The Oklahoma lawmaker originally responsible for launching an investigation into state Insurance Commissioner Carroll Fisher announced that a quick removal from office will prevent Fisher from further benefiting from his improper actions.
Rep. John Trebilcock, who authored the resolution that created the special committee to investigate Fisher, urged his colleagues to act quickly on the House panel’s recommendation to draft articles of impeachment.
“Commissioner Fisher’s refusal to do the right thing and resign is the height of selfishness,” Trebilcock said. “Instead, he has continued to waste taxpayer dollars both by necessitating impeachment proceedings and by taking a state paycheck.”
The Broken Arrow Republican said failure to act quickly could leave the state saddled with supporting Fisher even after he is out of office. “If the commissioner is allowed to keep his office until February, he will vest in the state retirement system and be entitled to collect a check every month for the rest of his life for the years he spent abusing his office.”
If Fisher becomes fully vested, he would collect approximately $14,400 annually after leaving office, based on his benefit contributions. If Fisher is removed from office or resigns before January, he would receive only an amount equal to his contributions into the retirement system. The state Insurance Commissioner receives an annual salary of $99,875.
Fisher, who has been indicted by a grand jury for embezzlement of state funds, illegal operation of a charity, and embezzlement of a campaign contribution, has repeatedly declared he has no intention to resign.
“The matter of right versus wrong is not a partisan issue, and the actions committed by the Commissioner are wrong,” Trebilcock said. The committee found Fisher exhibited willful neglect of duty, corruption in office, and incompetence.
The eight-member legislative panel that has been investigating Fisher concluded its work Monday, voting unanimously to recommend impeachment of the embattled commissioner. The committee also recommended in its report that the next Legislature refer to the voters a Constitutional amendment to change the office to an appointed, rather than elected, position.
Trebilcock filed a measure this year to change the position of State Insurance Commissioner to an appointed position. “I’m especially pleased to see support building for my proposal, which did not even receive a hearing this session, to make the office appointed,” he said. The freshman legislator announced earlier this month plans to introduce similar legislation in the upcoming session.
Making the office appointed “would improve the chances of restoring respect and integrity to the position,” Trebilcock said. “There is an inherent conflict of interest when a candidate receives contributions from the very groups he or she regulates.”
The full membership of the House is required to vote on the articles of impeachment; a special legislative session has been scheduled for Sept. 9 to consider adoption. If the articles are adopted by the House, Fisher’s removal from office would then be decided by a trial in the Senate.
“Oklahomans can be proud that members of both parties, and now even the Governor, have called on the commissioner to do the right thing and resign,” said Trebilcock.
The Governor convened the First Extraordinary Session of the 49th Legislature earlier this year to ensure continuation of the impeachment investigation after the regular session adjourned May 28.
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