|This website is
a work in progress.
The myth of WCIA "fair dealing"
A case study in unfair trade practices
|Note: The next update to WCIA.biz will detail the distinct lack of "due diligence" exhibited, as a body, by the WCIA Executive Committee in responding to my formal efforts to gain remedy for the Authority's unlawful conduct. As part of the update, I'll be posting a list of the respective executive committee members, to include their names, committee positions, and WCIA-member organizations. The committee's president is Tony Piasecki, city manager for the City of Des Moines.|
My name is Kevin Murphy. I created this website to publicly expose willful, grossly unlawful conduct by the Washington Cities Insurance Authority -- a.k.a., WCIA or the Authority. In its handling of my sizable monetary claim for damages to WCIA-member City of Kirkland as a former nine-year city police officer, the Authority, with executive director Lew Leigh, has acted -- and continues to act -- in the most dishonest, arrogant and intractable manner I've encountered in my 30 years of public service.1 It's my hope that this website serves the public as an alarming example of how a state-authorized insurance operation can go terribly wrong -- to the detriment of unlawfully spurned claimants and Washington's citizenry in general.
"[T]he Authority, with executive
director Lew Leigh,
has acted -- and continues to act -- in the most dishonest,
arrogant, and intractable manner I've encountered
in my 30 years of public service."
My website comments and opinions regarding WCIA's handling of my claim are predicated on my belief that the Authority's unlawful conduct is not due to incompetence. Rather, unless WCIA has for 30 years been denying claims without first investigating them, the grossly disparate way it handled my claim represents such an egregious departure from Washington law, and standard U.S. (and Washington) insurance industry practices in general, that the conduct in question can, reasonably, only be attributed to knowingly improper Authority actions and inactions.
Consistent with claim-handling standards across the United States, Washington law requires that an insurer (such as WCIA) properly investigate a received damage claim to determine if it has merit.2 Of course, if the claim is found to be meritorious, state law further requires that the insurer seek with the claimant a prompt and fair settlement.3
After the Authority flatly denied my claim to the City of Kirkland ("Kirkland," or the "city"), I phoned Lew Leigh to point out that any reasonable investigation of my claim would have found that the claim is patently meritorious. By this time, the Kirkland City Council had joined the Kirkland Police Guild's executive board in formally acknowledging the merits of my claim.4 Further, Leigh, in an email response he subsequently sent me, acknowledged that the types of misconduct asserted in my claim are "covered" by the WCIA member agreement. [Link] As a result of my protest to Leigh (including an issues-oriented email I provided to him at his request [Link]), Leigh directed a "review" of WCIA's handling of my claim. (Had my claim been previously investigated per Washington law, there, of course, would have been no need for such an extraordinary, post-denial review.) The review was conducted by attorney Mike Bolasina of the Seattle law firm Stafford Frey Cooper. [Bolasina's Notification to Me] Bolasina took 30 days to examine the claim's handling. Then, in a meeting at his firm's offices, he acknowledged to me that the claim was not properly investigated by the Authority and that the claim is, indeed, meritorious.
"[T]he Washington Cities Insurance
-- with its Leigh and Bucklin --
tossed Washington insurance law out the window."
Yet, to date, WCIA has not complied with state law by "attempting in good faith to effectuate prompt, fair and equitable settlement" of my roundly affirmed meritorious claim. Instead, with Bolasina as a WCIA mouthpiece, the Authority would have me believe that its anticipation of a future lawsuit by me against Kirkland trumped Washington law. According to what Bolasina has told me, rather than investigate my claim, WCIA (a) met with the city, (b) "agreed" with the city that my claim would be denied, and (c) immediately launched into a legal-defense mode in which the Authority -- as Bolasina has described things -- fulfilled a contractual "duty" to Kirkland to provide legal-defense support. That communicated position is preposterous. As any law school graduate in the nation knows, a contract provision that contravenes public policy is invalid. And even more to the point, such provisions certainly cannot supersede unambiguous and controlling Washington law. Thus, the Bolasina-proffered justification for the Authority to ignore the law -- and, instead, provide legal-defense support to the city -- falls flat on its face.
