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Grand jury seeks testimony from businessman in Carroll Fisher case

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ An Oklahoma grand jury focusing on Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner Carroll Fisher wants to take testimony from a Texas businessman who had business dealings with him, a newspaper reported Monday.

The panel wants to compel Gene E. Phillips to testify on Sept. 27. He has been ordered to appear before a Dallas judge next week to show cause why he shouldn't be required to testify, The Oklahoman reported.

Phillips complained the procedure is a publicity stunt ``to influence media reporting in a hostile and prejudicial manner.''

``Individuals who believe Mr. Phillips will sit still for this unfair treatment are not well-acquainted with him,'' said his attorney Stephen Jones of Enid.

The grand jury also is seeking to compel testimony from Phillips' son, Bradford, and an employee, Brenda Lewis, records show.

The grand jury's judge already has ruled their testimony is ``necessary and material'' to the investigation.

The grand jury is focusing on Fisher's Sept. 21, 1999, decision approving the sale of Tulsa's American Reserve Life Insurance Co. to a Phillips-linked company.

The state House last week voted to impeach Fisher, in part for accepting almost $20,000 worth of furniture from another Phillips-linked company after approving the sale.

Fisher allowed the purchase of American Reserve Life Insurance Co. over the strong objections of his own staff, who opposed the deal because of concerns about Phillips' character.

Regulators in Arizona and Montana had turned down attempts of Phillips-linked companies to operate insurance companies in their states. Arizona regulators cited Phillips' involvement in the multimillion dollar collapses of Southmark Corp. and Pacific Standard Life Insurance Co.

Fisher already faces felony embezzlement charges as a result of the grand jury's probe.

Fisher has repeatedly denied wrongdoing.
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