Curran named to IWIF post

The Baltimore Sun

Former Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. was hired this week as a top executive at the Injured Workers Insurance Fund, the quasi-public workers' compensation insurance provider.

Curran, 75, was selected for the $125,000-a-year job by IWIF management, which reports to a board of gubernatorial appointees. Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley, Curran's son-in-law, has not yet named any members to the board.

Curran had expressed his interest in the top job at IWIF when the agency's former head, Thomas L. Bromwell, was forced to step down to answer a public corruption indictment stemming from his time in the state Senate. Curran didn't get the job but later applied for the post of assistant vice president in the claims department with responsibility for policy and compliance.

He was selected from several candidates, said IWIF board chairman Daniel E. McKew. "I think it will be a great help to have somebody of that experience to be able to help us out with the legislature going forward," McKew said. "I think it was a coup."

Curran could not be reached for comment yesterday.

McKew said the position was advertised according to the agency's normal procedures and the final hiring decision was made by IWIF's management, not the board. A spokeswoman for IWIF President Thomas Phelan referred questions to McKew.

In a news release, Phelan said Curran "will help ensure that IWIF's claim department continues its high compliance standards with best industry practices."

"We are enormously pleased to have secured someone with Joseph Curran's experience, expertise and skills," Phelan said in the statement.

McKew said IWIF officials concluded that Curran's employment with the insurer would not pose any conflicts of interest. "We don't really have anything that comes into conflict with the governor's policies," McKew said. "Really, we just have to worry about the changes in the insurance industry. We didn't see any conflict when we talked to him, and he doesn't see any conflict, which is why we moved forward."

IWIF, which was created by the state nearly a century ago to provide workers compensation insurance for those who can't get it otherwise, is now the largest provider of that coverage in the state. It underwrites the coverage of nearly a quarter of the state's work force and acts as the workers compensation claims administrator for all state government employees. It has assets and reserves of $1.5 billion.

The agency's $47 million budget is funded by premiums and investment income, not tax dollars.

Curran, who is scheduled to start work Wednesday, will be charged with providing legal direction on claims, supervising equal employment opportunity in IWIF's claims department, reviewing claims policies for legal compliance and acting as a liaison with local governments that are IWIF clients.

Before his five terms as attorney general, Curran served as lieutenant governor from 1983 to 1987 and in the legislature from 1959 to 1983. He began his career as a claims adjuster for the Transit Casualty Co. and represented insurance companies throughout his career as a lawyer in private practice.

O'Malley's relationship with Curran loomed large for much of last year's gubernatorial campaign. Curran announced late in the primary season that he would not run for a sixth term as attorney general, after many Democrats worried that voters would be put off by seeing him and O'Malley on the same ticket.

Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. frequently questioned how effectively and objectively the lawyers in Curran's office represented his administration, considering his family ties to O'Malley.

Del. Carolyn J. Krysiak, a Baltimore Democrat who heads a workers compensation subcommittee, said yesterday she and other lawmakers have been frustrated with the level of compliance with workers compensation laws in Maryland. She said Curran brings the right abilities to turn that around.

"Joe Curran believes in fairness, he believes in people carrying their own weight and hauling their own burdens, and so hopefully we'll see a big change," Krysiak said. "I think it's a great fit."

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