Further underscoring the arrogance of WCIA, Washington law mandates that the period of time in which a claim against a government entity is processed is reserved for claim investigation and, as warranted, claim settlement -- not for an insurer to "fast forward" from unmet administrative duties under the law in order to organize (prematurely and unilaterally) a legal defense in anticipation of a future lawsuit from the claimant. Washington’s Supreme Court has spoken on the subject of this administrative period, stating (emphasis added), "The purpose of RCW 4.96.020 (4) is to establish a period of time for government defendants to investigate claims and settle those claims where possible.”5 Yet, as it was, and turning Washington insurance law on its head, the Authority's rogue conduct meant a virtual fait accompli -- with me, as claimant, compelled to resort to legal action. Created by a selfishly scheming WCIA that thumbed its nose at state law, that scenario is so perversely twisted as to offend the public's sensibilities.6
not complied with state law by
'attempting in good faith to effectuate prompt,
fair and equitable settlement.'"
The arrogance of Lew Leigh is further illustrated
by two examples of many: 1. Coming as the result of my
post-denial complaint to Leigh about WCIA's manifestly improper
handling of my claim, the Leigh-directed "review" conducted by
attorney Bolasina was, in the end, a biased
-- albeit absurd -- defense of the Authority's bypassing of
statutory claim investigation/adjustment requirements in order to,
instead, provide for legal-defense support to the City of Kirkland.
At least that's what Bolasina communicated to me in
an email he sent me well after the
meeting of ours in which he acknowledged that my claim, by WCIA-city
"agreement," was denied without investigation/adjustment.
Subsequently, when I phoned Leigh to put the intended focus back
on the Authority's flagrant disregard for Washington insurance law,
he said he didn't have "anything more" to talk with me about. 2.
Early in this futile phone conversation with Leigh, he told me
snidely to go ahead with several planned WCIA-related actions that I
had, on an earlier date, communicated to him. Leigh
called them "mythical actions." With respect to
one of my planned actions, I told
Leigh, "Come Monday" (July 19, 2010), I will have posted the first
content to WCIA.biz. And that's precisely what I did.
Notably, another of the planned actions I'll be taking is submission of a formal written complaint about attorney Mark Bucklin to the Washington State Bar Association's Office of Disciplinary Counsel. Upon submission, I'll post the complaint on the website. [(Pending) Complaint to WSBA about Bucklin]
"[T]he Bolasina-proffered justification for the Authority
ignore the law -- and, instead, provide legal-defense support
to the city -- falls flat on its face."
It's instructive, and telling, to look at another violation of law by WCIA. WAC 284-30-330 (13) identifies as an unfair trade practice: "Failing to promptly provide a reasonable explanation of the basis in the insurance policy in relation to the facts or applicable law for denial of a claim." The Authority's distinct lack of promptness aside, below is WCIA's "explanation" for denying my claim -- provided by letter 60 days after I submitted the claim. (Kirkland's handling of the claim accounts for only the first day of that two-month period.) Given that the claim was not investigated, the language is remarkable for both its hedging and its paucity (emphasis added):
We have reviewed your claim and have concluded that it does not have legal merit and factually does not justify the payment you have claimed. Therefore on behalf of the City of Kirkland we must deny your claim for payment. [Link]
Other than its manifest failure to comply with WAC, the inaccuracy of the letter's "explanation" was later betrayed by (a) Leigh's acknowledgement to me that the Kirkland misconduct the claim asserts is "covered" (by the WCIA member agreement), (b) Bolasina's acknowledgement that the claim was not investigated/adjusted, and (c) Bolasina's further acknowledgement that the claim is meritorious. These three acknowledgements being the case, had the claim been adjusted as Washington law requires, its "legal merit" would have been manifest, and, thus, a settlement would have been obligatory. (Note the Authority's slippery use of the word "reviewed.") It's worthy of repeating that Bolasina is merely the most recent person to find that the claim is meritorious. Reaching this inescapable conclusion prior to Bolasina was the five-member executive board of the Kirkland Police Guild and, later, the seven-member Kirkland City Council.
