Insurance Commissioner John Doak's spending practices targeted in bill advanced by Senate panel
BY BARBARA HOBEROCK World Capitol Bureau
Tuesday, February 19, 2013
2/19/13 at 8:07 AM
OKLAHOMA CITY - A bill aimed at curbing the purchasing practices of state Insurance Commissioner John Doak passed a Senate panel Monday.
Sen. Harry Coates, R-Seminole, said he wrote Senate Bill 8 after learning that Doak spent thousands of dollars on police vehicles for his anti-fraud unit.
The measure heads to the Senate floor after securing passage by a vote of 7-0 from the Senate Committee on General Government.
The measure prohibits investigators from operating specialized motor vehicles that are equipped and marked in a manner that is different from other department vehicles.
If signed into law, the measure would require Doak to sell the vehicles, Coates said.
Owen Laughlin, deputy commissioner of the Insurance Department and a former state senator, said it was important for the vehicles to be marked anti-fraud as opposed to just being labeled as Insurance Department vehicles. The agency often shows up at disaster scenes, Laughlin said.
"Insurance fraud in Oklahoma is rampant," Laughlin said. "The whole idea behind putting anti-fraud on the side is to try to have a presence at those places. They know people are watching. We know it deters fraud if we show up with some kind of presence."
Doak also purchased weapons for the unit.
The measure would allow investigators to carry firearms, but that could change, Coates said.
Sen. Cliff Aldridge, R-Midwest City, asked Coates whether he had concerns that keeping the weapons provision in the bill could result in the opening of a Pandora's box for other agencies with investigators who might want to carry weapons.
Coates said he would entertain an amendment to remove that provision.
Another Coates measure aimed at Doak's office will not get a hearing before the Senate Committee on General Government, said Sen. Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, the panel's chairman.
SB 713 would limit the use of state aircraft to the governor, lieutenant governor or Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management.
Coates said he wrote the measure after learning that Doak has used state aircraft to crisscross the state to attend events and meetings.
The measure would allow officials permitted to use state aircraft to invite others on trips.
Treat said he had problems with a section of the bill clamping down on public service announcements by state officials.
The measure would ban lawmakers and statewide elective officers from appearing in public service announcements.
Doak, state Treasurer Ken Miller and Gov. Mary Fallin have appeared in several ads.
Coates has said he believed that Doak was using the public service announcements to campaign.
Treat said he thinks Fallin's use of public service announcements to promote adoption and foster care is appropriate and effective.
Treat said that section of the bill is too broad.
Original Print Headline: Panel advances bill targeting Doak practices
Barbara Hoberock 405-528-2465
Insurance Commissioner John Doak: His vehicles are specially marked as being from the department's anti-fraud unit.