By Staff Writers, INSURANCE JOURNAL

February 18, 2020

https://www.insurancejournal.com/news/west/2020/02/18/558731.htm

A non-profit consumer group announced on Tuesday it has filed a lawsuit to compel California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara and the California Department of Insurance to hand over records of Lara’s meetings and communications with insurance companies.

The lawsuit was filed in the Superior Court of California for the County of Los Angeles. It was brought under the Public Records Act stems from what the group calls “a pay-to-play scandal.” Santa Monica, Calif.-based Consumer Watchdog is the plaintiff in the lawsuit and Lara is the named defendant.

Instead of turning over copies of Lara’s calendar as requested, the CDI made public a summary of Lara’s meetings, according to the group.

According to the lawsuit, Consumer Watchdog has been informed by whistleblowers that the CDI created a new version of the original calendar entries to avoid disclosing certain meetings and meeting “notes” containing details of Lara’s interactions with insurance company officials. None of the calendar entries provided by the CDI contain any such notes, nor were any meeting agenda records, internal memos, or phone call logs provided, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit seeks to compel Lara to disclose his actual calendar.

“The Public Records Act requires the actual records to be produced, not a paraphrase that could conceal critical details,” said Jerry Flanagan, litigation director for Consumer Watchdog, said in a statement.

Lara during a press conference on Tuesday to talk about a new “hardened homes” wildfire bill, fielded a question about the suit.

He said the calendar has been turned over.

“I believe in transparency, my calendar has been public and you can find those details on our website,” Lara said.

The two Public Records Act requests at issue in the lawsuit seek Lara’s calendar of meetings and communications with executives of insurance companies with business pending before the CDI

The records relate to $54,300 in campaign contributions Lara received from individuals linked to two insurance companies, Applied Underwriters and Independence Holding Co., after Lara pledged not to take contributions from companies regulated by the CDI.