Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Part III: My Days at the Department of Insurance; The Present Left By Governor Kernan and How Governor Daniels' Office Let Down This Republican

Atterholt did not come into the office until that afternoon, that fateful day of September 17, 2007. Within probably a ½ hour of coming in and reading my memo, he dispatched the IDOI’s general counsel to my office. The attorney told me that they needed me up stairs for a pre-deprivation meeting but that the meeting was merely a formality. The decision had already been made to fire me if I would not resign. He told me they could fire me for any reason they wanted, including wearing the wrong color shirt that day. It was obvious to me that the general counsel did not know state rules governing the termination of non-merit employees with more than 6 months of service, did not understand how to conduct a pre-deprivation meeting (you don’t start out by announcing that the meeting is irrelevant because the decision has already been made), did not know the state whistleblowing law, and did not know that, from a legal standpoint, a forced resignation was no different from a termination.

During the meeting, attending by Jim, Shirley, the aforementioned attorney and someone from state personnel, I asked for an adjournment to talk to the state personnel person at the meeting to see if the investigation I had arranged for would continue in my absence. For someone brand new to state personnel, she surprisingly had an immediate response: my request for an investigation could no longer be acted upon because I would no longer be a state employee. When I returned to the meeting I asked them to identify exactly why I was being terminated. The only response was that I was “out of line.”

I went from being a highly-lauded state employee to being escorted back to my office where my every move was watched. Upon return, I found out my computer had been seized during the meeting. (So much for the idea that a pre-deprivation meeting is where the termination decision is supposed to be made.) Then I was escorted out of the building.

Up until the pre-deprivation meeting, my response to the eternal IDOI mystery was that Jim Atterholt was simply too “nice” to do anything about Shirley. What I saw at the pre-deprivation meeting and have witnessed since leaves me with no doubt that conclusion was wrong. The Commissioner is genuinely terrified, for whatever reason, of crossing Shirley. The memo I wrote not only memorialized state personnel and legal violations, but also acted to “out” Atterholt on the numerous negative things he had said about Shirley. Now he is doing all he can to deny previous statemetns and positions he has taken regarding Shirley, even if that now requires that he perjure himself.

I believe I mentioned at the start of this tale that Shirley is a Democrat appointee of former Governor Kernan. She is, in fact, a liberal Democrat, a big fan of Michael Moore, and who as I was leaving in 2007, was trying to arrange the screening of the movie “Sicko” for employees in her unit. Jim Atterholt, a conservative Republican, is a direct appointee of Governor Daniels. I, who am also a conservative Republican, had my appointment was approved by Governor Daniels. I always believed that if the Governor’s people would simply take the time to look at what I was saying, they would find out that 90% of the problems at the Department of Insurance is being caused by a liberal Democrat upper-level supervisor appointed by Governor Kernan specifically to cause problems at the Department. But the Governor’s Office would not even acknowledge my claims, much less investigate them. After months, I was left with no choice but to sue.

I do not personally blame the Governor. Hopefully Governor Daniels has more important things to personally worry about than what happened tome. But at some point though his people need to actually acknowledge and investigate matters at the agencies when it is brought to their attention. Instead it was only months after being ignored and left with no choice but to file a lawsuit, that someone from the Governor’s Office finally took an interest, if only to suggest the lawsuit showed disloyalty to the Governor. Ahem.

The termination cost me not only a job I loved and was good at, but it left me unable to complete the 10 year service I needed to qualify for my state pension, a benefit that is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. While I am extremely confident of winning my case, back pay and a reinstatement order, it bothers me considerably that this battle has to be fought at all. If only someone from the Governor’s Office would have conducted an investigationi, the matter could have quickly been resolved with a simple directive from the Governor's office. Instead we are left with no choice but to spend a couple years litigating a case at the conclusion of which a court will likely order Commissioner Atterholt to do the very thing that Governor Daniels could have ordered Commissioner Atterholt from the outset, without the need for litigation. Oh, well. Life is a journey. I just wish I did not have to climb the hills during that journey.

***THE END***

Link to Part I
Link to Part II


Diana Vice said...

Loyalty goes both ways, Paul. If anyone's loyalty should be questioned, it should be that of Jim (your former "friend," although I question whether he was ever really your friend) and that of the people in the Governor's office who chose to ignore the problems rather than deal with them appropriately. It's a funny thing that we're expected to be loyal Republicans, and we're not supposed to complain when it's not reciprocated. These people gave you absolutely no choice but to sue.

It makes me wonder if "Shirley" is holding something over Jim's head. If so, it must be something pretty extraordinary for him to choose to fire the whistleblower rather than eliminate the real problem in the office.

If he's a real "Christian" I hope he thinks long and hard about the consequences of perjuring himself in a deposition. (And I'm not talking about earthly consequences.)

Anonymous said...

Regulating insurance companies your "dream job," Paul? I think you may have to revisit what true Republican principles are. Regulating businesses in not one of them. Genuine Republicans understand that the free markets are best left alone, while governments need the "watchdogs." Give Andy Horning a call. He'll help you out with this concept. :>)


Anonymous said...

Paul, I've found that the partisianship and greed is so extreme, the parties even sabotage loyaly republicans who get in the way.

More than likely, Atterholt had a hand in, directly or indirectly, about what you were complaining about in your memo. He wasn't protecting just her, but himself as well and possibly others. He got 'dirty' with her and that mean't they all take care of each other and YOU and if blow the whistle.

Its real dirty...

Paul K. Ogden said...


I don't think the libertarian mantra that regulation is always bad is accurate. For example, the problem in the title insurance industry is that you had a set of laws that some in the industry were following and others were not, because they would not get in trouble. It created an uneven playing field. Our job was to enforce those unenforced laws, and create an even playing field.

I would not think the Libertarian position would be against equal enforcement of the law? Isn't that what government should do?

In Indiana, we were creating a regulatory structure that promoted the idea fair market competition, where the rules are going to be enforce equally for everyone. The idea was to help business, not hold them down with unnecessary regulation.

Paul K. Ogden said...


Regarding paragraph #2. Bingo. I don't think there is any doubt about that. EVERYONE at the DOI thinks that. We just never figured out WHY that this man is willing to go to extraordinary lengths to defend Shirley, someone he openly admitted to everyone at IDOI was incompetent and a problem at the Department.

I don't agree with comments on here that Jim was personally deriving some sort of benefit from what "Shirley" was being allowed to do. I just never saw that. Rather your paragraph #2 comment seems to hint at the explanation.

I totally agree with your "christian" comment. Regardless of the reason for what Jim did, it was one of the most un-christian things you could do to someone. I think Jim is at heart a good man, but that what you alluded to in #2 is so big he is willing to cast aside his normal Christian principles, and his sense of fairness.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, Paul. I don't think we need to create regulatory agencies with more laws/regulations. Fraud is a crime already on the books. Enron was a good example of how justice was served.


P.S. Just what "set of laws" aren't being "followed" in the industry? I betcha they are "mala prohibita" laws, many which are set up by the players already in the game to keep others out - the true purpose of regulation. Read your history. Ironically it is regulation that provides an "uneven playing field" with larger firms being able to afford attorneys/analysts to wade through the myriads of regulations and can afford to defend themselves in court. Ah, but you as an attorney should know already know that! :>)