Oklahoma insurance commissioner's spending scrutinized
BY BARBARA HOBEROCK World Capitol Bureau & CASEY SMITH World Staff Writer
Sunday, February 03, 2013
2/03/13 at 8:15 AM
Search a database of credit card
transactions made by the office
of Insurance Commissioner John
OKLAHOMA CITY - Motivational books.
Chamber of commerce memberships.
Those are a few of the items purchased by the office of state Insurance Commissioner John Doak.
Sen. Harry Coates, an outspoken critic of the insurance commissioner, said the purchases look like "frivolous spending, at the very least."
Coates, R-Seminole, said the agency's huge expenses for advertising and memberships to various chambers of commerce have nothing to do with regulating the insurance industry.
Coates accused Doak of using his office to campaign.
"All of our expenses have been in line with the constitutional duties of the Oklahoma Insurance Department and consistent with educating the public as to what OID does," said Kelly Collins, a spokeswoman for the agency.
The Office of Management and Enterprise Services provided the Tulsa World with a list of the agency's credit card purchases in response to an open records request. The analysis is for 2011 and 2012.
Doak took office in January 2011. His department has about 130 employees.
The agency spent at least $2,000 at Barnes and Noble for copies of "Who Moved My Cheese," a best-selling motivational book on how to deal with change.
The books were given to employees for training, Collins said.
The agency also spent thousands for various publications, including The Wall Street Journal, Sequoyah County Times, Tulsa World, New York Times, The Economist, Tulsa Beacon, World Magazine, El Latino American, Woodward News, The Oklahoman, The Journal Record and the Durant Daily Democrat.
The agency spent at least $6,817 with various chambers of commerce across the state, including the state, Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Ada, Vinita, Lawton and Ardmore.
"These memberships, luncheons and events are vital to keeping staff informed of insurance issues affecting Oklahomans," Collins said.
Uniforms and clothing
It spent at least $27,537 on uniforms for the agency's seven-member anti-fraud unit and employee clothing.
The agency spent $2,202 at Roadrunner Promotions for shirts and jackets.
"These clothing items are for raising awareness of the Oklahoma Insurance Department," Collins said. "Employees wear them to education events, outreach events and during disaster response."
Another $1,066 was spent at the Ear Plug Superstore for microphone equipment for television interviews and production of public service announcements.
It spent at least $8,075 at Blue House Media for producing public service announcements for television, radio education spots and an employee orientation video. It spent $2,099 at 4Imprint for materials to raise awareness about its services.
The agency spent at least $9,766 at H&H Shooting Sports for weapons for the agency's anti-fraud unit.
It also spent $1,762 at the Bass Pro Shops for supplies and equipment for agency staff responding to disaster scenes. Supplies included insect repellent, flashlights, sunscreen, batteries, utility vests, knives and sheaths, according to the agency.
The agency spent $2,250 at Lapel Pins Plus Network.
"These are given out to employees and others to raise awareness about the Oklahoma Insurance Department," Collins said.
It spent $4,908 at a company called Baudville Inc., which provides awards and recognition pieces. The agency purchased plastic tumblers and pen and keychain sets for employee recognition, Collins said.
The agency spent at least $7,643 on caterers, fast food and restaurants. It spent $1,388 at Dan's Steakhouse and $1,650 at the Whistle Stop Bistro for senior fraud conferences in Woodward and McAlester. It spent $2,732 at On the Border and $730 at Mazzio's for employee appreciation lunches.
The agency spent at least $357 on tablecloths for consumer education booths.
Travel and lodging
At least $130,000 was spent on hotels, room charges, air travel and for travel agencies.
Previously, Coates has criticized Doak for spending at least $3,462 to use state aircraft to travel to events. Coates also said Doak was wrong to purchase police equipment, weapons and vehicles for his anti-fraud unit.
Collins said the insurance commissioner is committed to running the department efficiently like a business.
"In the past two years, OID has returned $9 million to the state's general revenue and to taxpayers," Collins said.
Facing budget constraints, the Legislature took unspent funds from the Insurance Department's revolving fund to cover other funding needs during the past two fiscal years. Collins said that money was available because of the agency's fiscal responsibility.
Original Print Headline: Spending by insurance commissioner scrutinized
Barbara Hoberock 405-528-2465
Casey Smith 918-732-8106
John Doak: He is committed to running the department efficiently like a business, says an agency spokeswoman.