Commissioner Fisher May Face Impeachment Proceedings in Oklahoma

March 24, 2004

Two Republican legislators in Oklahoma are pushing the Oklahoma House of Representatives to launch a probe “to determine whether Articles of Impeachment should be preferred” against Insurance Commissioner Carroll Fisher.

According to the House Media Services Division, Rep. John Trebilcock, R-Broken Arrow, recommended the probe in House Resolution 1040. Oklahoma City Rep. Fred Morgan, formerly the House GOP Leader, co-authored the measure.

The resolution states that it is “a proper constitutional function” of the Legislature to investigate “the conduct and administration” of state officials “in the discharge of their duties” and “on the merits of these acts in regard to public policies” of the state, “and to prepare and submit suggested remedies, including impeachment.”

HR 1040 related a number of infractions that Fisher, a Democrat, has allegedly committed:
■ Fisher has been charged in Oklahoma County “with embezzling money raised in connection with an insurance education program and with operating a charity illegally”. An audit revealed that the Fisher Foundation, a private, non-profit organization the Insurance Commissioner established in 1999 to provide shoes for children, had raised more than $54,000 in contributions by last July but none of the money had been spent to buy shoes.
■ Fisher “solicited and accepted gifts” of artwork, furniture and kitchen equipment, valued collectively at more than $30,000, “from entities regulated by the Insurance Department.” In so doing, Trebilcock asserted, Fisher violated his oath of office that, “I will not, knowingly, receive, directly or indirectly, any money or other valuable thing, for the performance or nonperformance of any act or duty pertaining to my office, other than the compensation allowed by law…” Most of the 32 items were donated in 1999 and 2000. After Gov. Brad Henry refused last year to accept the property as “gifts to the state,” Fisher had the items returned to their donors.
■ The Insurance Commissioner distributed thousands of “Friends of Fisher” stickers to medical professionals, “along with instructions to affix them to insurance claim submissions or problem claim correspondence to obtain faster claims processing service.”
■ Fisher is under investigation for reportedly paying Florida lawyer Norman Taplin more than $35,000 for “attorney fees and expenses” with a check Fisher wrote “from the account of an insurance company that was forced into conservatorship by the Insurance Commissioner,” HR 1040 continues. The check was written two weeks after Fisher and Taplin “attended the Super Bowl together in New Orleans,” the resolution notes.
■ The State Ethics Commission reprimanded Fisher for violating constitutional ethics rules during his re-election campaign in 2002. He used his position during the campaign to obtain confidential employment application and documents of his opponent from Farmers Insurance Group.

Trebilcock contended Fisher’s “dubious” activities are cause for the probe and Morgan asserted, “Commissioner Fisher’s conduct is an embarrassment to the people of Oklahoma.”

Trebilcock called on the leadership of House Democrats and Republicans alike to support the measure. The resolution would direct House Speaker Larry E. Adair to appoint the members of the committee to investigate Fisher’s activities.

Speaker Adair responded to the call for approval of Resolution 1040 with the following statement: “Although we understand the reasoning behind the measure, it is important that the House handle the matter with the utmost professionalism. This is not an issue to be taken lightly.

“The process of impeaching a state official is not an everyday occurrence. It has been ten years since a resolution of this nature has been considered and almost thirty years since the House voted to prefer articles of impeachment. We must act with due diligence.”

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