Leigh believes that once he gets lawyers involved
in a claim, WCIA has no responsibility to abide by
Each of these three, separate, authoritative examinations recognized that the city disciplinary action at the core of my claim was patently unjust. In each instance, the city's discipline was examined against the widely employed "Seven Tests for Just Cause," as developed by arbitrator Carroll Daugherty in Enterprise Wire Co., 46 LA 359 (1966). Further, (a) I had framed my claim using the "Seven Tests," (b) the Kirkland Police Guild applied the same analysis, and (c) Bolasina told me that the Seven Tests for Just Cause is the only test he himself uses for such determinations. As I told Leigh after Bolasina's review, no "reasonable investigation" could fail to conclude that the city's disciplinary action lacked "just cause" -- a flagrant violation of the express, subject mandate in the governing collective bargaining agreement's "Police Officers' Bill of Rights."
Astoundingly, as it was, WCIA took twice as long as the 30-day base period allowed by Washington law for (WAC-compliant) claim investigations, yet -- according to Bolasina, and otherwise manifest -- the Authority conducted no such investigation. This glaring violation of state law is clearly not the stuff of required "fair dealing." Rather, as a far cry from lawful administrative claim-handling by WCIA, this affront to state insurance statute is consistent with the legal-defense strategy of "deny and delay" -- something that the self-described "litigious" Authority has repeatedly demonstrated to me. Apparently, Leigh believes that once he gets lawyers involved in a claim, WCIA has no responsibility to abide by Washington law. Such errant wishful thinking is diametrically opposed to the public-interest imperative of state-authorized insurance operations, including the Washington Cities Insurance Authority. Yet, Leigh continues to show legion deliberate indifference to my prodigious efforts toward settlement of a claim that the Authority and its agent (Bolasina) have collectively acknowledged is both covered and meritorious.
at which Bolasina and I discussed
his review's findings was the first indication I had that
WCIA was changing its story."
Three things make Bolasina's review extraordinary: (1) The review was directed by WCIA executive director Leigh himself, (2) Leigh's use of an attorney created an attorney-client relationship and, thus, a communication privilege, and (3) the meeting at which Bolasina and I discussed his review's findings was the first indication I had that WCIA was changing its story. The Authority's claim-denial letter clearly states, albeit falsely, that the claim "does not have legal merit." (Remarkably, Bolasina's meeting-shared findings made for a complete set of agreeing, denial-debunking reviews that included -- beyond the Kirkland Police Guild -- parties one and two to my third-party claim. And, as noted above, Leigh has acknowledged that the types of city misconduct asserted by the claim are "covered" by the Authority's member agreement.)
An obvious question at this point is: Reflective, presumably, of Washington insurance law, don't WCIA's governing documents require investigation/adjustment of claims? Yes, they do. The "Interlocal Agreement Creating the Washington Cities Insurance Authority," at Article 16 ("Responsibilities of the Authority") -- states:
Provide claims adjusting and subrogation services for claims covered by the Authority's Joint Protection Program. [Link]
[WCIA's associated "Self-Insurance Coverage Document," which describes the categories of coverage within the Joint Protection Program (i.e., errors or omissions liability coverage), makes it clear that, as Leigh told me, my claim is "covered."7]
Another obvious questions is: Wouldn't such patently unlawful actions by WCIA be identified and remedied upon claimant appeal to the Authority. No. And why not? Because the WCIA member agreement denies third-party claimants any form of appeal. [Link] This provision looms especially perverse when, as with my claim, the City of Kirkland not only wanted the claim denied, but also entered into privileged lawyer-to-lawyer communications with the Authority toward that end.
WCIA has now been roundly exposed for (a) a flagrant violation of Washington law in denying a claim without investigating/adjusting it, and (b) thus, a blatant would-be violation of Washington law in -- as twisted as the Authority deliberately made it -- failing to establish by investigation/adjustment the "reasonably clear" claim liability that requires "attempting in good faith to effectuate prompt, fair and equitable settlement." As a result, the Authority -- with its Leigh and Bucklin -- have begun to sing a new tune. Through Bolasina (with a tight-lipped Leigh), WCIA is now telling me that my claim went uninvestigated/unadjusted because of a "duty" to the City of Kirkland that was paramount. There's an apt popular saying: "When you're stuck in a hole, stop digging."
new story, of course,
the old story,
in which WCIA denied my claim because
'it does not have legal merit.'"
