DENVER – Hickenlooper Administration officials on Thursday refused to provide — or could not provide — any information about the “neutral and objective panel” that they claim to have convened to investigate allegations that U.S. Senator Mark Udall improperly pressured state regulators to alter statistics on how many Coloradans have lost their health insurance as a result of Obamacare.
The request, submitted by the Colorado Observer last week pursuant to the Colorado Open Records Act, sought the names and job titles of those persons who served on the panel, who appointed them to the panel, along with any agendas, minutes and transcripts or recordings of panel meetings.
In response, the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) provided a 15-page packet of previously disclosed e-mails, but no information about the “panel” itself, its membership, or any of its activities or proceedings.
Department of Regulatory Affairs Executive Director Barbara Kelley told a state lawmaker on January 14 that “A neutral and objective panel from the executive director’s office interviewed a number of Division of Insurance staff, collected and reviewed e-mails and other correspondence between the [division] and Sen. Udall’s staff,” before exonerating Udall of any wrongdoing.
When The Observer requested records related to the panel last Friday, Kelley sought legal advice before crafting a reply, according to a January 17 e-mail.
“We expected this, so let’s get with [Deputy DORA Director] Michelle [Pedersen] and we will touch base with the [Attorney General] to put together our response,” read the e-mail from Kelley to Pedersen.
Kelley was appointed by Governor Hickenlooper to head DORA in 2011.
Udall has faced criticism in recent weeks after internal e-mails became public suggesting that his office pressured regulators to change their estimate that 250,000 Coloradans had their health insurance plans cancelled because of Obamacare. The e-mails included complaints from Division of Insurance workers that Udall’s staff pressed them to “trash” their statistics, and reports of “hostile” phone calls from Udall’s office to division personnel.
As of Friday morning, a DORA spokesman had not responded to a follow up request for records related to the existence of the panel.