Comptroller Says She Warned Okla.’s Commissioner Fisher of Fund

June 15, 2004

A staff accountant testified Thursday that she advised Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner Carroll Fisher that it was improper to use a private bank account to handle funds for an education program for insurance agents.

The testimony by Nancy Tackett, comptroller at the state Insurance Department, came before the House impeachment committee, chaired by Rep. Opio Toure, D-Oklahoma City.

Toure announced the committee was recessing its proceedings until Aug. 2, when it will resume hearing witnesses.

Among the other witnesses Thursday was Steven B. Silverstein of Tulsa, who testified he felt pressure from Fisher to hire a Florida attorney to help his insurance company with its financial problems.
Tackett said she advised Fisher, aide Opal Ellis, and others of her concerns about how funds were being handled for the continuing education day program.

Fisher and Ellis have been hit with felony embezzlement charges tied to the operation of the program. They also have been accused of illegally operating a charity set up in Fisher’s name to buy shoes for poor children.

Tackett said she felt she had fulfilled her responsibility by informing Fisher and others at the agency of her concerns about the continuing education funds.

“I was running into brick walls, so I kind of distanced myself,” she said.

Tackett said she had worked for other state agencies and knew that the continuing education funds should have been placed on “the official books of the state and they were not being handled that way.”
Fisher has not testified before the committee, but he told reporters Wednesday that no money is missing and “once I get the opportunity to show the books, show the records, you’ll find that there’s not any problem there.”

According to the charges against Fisher, the money should have been deposited with the state treasurer. Instead, they were placed in a bank account opened by Ellis.

Silverstein testified that he hired Florida attorney Norm Taplin at the suggestion of Fisher. He said Fisher later summoned him to a meeting with Taplin in Chicago, but Fisher did not show up.
He said he later was surprised to learn that his company had been placed in receivership and Taplin informed him he was resigning because he did not want to be in conflict with the state insurance agency.

Silverstein said his company had paid Taplin for his services and balked at paying a bill presented after the Chicago meeting. That bill was subsequently paid by Fisher, who became the receiver for Heritage.

Meanwhile, Fisher was among several filing his candidacy last week for the U.S. Senate. Fisher, a Democrat, when asked why he is filing while he’s facing these problems, said: “It’s an opportunity of a lifetime. It’s a window that’s open, and I’m willing to take the opportunity to step through.”

Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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