This new story, of course, contradicts the old story, in which WCIA denied my claim because "it does not have legal merit." I see this change in stories as a calculated risk being taken by a very desperate Leigh. Given the content of a fairly lengthy email that Bolasina sent me well after the two of us met to discuss his review findings, it's very clear to me that the Authority hopes I'll "buy" the new story and fold my tent. [Bolasina's Email] And while it ought to be abundantly clear to Leigh that I'll do no such thing, he's got no other card left to play. I say "calculated risk" because the paper trail to date, including that Bolasina email, reveals Authority conduct that has stooped even lower than serial violations of Washington law. As I see it, WCIA's conduct regarding my meritorious claim, and my efforts to see the claim settled in accordance with state insurance law, has included duplicity, deception, and general dishonesty that now includes a red-handed Leigh's stated unwillingness to speak with me further.
Leigh strikes me as the spoiled brat who, with the game not going his way, takes his ball and goes home. The "ball," however, does not belong to Leigh. It belongs to the citizens of Washington. What's in play is public policy, and Leigh's childlike silence does not -- and cannot -- exempt a malfeasant WCIA from compliance with the law.
I have long hoped that Lew Leigh, as executive director of the Washington Cities Insurance Authority, would -- as the increasingly intense light I cast revealed a scales of law tipped irreversibly against the Authority -- see that a monumental and personally devastating Authority wrong done me is righted. Yet, having never once acknowledged to me the slightest of errors by the state-authorized insurance operation he directs, Leigh, by all indications, is now willing to countenance an enormously dishonest WCIA change of explanations for not seeking with me settlement of my claim.
"As I see it, WCIA's conduct
regarding my meritorious claim,
and my efforts to see the claim settled in accordance with
state insurance law, has included duplicity, deception,
and general dishonesty."
As memorialized by WCIA's decision letter to me, Story One is a denial of my claim due to a lack of merit. Now, much later, Story Two is that my claim was left uninvestigated/unadjusted because of a paramount Authority "duty" to provide legal-defense support to the City of Kirkland because of an anticipated, future lawsuit by me against the city. It's no wonder that Leigh will not further discuss with me WCIA's handling of my claim. There's simply no way he can defend such unlawful, contradictory and dishonest conduct by the Authority. Bolasina's preposterous explanation to me posits that any Washington insurer may properly deny -- uninvestigated/unadjusted -- every single claim it receives by simply asserting that the insurer's anticipation of future claimant litigation justifies ignoring the very body of Washington law enacted to ensure fair and equitable claim handling. This explanation also assumes that, while a claimant must in good faith follow all rules of claim submission, the insurer is free to discretionarily do things that state law expressly defines as unfair trade practices. In reality, the Bolasina explanation of WCIA's conduct provides a textbook example of insurer "bad faith." (The overarching standard, of course, is "fair dealing.")
If such conduct were lawful, the Authority's claim-denial letter to me would have asserted this Bolasina-articulated insurer prerogative. (Instead, it stated falsely that the claim is meritless.) In its unlawful, dishonest handling of my claim, WCIA surely and steadily became entrapped in a self-spun web of deception. And, as Bolasina and Leigh have differently demonstrated, no words of explanation (withheld or uttered) can change that. Leigh's lips are now sealed, and Bolasina's lips have tried and failed. With apologies to Abraham Lincoln, "Better to remain silent and be thought a cheat than to speak [through Bolasina] and remove all doubt." Yet, with Leigh clearly wanting me to back off, it seems he was willing to give Bolasina's pitch a try. I know that lawyers are obliged to advocate for their clients; but, as I see it, for Leigh to countenance such an underhanded Bolasina "Hail Mary" is further testament to an absolute unwillingness by Leigh to admit known Authority wrongs -- and, much less, to right them.
