explained that commissioners had taken an oath of office to abide by the laws of the states and that there had not been a good reason to close a meeting. Commissioner Bell said NCOIL does the same thing.
NU: And how did you respond?
BK: I said NCOIL does not. All our meetings are open. Even if we discuss our opposition to an optional federal charter, there are people who support an optional federal charter sitting in the room who can hear the discussion.
NU: What contact have you had with NAIC since that meeting?