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Fisher Quits, Okla. Gov. Seeks Replacement

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Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry says he has begun seeking a replacement for Carroll Fisher, the state’s former insurance commissioner.[@@]

Fisher resigned from his post 2 days before the start of an impeachment trial on corruption charges.[@@]

“By law, Deputy Insurance Commissioner Daryl England will serve as acting director until a successor is named,” the governor says in a statement.

Henry told reporters he hopes to fill the $99,825-a-year commissioner post within 30 days.

Fisher’s attorney, Irwin Box, delivered his client’s letter of resignation Friday morning. Henry, who had asked Fisher to step down weeks ago, accepted it immediately.

Fisher has been indicted in connection with criminal charges that include allegations of mishandling charity funds and political contribution money.

Earlier Fisher told National Underwriter “I will fight this to the end.”

In the past, Fisher ignored calls for his resignation from the Oklahoma attorney general and House speaker. Fisher had said he expected legislators would apologize to him after he proved his innocence.

Fisher’s decision to resign was, Henry says, “without question, the best course of action for the people of Oklahoma. Although Fisher can continue his legal battles as a private citizen, our state will be spared the cost and damage of an ouster trial in the Senate.”

Just 2 days before his resignation, Oklahoma Supreme Court Chief Justice Joseph M. Watt had denied a request by Fisher to delay the impeachment trial that was due to begin today, ruling that “the issues presented by the specified articles of impeachment have been known by all parties for many months.”

Fisher was accused in the articles of neglect of duty, incompetence and corruption in office and 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.

? Used his official position to dig up dirt on a political opponent.

Henry says, “in accordance with the Oklahoma Constitution and state statutes, I will begin the process of appointing a new insurance commissioner. I will approach this position as I do every appointment, seeking the best person for the job. I am confident this process will produce a highly qualified commissioner with unquestioned honesty and integrity.”

Fisher, who was elected twice to his post, says in a statement he was proud that licensed agents and revenues increased under his tenure.

Before the House vote on impeachment articles, which went overwhelmingly against him, Fisher says he had offered to give any member who visited him his side but none came. He refused to testify for an investigating panel.

He resigned, he says, because, as he prepared for his state Senate trial, “I realized my efforts were futile. I have always prepared for success and not failure. When faced with that reality, I made the decision that I believe is in the best interest of all Oklahomans, most especially my family.”

He continues to face criminal charges in connection with the allegations that he used the campaign donation for personal expenses, illegally operated a charity and mishandled funds for an insurance education conference.

David Meuser, a spokesperson for the Oklahoma department, says Fisher “resigned on Friday, business as usual on Monday.” He says England was meeting with staff and “the governor is expected to make an appointment some time in the next month or so.”