Officials here at the summer meeting of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners have apologized to a Kentucky lawmaker for an electronic mail message listing him as someone who should not be admitted.
The NAIC denied Rep. Robert Damron, D-Nicholasville, Ky., entry Sunday to an NAIC commissioners’ roundtable discussion.
Damron, treasurer of the National Conference of Insurance Legislators, Troy, N.Y., says “he was highly offended” when his name showed up in an e-mail as he tried to enter the roundtable discussion.
After the NAIC denied Damron entry to the roundtable discussion, Andrew Beal, the NAIC’s chief legal officer, and Kay Noonan, the NAIC’s general counsel, apologized to Damron and told him that a mistake had been made.
The warning e-mail was focused on issues of specific companies and other non-public discussions, Damron says.
But Damron and state Rep. Brian Kennedy, D-Hopkinton, R.I., NCOIL president-elect, were asked to sign statements indicating that they were legislators and had no connections to the insurance industry before they were given NAIC admissions packets.
Damron says seeing his name in the do-not-admit e-mail made the meeting access issue “very personal this morning.”
Damron told the guard at the roundtable session not to destroy the do-not-admit e-mail message, because he, Damron, will want to obtain a copy.
Damron says he is waiting to see how the NAIC addresses meeting access in the future before deciding whether to approach the Kentucky attorney general about the way the NAIC closes meetings.
Legislators certainly should have access to an NAIC meeting, unless a meeting focuses on certain types of discussions about specific companies or specific types of personnel or legal issues, but the meetings really should be open to everyone, including consumer representatives and journalists, Damron says.
Damron says he has fought to make sure that Kentucky legislature meetings are open because, if meetings are not kept open, “you risk losing the confidence of the public.”
NCOIL and other organizations, such as the National Conference of State Legislatures, Denver, keep their meetings open, Damron says.
Kennedy entered the NAIC meeting with a commissioner and stayed through part of the roundtable discussion.
When commissioners began talking about the last 3 items on the agenda, Noonan told Kennedy that the items dealt with legal matters, and Kennedy left, Kennedy says.
NAIC meetings should be open, Kennedy says, but he says he sees the fact that he was allowed to stay for a portion of the roundtable discussion as a sign of progress.
Kennedy notes hearing one commissioner remark during the roundtable discussion that, if the NAIC wants to get legislation enacted, it ought to invite state legislators to NAIC roundtable meetings at least 2 or 3 times a year.
Kennedy feels strongly enough about the NAIC meeting access issue that he has sent a letter about the issue to 50 state Senate and House insurance committees.
In the copy of the letter sent to state Sen. William Walaska, D-Warwick, R.I., chairman of the Rhode Island Senate Corporations Committee, Kennedy writes that the top insurance regulator in Rhode Island violates Rhode Island open meetings law and the oath of office he took for that position every time that he attends an NAIC meeting.
“The NAIC is routinely holding executive sessions at its national meetings, despite the fact that regulators are discussing legislative strategy issues that are not germane for calling such closed sessions,” Kennedy writes. “The NAIC is abusing the use and purpose of executive sessions by failing to conduct conference business in public.”
Kennedy writes that he is “unaware of any other private nonprofit organization having the same right or privilege to assess fees against states in the manner utilized by the NAIC.”
Kennedy suggests that Walaska write to the Rhode Island attorney general regarding the fact that “your state commissioner is attending meetings at the NAIC at state expense and in [his] paid capacity [is] participating in closed executive session meetings that violate the open meetings law.”
Kennedy also suggests scrutinizing every proposal submitted by a commissioner or supervisor that comes “with the imprimatur of the NAIC”; attending an NAIC quarterly national meeting “to become enlightened on this mystical organization”; and holding hearings about the “amount of money that the NAIC is profiting from the insurance information filed by your state into the NAIC insurance database.”