Apparently, Leigh can be as condescending as he is arrogant. During that last phone conversation of ours, I managed to work in a very pointed question. And I found his answer as disingenuous as they come. I asked Leigh, in essence, why he directed a review if WCIA, as he seemed to intimate in our conversation, had properly handled my denied claim. In response, Leigh, after a pregnant pause, told me he wanted to "extend every courtesy" to me. I don't need feigned post-denial WCIA courtesy. All I need, and what I'm entitled to as a claimant, is Authority compliance with Washington law. Good Faith is a two-way street. Yet, thus far, I've traveled it alone.
One of the things I find especially galling about the Authority's claim-denial letter is that the letter was signed by WCIA "Sr. Adjuster" Shari Hinshaw. Thus, I can't help but view Hinshaw's signature as a very deliberate attempt by a lawbreaking WCIA to have me believe that the claim was -- contrary to fact -- adjusted. In reality, Leigh allowed an ad-hoc clutch of WCIA-Kirkland actors to simply "agree" that my claim would be denied without investigation/adjustment. As noted above, Leigh told me that he himself denied the claim. And yet, although personally certifying this grossly unlawful conduct by WCIA, he nonetheless countenanced Hinshaw's signature on the letter -- as if the claim had been properly adjusted.
"Leigh allowed an ad-hoc clutch of
to simply 'agree' that my claim would be denied
WCIA's attempts to mislead me did not end there. When I used Washington public disclosure law to gain access to the Authority's claim file, and, in doing so, cited RCW 48.62.101 and its express mandate that a government insurance pool's claim files are public records,8 the Authority denied me access -- asserting a wholly inapposite "law enforcement" exemption (RCW 42.56.240). [WCIA's First Denial] WCIA public records officer Tina Smith later told me that she coordinated the denial of my request with Authority general counsel Bucklin, who surely knew, or should have ascertained, that the asserted exemption was way off the mark. Of course, if I had been given requested access to the claim file, I would have seen what I had already come to believe and what, at a later date, Bolasina acknowledged: My claim was never investigated/adjusted. Certainly, that's not something that a fast and loose WCIA, and its Leigh and Bucklin, wanted me to confirm. When I discredited the "law enforcement" exemption in a subsequent public disclosure request for the claim file, the Authority switched to a different exemption -- this time, "party to controversy" (RCW 42.56.290). [WCIA's Second Denial] Remarkably, WCIA stated that it would not disclose any claim file records because, quoting that exemption, they are "relevant to a controversy to which an agency is a party but which records would not be available to another party under the rules of pretrial discovery for causes pending in the superior courts."
Ironically, given Washington public disclosure law, that come-lately assertion by the Authority confirmed, by default, that my claim had not been investigated/adjusted. As pointed out in an opinion I requested and received from state Open Government Ombudsman Tim Ford of the attorney general's office, any WCIA records produced as part of that insurer's routine administrative claim-processing responsibilities (e.g., claim investigation/ adjustment) are, indeed, public records under Washington law. [Tim Ford's Opinion] Thus, the Authority's negative response to my second request for the claim file reveals that, in flagrant violation of state insurance law, my claim was never handled by a claim adjuster -- either by one of WCIA's "in house" adjusters, or by one with the Authority-contracted Evergreen Adjustment Service.
This second WCIA denial of access to the requested claim file is especially perverse. The "controversy" exemption asserted by the Authority is contradicted by the exception's very language. As noted above, RCW 42.56.290 applies only to records that (emphasis added) "would not be available to another party under the rules of pretrial discovery." As mandated by RCW 48.62.101, which specifically governs local government self-insurance groups such as WCIA, the entire claim file, with the single exception of any reserve, is -- by Washington law -- explicitly a public record. As Leigh and WCIA general counsel (attorney) Mark Bucklin would know simply by reading the two statutes, any member of the public must, by law, be granted properly requested access to any Authority claim file (minus reserve). Litigation does not make a public record a non-public record. I'm convinced that WCIA (with principals Leigh and Bucklin) knowingly asserted -- one after another -- manifestly inapposite Public Records Act exemptions rather than reply to me, as it should have, that no claim file exists. Transparently self-serving, the Authority's asserted exemptions are an affront to the law and an insult to the public's intelligence.
