Oklahoma Commissioner

Could Be Facing Impeachment

By

A special Oklahoma House committee continues to investigate potential impeachable acts allegedly practiced by Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner Carroll Fisher.

The committee is meeting even as Fisher and Opal Ellis, an insurance department aide, prepare to answer criminal charges in proceedings scheduled to start on July 14.

Fisher says, “Im ready to meet those charges. I wish it was tomorrow.”

A committee hearing was held May 25, following one the previous week, according to a spokesman for Rep. Larry Adair, House speaker for the Oklahoma legislature. The committee is scheduled to meet again on June 9-10, a House representative says.

An extraordinary session was convened by Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry to allow the investigation to continue beyond the end of the session on May 28.

If the majority votes to advance the articles of impeachment after the hearing, then a proceeding similar to a trial will convene, Adairs spokesman explains. State Supreme Court Justices would oversee the proceeding in which House representatives would act as prosecutors and Senate members would act as jurors, he adds.

In an interview with National Underwriter, Fisher spoke of testimony given before the committee. He maintains that an ice machine, which testimony suggests was purchased in part by Century Life Insurance Company, a unit of BancFirst, had no connection to receivership funds that were on deposit with the bank. Of the $4 million in funds, he says “there has always been that much or more” on deposit. It is a major institution locally and there has been an ongoing relationship, he says. Those transactions are court approved, he adds.

Fisher also says he did accept an invitation from Norman Taplin, of Taplin & Associates, a West Palm Beach, Fla., law firm which does insurance work. “It was a Sunday. I thought I was entitled to the day off,” he adds.

But, Fisher continues, there was no connection between the trip and legal fees paid to Taplins firm or $4,500 in campaign contributions made over a 3-year period from 2000 to 2002. The contributions, he says, were a respective $500, $1,000 and $3,000. The fees were paid under order of the court, and the contributions were reported, he contends.

At press time, Taplin could not be reached for comment.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Edition, May 28, 2004. Copyright 2004 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.