Multi-county grand jury panel hears testimony from former company officer

Wednesday, February 2nd 2005, 5:24 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- A man who worked for a company that is part of an investigation of former Insurance Commissioner Carroll Fisher[pictured] testified before the multicounty grand jury.

Ron Akin, a former officer for Davister Corp., went to court to keep from being forced to appear before the panel, stating he planned to invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination if called as a witness.

The grand jury has been investigating whether a $25,000 check from Davister Corp. to Fisher was really a bribe.

His appearance on Tuesday was interrupted three times so that he could appear before a judge at hearings that were closed to the public, The Oklahoman reported.

Fisher has been indicted five times, including once for allegedly receiving bribes of "money, gifts and gratuities" from Texas businessman Gene E. Phillips, his family and business associates.

Fisher faces charges of bribery, embezzlement, tax evasion and perjury. He resigned on Sept. 24 after being impeached by the state House.

Grand jurors are looking into allegations that one of the bribes was a $25,000 check from Davister Corp., and that in exchange for the bribes, "Fisher granted preferential treatment to ... Phillips, his family and business associates."

Specifically, in September 1999 Fisher personally approved the sale of Tulsa's American Reserve Life Insurance Co. to a Phillips-related company, jurors found. Fisher "ruled against the recommendations and advice of Insurance Department staff" in approving the sale.

Stephen Jones, Phillips' attorney, has said that Phillips "has never been an officer, director or shareholder of Davister Corp."

However, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission identified the company as being "managed by the same personnel who manage ... other private companies owned by Phillips or his family trusts."