State House committee considering impeachment report

Tuesday, August 24th 2004, 5:51 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- A special House committee may vote in secret on whether Insurance Commissioner Carroll Fisher should be impeached.

Rep. Opio Toure, D-Oklahoma City, chairman, refused Wednesday afternoon to comment on questions about a secret vote.

"We'll have a statement Thursday when everything is concluded," he said.

Earlier, Toure announced that the panel's report would not be released to the public until it has been reviewed by Speaker Larry Adair.

Spokesman Mike Fina said Adair, D-Stilwell, "could sit on the report" if he wanted, but planned to make it public.

"According to House rules, unless they are voting on a bill or a resolution, they don't have to vote in an open forum," Fina said.

He added that the Legislature also is exempt from the state's Open Meeting Act.

Toure's committee -- composed of five Democrats and three Republicans -- began a two-day closed-door meeting on Wednesday to write the impeachment report.

Fisher said Tuesday he will not resign, even though he expects the committee to recommend articles of impeachment. If the 101-member House votes to impeach, a trial would follow in the Senate.

Toure said the full House will likely not meet to consider the committee's report until after the Labor Day weekend.

"There's no reason for me to resign," Fisher said Tuesday in an interview with The Associated Press. He argued that he may have made "some poor judgment calls" but was not guilty of an impeachable offense.

"I've been accused of things by many uninformed people who know nothing of insurance regulatory law," he said. "None of the charges relate to the job I've been doing as insurance commissioner.

"For me to step down with that type of criticism is totally ludicrous."

Fisher is facing two trials on felony criminal charges resulting from his indictment by the state's multicounty grand jury, which continues to investigate the 64-year-old state official. Fisher said he has not knowingly broken any laws.

The latest charge involves a $1,000 contribution from an insurance agent that prosecutors say was deposited in Fisher's personal bank account.

Earlier, he and aide Opal Ellis were hit with embezzlement and other charges linked to a charity formed in his Fisher's name and continuing education program that was set up for insurance agents.

Fisher declined to be interviewed by the House panel, which held its 17th meeting Wednesday and planned a final meeting on Thursday.

The insurance commissioner he exercised his 5th Amendment right because legislators were merely retracing the steps of the grand jury "which is there to indict, not to exonerate."

As far as expecting the panel to vote to impeach, he said: "What else could I expect but the possibility of an impeachment order because they have not uncovered anything themselves."

The grand jury probe that led to the charges against Fisher was overseen by the office of Attorney General Drew Edmondson, a Democrat.

Last week, Democratic Gov. Brad Henry said a decision on him possibly asking Fisher to resign would depend on the report from the impeachment panel.

"He has no constitutional authority over me," Fisher said. "587,000 people elected me, far more than elected him."