"Proper investigations are the meat and potatoes
of claim handling, yet, by all indications,
Hinshaw's plate was empty."
With WCIA's own machinations and, later, Bolasina's acknowledgements establishing that my claim was not investigated/adjusted, the Authority's otherwise-inexplicable assertion of the "law enforcement" exemption turned transparent. Given that, as later became evident to me, WCIA has no records indicating that a routine (WAC-compliant) investigation of my claim was conducted, the Authority's assertion of the law enforcement exemption is now viewed by me as a deliberately misleading ploy to have me believe that, contrary to fact, a standard claim file exists. Had WCIA stated in that first denial of access that it has no such record (claim file), that would have established -- to the Authority's detriment -- that a non-investigating WCIA had very badly broken the law. Instead, as I see it, a dishonest WCIA knowingly -- and twistedly -- claimed a bogus exemption for a record that doesn't exist. Any such ministerial conduct is unacceptable, especially given that, according to Authority public records officer Smith, WCIA general counsel Bucklin was involved. It's an extremely disturbing state of affairs when, as it was, I had to point out in a second request for the claim file that the WCIA-asserted exemption is wholly inapposite. In my view, Smith's signature on the letter denying me requested access to the claim file is akin to senior claim adjuster Hinshaw's signature on the Authority letter flatly denying my claim. Bucklin's errantly guiding hand was concealed by Smith's signature. And Leigh's personal and unlawful denial of my claim was concealed by Hinshaw's signature. I view as reprehensible any such purposeful exploitation of one's colleagues and their presumably good names.
That said, I can have no respect for a claims adjuster who would sign a denial letter not supported by a WAC-compliant investigation. Proper investigations are the meat and potatoes of claim handling, yet, by all indications, Hinshaw's plate was empty. As noted above, of self-inflicted necessity, WCIA's claim-denial letter cites a "review" of my claim and, then -- understandably absent a WAC-required reasonable explanation -- notes only a "conclusion" to deny the claim.
"[With my] claim
deliberately denied without
investigation/adjustment ..., KB&M was subsequently
paid more than $220,000 by the Authority for
legal-defense services provided to the city."
Other conduct within WCIA was nothing short of grotesque. Paid by WCIA as its general counsel, Mark Bucklin serves concurrently as board director, president, and managing shareholder of the Seattle law firm Keating, Bucklin & McCormack (KB&M). [KB&M Website: Bucklin] A separate public disclosure request of mine to Kirkland revealed that the city sent a copy of my claim to Bucklin at the same time city risk management coordinator Kathy Joyner forwarded the original claim to the Authority per WCIA's prescribed claim-handling procedures. Because this bootleg copy of the claim was sent -- lawyer to lawyer -- from the "CAO" (city attorney's office) to "Mark Bucklin" [Claim Transmittal Form], any associated communications through such a channel, then or later, enjoy an attorney-client privilege that Kirkland and WCIA have each used to deny me access to specific, formally requested records. Far more chilling than that, however, is that (a) with the city attorney's office tagging Bucklin from Day 1 for involvement in the claim, and (b) with the city-transmitted claim deliberately denied without investigation/adjustment as a result of the self-serving WCIA-Kirkland "agreement" that Bolasina has described, KB&M was subsequently paid more than $220,000 by the Authority for legal-defense services provided to the city. [WCIA Payments to KB&M] (Given this enormous cash windfall, it's academic to see that Bucklin would have very strong motivation to have me believe -- through WCIA denials of my requested access -- that a WAC-compliant investigation supported the Authority's decision to deny my claim.)
