The Oklahoma State Senate decided Tuesday to set Sept. 27 as the date for the impeachment trial of State Insurance Commissioner Carroll Fisher on corruption charges.[@@]
“That will give both the defense and the prosecution time to prepare,” says Sen. Charlie Laster, D-Shawnee, Judiciary chairman designate for the State Senate. “The morning of the 27th will be set aside for motions if there need to be any heard, but we expect to be ready to start promptly at 1:30 on Sept. 27.”
Members of the House Board of Managers, who will serve as prosecutors, officially presented the Senate with the 5 articles of impeachment approved by the House last week.
Carroll, who also faces criminal charges in state court, is accused by the house of neglect of duty, incompetence and corruption in office.
He is alleged to have:
- Pocketed $1,000 in campaign money for personal use.
- Put money for a continuing education program in private accounts.
- Used his office to solicit for a private charity.
- Accepted office furniture from an insurer he gave a favorable ruling to for a business acquisition.
- Using his official position to dig up dirt on a political opponent.
Carroll told the National Underwriter that the charges were basically the result of inadvertent failures to file a variety of paperwork for the transactions being questioned.
Of the charges against him, he said, “I will fight this till the end.”
Laster, describing Tuesday’s Senate action, said, “We formally accepted those articles with the approval of Senate Resolution 1. We also formally organized as a court with the adoption of Senate Resolution 2, which details the rules for conducting the trial.”
During the Tuesday session, the officers of the court were given an oath of office. The officers of the court include State Supreme Court Chief Justice Joseph M. Watt, who will serve as presiding officer of the court, and members of the Senate.
“The Senate does sit as a court of impeachment, so the members of the Senate are the court,” a Senate official says. “We have a presiding officer who handles procedure, but basically the Senate will be the jury and make the final determination whether or not the commissioner should be removed from office.”
Although concerns have been raised as to whether the trial could be completed by Nov. 16–the last day in office for some members of the legislature–Laster said he was confident that the trial would be concluded in a timely way. “By starting on Sept. 27, I am very confident that we will be done and we will fulfill our constitutional requirements well in advance of Nov. 16,” he said.
Fisher has resisted calls to resign, and this week represented his state at the National Association of Insurance Commissioners meeting in Anchorage, Alaska.