OIC Whistleblower Speaks, But Says She’s Still Muzzled

By Gabriel Spitzer

An administrative law judge who’s accused a state agency of pressuring her to rule in their favor broke her silence today . But she told lawmakers she’s not allowed to give them the whole story.

Patricia Petersen says she wants to tell state legislators what’s behind her spat with the Office of the Insurance Commissioner. That includes accusations that the agency’s second-in-command pressured Petersen to rule in the office’s favor. 

But Petersen, in her first public comments since lodging a whistleblower complaint against her boss, says the commissioner gave her a so-called “gag order” on the matter while it’s being investigated. So instead, Petersen spoke in general about the merits and drawbacks of having hearings officers work for the very agencies they sometimes rule on. She says there are benefits ...

“However, the benefits of embedded hearing officers quickly disappear if an agency seeks to influence the presiding officer with ex-parte communications and influences such as threats to employment,”

Ex-parte communications are forbidden contacts between an officer like Petersen and parties to the case. The state senate law and justice committee has proposed a bill to make that kind of conduct a crime. 

Petersen herself is accused of prohibited communications for sending her whistleblower complaint to one of the lawyers involved in a case before her. She says that was an inadvertent mistake. An investigation of that claim is expected to finish next month.

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