Grand jury continues investigation of insurance commissioner

Tuesday, July 27th 2004, 10:57 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ A former insurance company head and a state Insurance Department fiscal officer testified Monday before a multicounty grand jury investigating Insurance Commissioner Carroll Fisher.

Steven Silverstein, who was chief executive of the failed Heritage National Insurance Co., was one of at least five witnesses who testified in the closed proceedings.

Silverstein has previously alleged Fisher wrote a $35,000 check to Florida lawyer Norman Taplin from a Heritage National account for legal work that was not performed. Fisher was able to write checks on the account because he had forced the insurance company into conservatorship.

Also testifying were Nancy Tackett, a state Insurance Department fiscal officer who has testified that she raised concerns with Fisher about how continuing education funds were being handled, Oklahoma Ethics Commission executive director Marilyn Hughes and Fisher Foundation accountant Randy Compton.

Hughes' commission has reprimanded Fisher on several occasions for using his office to obtain personnel data on a political opponent, soliciting regulated companies to donate $30,000 in office furniture and asking doctors and hospitals to affix ``Friend of Carroll Fisher'' stickers to their claims forms.

The grand jury was expected to continue its investigation of Fisher with more testimony Tuesday and Wednesday. Fisher and his special assistant, Opal Ellis, have been indicted on charges of embezzlement and operating a charity illegally,

They are accused of illegally running a charity that was created to buy shoes for needy children and depositing into Ellis' personal bank account money from an education fund for the insurance industry.

Fisher also was facing four other candidates Tuesday in the Democratic primary for a U.S. Senate seat.