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Colorado official that tangled with Dem senator over Obamacare departs

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The Colorado administrator who tussled with Democratic Sen. Mark Udall over a report on the state’s Obamacare-cancelled plans is now leaving her department for good.

One of Udall’s potential 2014 challengers has linked the move to the senator’s office. (RELATED: Dem sen accused of ‘bullying’ over Obamacare cancellations)

Jo Donlin, currently director of external affairs for the Colorado Division of Insurance, will leave the post Feb. 28 and start fresh as a health care adviser in the state’s Division of Professions and Occupations, according to the Denver Post.

Republican state Rep. Amy Stephens, who is seeking the GOP nomination to face Udall in the 2014 Senate race, believes Udall’s office is to blame.

“It is disappointing that Jo Donlin is leaving her job at the Department of Insurance as a result of shameful attempts by the office of Sen. Mark Udall to bully her into changing Obamacare insurance cancellation data,” Stephens announced.

“Ms. Donlin should be applauded for refusing to capitulate to the politically motivated demands made by Sen. Udall’s staff. State employees should not be pressured by the office of a United States Senator.”

Donlin has become the center of a controversy over the number of Coloradoans whose health care plans were canceled due to Affordable Care Act regulations.

After the state’s insurance department released its initial estimate that 250,000 state residents would have their individual policies cancelled, Sen. Udall’s office , claiming that the cancellations simply didn’t count because 95 percent included some options for renewals.

Joe Britton, Udall’s legislative director, even threatened to challenge the numbers publicly if Donlin didn’t make a change, according to emails released by CompleteColorado.com

“We need to move on this ASAP — or we’ll be forced to challenge the 249K number ourselves,” Britton emailed Donlin, who didn’t take the accusation lying down.

“Sen. Udall says our numbers were wrong. They are not wrong,” Donlin wrote. “Cancellation notices affected 249,199 people… They want to trash our numbers.  I’m holding strong while we get more details.”

Donlin emailed another colleague that after trying to explain the report’s conclusions to Britton, she received a “very hostile call from Sen. Udall’s deputy chief of staff.”

After requests from state Republicans, including Rep. Stephens, the state’s Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) convened a panel which supposedly conducted an investigation into the issue, but doubts were raised when DORA’s chief Barbara Kelley was unable to provide documents or detailed information on the investigation to reporters.

Reversing her initial decision to keep the members of the panel private, Kelley revealed in January that herself and three other Democratic officials compromised the “neutral panel.” She maintained that she’d kept no notes from the oral interviews that provided the basis of the investigation.

The panel said it found no evidence of intimidation or coercion on the part of Udall or his staff. Donlin has not made any public statement on the controversy.

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