• Executive Director of the Department of Regulatory Affairs, Barbara Kelley is pictured in this 2010 file photo.

    Executive Director of the Department of Regulatory Affairs, Barbara Kelley is pictured in this 2010 file photo. (Andy Cross, The Denver Post file)

    Colorado’s top regulator Monday named the members of a “neutral panel” she personally assembled to review complaints that Sen. Mark Udall’s office attempted to bully insurance personnel over Affordable Care Act cancellations, but declined to say who the panel interviewed in clearing the senator.

    Barbara Kelley, executive director of the Department of Regulatory Agencies, said that she, her deputy, Michelle Pedersen, and her legislative liaison John Cevette, the former chief of staff for the state Senate Democrats, sat on the panel.

    “I consider myself to be neutral and impartial,” said Kelley, who was appointed by Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper. “I consider the other staff in my office to be neutral and impartial. If the inquiry is that I seek outside party participation, the answer is no.”

    Kelley said no records or notes exist from the “oral in-person” interviews the panel conducted with five individuals within her office.

    The fact-finding review, Kelley said, took place Jan. 13, one day before she penned a letter to a GOP state lawmaker that said no intimidation on the part of Udall’s staff occurred.

    After the media reports earlier this month of the dispute between the two staffs, state Rep. Amy Stephens, R-Monument, who is vying to unseat Udall, a Democrat, in his 2014 re-election bid, called for an investigation.

    Stephens Monday claimed Hickenlooper’s administration attempted to provide a shield for Udall, saying it had “vigorously” fought “to keep this panel secret because they knew that it would be exposed as nothing more than a shameful farce if its members were publicly identified.”

    In a statement earlier Monday, and in an interview with The Denver Post, Kelley declined to offer the names of Pedersen and Cevette, and said “comments on social media and by bloggers,” would make those individuals involved in the fact-finding review subject “to scurrilous accusations of partisanship or worse.”

    Kelley’s announcement comes after her office did not provide information on a panel last week that cleared Udall staffers of accusations they bullied division of insurance staffers to change a November report noting 250,000 Coloradans would have individual policies cancelled due to the Affordable Care Act. DORA oversees the division of insurance. A division Director, Jo Donlin, said in an internal e-mail a Udall staffer was unjustly trashing the number. Donlin has never spoken about the matter publicly.

    In responding to a Colorado Open Records Request by The Post and other news outlets about details of the panel, Kelley’s office provided several pages of e-mails between division of insurance staffers and Udall’s staff. The e-mails did not include information about an investigative panel or suggest that an investigation was taking place.

    Some of those e-mails played a key role in earlier reports from The Post about Udall’s staff pressuring the division of insurance.

    Just days after Stephens called for the investigation, Kelley wrote on Jan. 14 and stressed a “neutral and objective panel” had found “no evidence of any intimidation and ‘the level of coercion by Sen. Udall and/or his staff’ was zero.”

    On Monday ranking Republicans of the state House and Senate Health committees called for a joint special hearing into the matter.

    Republican Sen. Kevin Lundberg of Berthoud and Reps. Janak Joshi of Colorado Springs and Lois Landgraf of Fountain sent a letter to the Democratic chairs of the Health committees. It calls for testimony from leaders of DORA — including Kelley — the division of insurance and Gov. John Hickenlooper and Udall staffers. The Democrats who chair the committees, Sen. Irene Aguilar of Denver, and Reps. Beth McCann of Denver and Dianne Primavera of Broomfield, would have to agree to such hearings. McCann indicated she would not be willing to convene a hearing.

    It’s a “serious question of whether the Hickenlooper administration lied to or intentionally misled state lawmakers and media outlets about an investigation into the Udall incident,” the GOP lawmakers wrote. They add that the incident, “deserves legislative review and the public deserves answers.”

    By Kurtis Lee
    The Denver Post

    Kurtis Lee: 303-954-1655, klee@denverpost.com or twitter.com/kurtisalee

    Read more: DORA official reverses course, names panelists in Udall ACA flap – The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_25003093/house-senate-gop-call-special-hearing-into-sen#ixzz2rekMINnd

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    Posted by Dana West @ 7:32 pm for Candidates, Colorado politics, National politics, ObamaCare |

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