Lt Governor Mary Fallin wants bipartisan appointment

Monday, August 16th 2004, 3:22 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Lt. Gov. Mary Fallin is objecting to the way elected officials are replaced when they resign from office.

If embattled Insurance Commissioner Carroll Fisher resigns or is removed from office, his successor should be named from a list submitted by a bipartisan committee, Fallin said Monday.

``We're already hearing talk of this or that term-limited Democratic legislator being considered to replace Mr. Fisher if he departs, almost like a divine right working here,'' the Republican lieutenant governor said.

``Frankly, I think the process of appointing a major state agency head should be more deliberative than this.''

She suggested that any insurance commissioner vacancy be filled by a bipartisan group modeled on the state's Judicial Nominating Commission.

She asked Democratic Gov. Brad Henry to name a bipartisan committee of five to seven members to screen and interview applicants if a vacancy occurs.

Paul Sund, spokesman for Henry, said the governor ``applies a bipartisan approach to every gubernatorial appointment, screening applicants and selecting the most qualified candidates without regard to personal or political concerns.

``If a vacancy occurs in the insurance commissioner's office, for example, the governor will simply select the best person for the job, using the same nonpartisan process he employs in other appointments.''

Sund said the state's appointment process is governed by both state law and the Oklahoma Constitution ``so any formal changes to it would have to be approved by the Legislature, and in some cases, the people.''

He said Henry is ``certainly willing to explore any proposed improvements in the process.''

A legislative committee is scheduled to meet next week to consider impeachment proceedings against Fisher, who has been charged with several felonies.

Fisher was recently indicted on an embezzlement count tied to his depositing a $1,000 campaign contribution into his personal checking account. He earlier was charged with felonies tied to the operation of a charity in his name and an education fund set up for insurance agents.