That scenario represents the worst and most lucrative instance of conflict of interest I've ever encountered. And, as I see it, especially with Bucklin himself "appearing" as legal counsel to Kirkland, he's squarely in violation of the Authority's by-laws, which forbid a WCIA "employee" (Bucklin meets any standard definition) from gaining monetarily from an Authority "transaction." Under the section heading “Pecuniary Interest,” WCIA’s by-laws state in Article XIII, Conflict of Interest and Appearance of Fairness Procedure:
No current employee of the
Authority … shall:
With the WCIA member agreement giving the Authority's executive director (Leigh) exclusive responsibility and authority for appointing attorneys to serve as legal counsel to member entities such as Kirkland, Bucklin's appointment as such by Leigh is clearly a WCIA transaction.9 So, as it was, with my claim's unlawful denial by the Authority (Leigh), (a) a red-handed Kirkland dodged my silver bullet, (b) an astoundingly wayward WCIA kept a very large sum of would-be settlement money in its coffers, and (c) I, as the only party who, in good faith, "followed the rules," suffered -- and continue to suffer -- enormously, as does my entire family. Ironically, WCIA's by-laws assign to the Authority general counsel (Bucklin) the duty of advising WCIA employees regarding conflict of interest.
instance of conflict of interest I've ever encountered."
Significantly, the overly cozy association between WCIA and Kirkland goes back 30 years, with the city an original member of the Authority. Further, Bucklin has been WCIA's general counsel since 1981. In light of this, and while outrageous, it's not surprising that the city, deliberately self-cloaked in attorney-client privilege, conspired with WCIA in the unlawful denial of my uninvestigated/unadjusted claim -- with a fence-straddling and, ultimately, "double-dipping" Bucklin (Keating, Bucklin & McCormack), through a peculiar city notification, involved from the get-go. Naturally, the City of Kirkland desperately hoped to avoid the stinging fallout of an Authority-investigated/adjusted and, hence, settled claim regarding the city's patently unjust discipline and the resulting asserted constructive wrongful discharge of a nine-year police officer who had served the rank and file aggressively as the peer-elected president of the Kirkland Police Guild.
I find it astounding that instead of Authority general counsel Bucklin ensuring that WCIA complied with controlling state law regarding insurer processing of a received claim for damages (as, presumably it routinely does), he acted from the very beginning as a defense lawyer for Kirkland -- as if the WCIA member agreement somehow legitimizes abrogation of his general counsel responsibilities. There's another apt popular saying: "First things first."
"[T]he Authority flouted Washington law
in an unholy scheme that left me stripped
of claimant rights -- and, thus, wholly
without sought relief of any kind."
The WCIA website, on its "About Page" under "Litigation and Claims Management," states:
WCIA believes in fair and equitable claims handling. If a member is liable, we strive to pay what is owed in a timely manner. However, should the member not be liable, WCIA takes an aggressive approach to litigation, as opposed to loss settlement for cost saving purposes. [Link]
In light of those Authority words, and with this WCIA.biz home page drawing to a close, here's a general summary: As with any insurance operation in Washington, WCIA determinations regarding liability, or a lack thereof, are to be based on the "reasonable investigation" mandated by state law. This, of course, is the only way to make a properly informed decision supported by the assembled universe of relevant facts. It is certainly the only way to ensure that the Authority's claim handling is, in fact, "fair and equitable." Authority executive director Leigh himself has told me that the types of Kirkland misconduct asserted in my claim are, in fact, "covered" by the WCIA member agreement. Yet, Leigh, who additionally told me that he himself denied my claim, did so without a claim adjuster investigating the claim. And, clearly, Authority general counsel Bucklin did not prevent this outright trampling of Washington law -- which, as a result, allowed his KB&M law firm to realize handsome defense-services billings to WCIA of roughly a quarter-million dollars. Then, Stafford Frey Cooper attorney Bolasina, having concluded a Leigh-directed review of my claim's handling, acknowledged to me that (a) the claim was not investigated/adjusted and (b) the claim is, in fact, meritorious. Therefore, under unambiguous Washington law, WCIA has a clear duty -- still unmet -- to settle my claim.
As a man whose integrity has never been challenged or sullied, I -- in eminently good faith, and following all instructions -- submitted my detailed, signed and notarized claim for damages to the City of Kirkland knowing that any fraud could result in prosecution for a Class C felony.10 It is a travesty of enormous consequence that, for its part in the handling of that claim, the Washington Cities Insurance Authority -- with its Leigh and Bucklin -- tossed Washington insurance law out the window.
