- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 10, 2004

ANNAPOLIS — A Senate committee has voted unanimously to recommend confirmation of Alfred Redmer as Maryland insurance commissioner, despite complaints from victims of Tropical Storm Isabel that he has not been aggressive enough in helping them collect money from their insurers.

“I support Commissioner Redmer because he’s a good man” and will do a good job, said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., Prince George’s Democrat.

But he said he thinks that if the insurance commissioner in Maryland were elected instead of appointed by the governor, “you would see a different reaction.”

“We need someone to stand up” for the flood victims, Mr. Miller said Monday.

Mr. Redmer said his hands are tied because he has no authority under federal law to fine insurers or force them to settle claims.

Bernice Myer, who lost her Baltimore County home in the storm and has collected only $1,700 from her insurers, asked the panel not to recommend Mr. Redmer’s confirmation to the Senate.

She said homeowners have gotten little help from the Maryland Insurance Administration and that Mr. Redmer is “showing favoritism to the insurance industry.”

“It’s all one-sided. It’s still slanted in the insurance industry’s favor,” Miss Myer said.

Mr. Redmer defended his performance and that of his employees.

“It’s our responsibility to protect Maryland consumers first,” he said.

“[The employees] were swift in their response in handling the complaints of more than 1,300” property owners, Mr. Redmer told the Senate Executive Nominations Committee.

He said the aftermath of Isabel has been one of the most frustrating experiences of his life.

Sen. Andrew P. Harris, a Baltimore County Republican whose district includes homes damaged by the storm, said Mr. Redmer was “out there from the beginning” trying to help flood victims.

Mr. Redmer was asked whether he could levy fines or take other actions against insurers to pressure them to settle claims. Citing the advice of the attorney general’s office, he said he could not do that under federal law.

“We could go out there and levy fines and hold their feet to the fire. We could have done that knowing we would wind up in court,” he said. He said he thinks his staff will be more helpful by continuing to act as advocates for storm victims.

“As soon as I drop the hammer, it’s going to be a confrontational relationship [with insurance companies] and they are not going to return our phone calls,” he said.

Sen. Norman R. Stone Jr., Baltimore County Democrat, appealed to Mr. Redmer to do whatever he can for people who remain homeless more than four months after the storm.

“I’m not going to be neutral,” Mr. Redmer said. “I’m going to be on the side of the consumer.”

Mr. Redmer’s nomination is scheduled for a vote in the Senate on Friday.

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