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  • Oklahoma Governor Rejects Request for Insurance Department Audit

    February 13, 2013 by Thomas Harman

    OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has rejected a state senator’s request for a performance audit of the state insurance department.

    Sen. Harry Coates, a Republican, told Best’s News Service that given the rejection, his remaining option is to pursue two bills designed to reduce what he sees as excessive department spending.

    “I was very disappointed,” Coates said of Fallin’s decision. Coates asked Fallin to conduct an audit in a Feb. 6 letter, saying it was necessary “in determining if expenditures being made by his office not only conform to the state statute that governs the insurance commissioner, but also that they are being used for the manner intended by the legislature and ethics commission.”

    Fallin replied to him that Insurance Commissioner John Doak filed an audit that covered the nature of Coates’ request on Nov. 30, 2012. The audit Fallin mentioned in her letter was conducted by an independent auditor whose expenses were paid for by the department, Coates said. The auditor’s work should be paid for by a state auditor whose fees are covered by taxpayers at large, he said. “It may be a snapshot of something,” Coates said of the department’s audit report. “We just don’t know what of.”

    Coates said the rejection leaves him with legislative options. There had been plans to offer a bill to address what he views as excessive spending on Doak’s new anti-fraud unit and on Doak’s use of state aircraft, which ranks only behind Fallin’s he said. But the issue of aircraft is now being handled by the state Department of Public Safety, he said, forcing changes.

    Still, Coates is looking at offering two other bills. One of these, SB 8, is designed to prohibit department investigators from operating motor vehicles equipped and marked differently than other department vehicles. Coates describes the department investigators as using “police-style vehicles” and dressing in a manner similar to law enforcement, complete with a firearm. Doak has said customers are more willing to talk to department officials who approach them in such vehicles. While not taking steps to prohibit department personnel from carrying firearms, Coates wants to change the vehicles’ appearance.

    The other bill, S 713, is the amended version of the original that intended to address Doak’s use of aircraft. But now the bill intends to eliminate Doak’s use of his name, image and voice as a sponsor in public service announcements.

    In 2011, Doak slashed the state’s insurance fraud division by two-thirds in a plan to step away from investigating alleged fraud by citizens (Best’s News Service, Jan. 25, 2011). At the time, department officials said “Investigating policyholders is not a function of the insurance department.”

    Doak previously came under fire for appointing former Sen. Randy Brogdon, R-Owasso, as deputy commissioner of consumer affairs and fraud and former Rep. Mike Thompson, R-Oklahoma City, as deputy commissioner of government and public affairs, positions paying $99,000 annually (Best’s News Service, Jan. 19, 2011). Both left office in 2010. Oklahoma law bars lawmakers from working in taxpayer-funded jobs for two years, but a spokesman said that provision does not apply to the insurance department, which is almost entirely funded by designated fees.
    (By Thomas Harman, associate editor, BestWeek) BN-NJ-02-11-2013 1642 ET #

    Originally Posted at A.M. Best on February 11, 2013 by Thomas Harman.

    Categories: Industry Articles
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