Leigh strikes me as the spoiled brat
with the game not going his way, takes his ball and goes home. The "ball," however, does not belong to Leigh. It belongs to
the citizens of Washington.
Naturally, I'll be using Washington public disclosure law in search of other Authority-handled "covered" claims for damage that were denied without investigation/adjustment. Wouldn't it be remarkable if my claim is the only one so handled? Upon submission of this request, I'll post it and the WCIA response on the website. [(Pending) Public Disclosure Request; Response]
During the months to come, I'll be posting additional website material -- primarily hyperlinked documents -- that provide a closer look at how the Authority flouted Washington law in an obscene scheme that left me stripped of claimant rights and, thus, wholly without sought relief of any kind.
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1 Following my honorable retirement from the U.S. Marine Corps after 21 years of service, I served as a Kirkland police officer for nine years. As a Marine, I held 10 ranks from private to major (7 ranks in the Infantry) and was decorated for superior performance of duty by the secretary of the Navy and for heroism by the president. As a police officer, I was the peer-elected president of my academy class and, later, the peer-elected president of the Kirkland Police Guild. My various assignments with the Kirkland Police Department included Patrol officer, Community Resource officer, and Training officer. I hold baccalaureate and master's degrees in Communication from the University of Washington, where I served as a peer-elected senator of the Graduate and Professional Student Senate.
2 Washington Administrative Code (WAC) 284-30-330 (4): "Refusing to pay claims without conducting a reasonable investigation." [Link]
3 WAC 284-30-330 (6): "Not attempting in good faith to effectuate prompt, fair and equitable settlements of claims in which liability has become reasonably clear." [Link]
4 The Kirkland Police Guild's five-person executive board referred my city-denied discipline grievance to arbitration based on the manifest merit that the city disciplined me without the "just cause" mandated by the collective bargaining agreement (CBA). Later, in response to my written petition for assistance, the seven-member Kirkland City Council forwarded to WCIA a copy of the petition, which was supported by incontrovertible documentary evidence that the city's disciplinary action lacked the just cause mandated by the CBA -- as well as municipal code, civil service rules, and city discipline policy.
5 Medina v. Public Utility District No. 1 of Benton Count, 147 Wn.2d 303, 53 P.3d 993 (2002). [Link]
6 Significantly, in the case of a first-party claimant (I, rather, am a third-party claimant), this is a further violation of Washington law. WAC 284-30-330 (7) identifies as an unfair trade practice: "Compelling a first party claimant to initiate or submit to litigation ... to recover amounts due under an insurance policy by offering substantially less than the amounts ultimately recovered in such actions or proceedings." [Link] Of course, with WCIA's unlawful failure to investigate my claim and, as a result, become "reasonably clear" of Kirkland's liability, no "amount" was offered to me. Instead, according to Bolasina, the city and WCIA simply "agreed" to deny the claim.
7 WCIA's "Self-Insurance Coverage Document," under "Errors or Commissions Liability," at "1. Coverage," states, "In consideration of the agreement herein provided, the Authority shall pay on behalf of its members [e.g., City of Kirkland) all sums which the member shall become legally obligated to pay because of any occurrence which results in a claim for damages and expenses, all as more fully defined by the term "ultimate net loss," because of any claim for breach of any duty made against the member for breach of any duty made against the member by reason of any neglect, act, error or omission committed by the member." [Link]
8 RCW 48.62.101 (“Access to information”) states (emphasis added): "(2) Notwithstanding any provision to the contrary contained in the public records act, chapter 42.56 RCW, in a claim or action against the state or a local government entity, no person is entitled to discover that portion of any funds or liability reserve established for purposes of satisfying a claim or cause of action, except that the reserve is discoverable in a supplemental or ancillary proceeding to enforce a judgment. All other records of individual or joint self-insurance programs are subject to disclosure in accordance with chapter 42.56 RCW.
10 See Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 48.30.230. [Link]