Marlborough, Mass., shop owner Joseph Valarioti says his removal from the state’s vehicle damage appraiser licensing board and subsequent replacement with a representative from Progressive Insurance this summer is a violation of state law.
Recently, Gov. Deval Patrick replaced Valarioti, a 15-year board member and owner of Central Auto Rebuilders, with Karen Mills, Massachusetts claims manager for Progressive, a move that Valarioti says swings the balance of the board which state law says is supposed to equally represent insurers and repairers in favor of insurers.
The independent board meets monthly to license the state’s auto-damage appraisers and resolve complaints between repairers and insurers. The board, whose members are appointed by the governor, is supposed to be composed of two representatives of auto body repairers, two insurance industry representatives and one lay person who serves as chair. Valarioti and critics of the governor claim the new appointment shifts the board’s balance to three insurance representatives, but the state disagrees.
According to the Boston Herald, the state says the board was skewed in favor of repairers before Mills’ appointment because of board member Joseph Coyne, the owner of Home & Auto Appraisal Inc. The state counts him as a member of the repair industry, but critics of the decision say that since Coyne used to work as an appraiser and supervisor for an insurance company and because his current business counts insurers as clients, he represents the insurance industry.
A former state representative who regularly attends meetings of the board told the Herald that Coyne "certainly acts in favor of insurance companies on most matters that come before the board."
Valarioti says he doesn’t want to fight to regain his position, but he
finds it “kind of fishy” that an insurance representative was chosen as
his replacement, given his general distrust and vocal
criticisms of Progressive at board meetings. Valarioti told the MetroWest Daily News he believes the company’s Concierge Claims Service, which isn’t offered in Massachusetts, is a form of steering.
Valarioti says he learned of his removal when he received a letter in the mail that thanked him for his years of service but didn’t specifically say he was off the board. At the next meeting he attended, he saw “someone else sitting where I sit,” he told the Daily News.