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Inquiry on official expanding

By Nolan Clay Published: June 22, 2003
Copyright 2003, The Oklahoman

An investigation by state prosecutors of Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner Carroll Fisher has expanded to include a charity he set up in 1999.

"They're welcome to," said Fisher, a Democrat who was re-elected last year.

"I'm not really sure what's the big deal about that, that we're trying to help school children."

His Fisher Foundation is a nonprofit organization set up to provide shoes to children.

At issue is who gives to the charity, how the donations have been solicited and how the money has been spent.

Among the donors are insurance agents who are regulated by Fisher, The Oklahoman has learned.

Also, the charity has yet to buy any shoes from the funds.

The insurance commissioner last week said he will provide an independent audit of the charity to Attorney General Drew Edmondson.

"I was not asked to do it," Fisher told The Oklahoman. "I said, 'Just because there's the controversy and the concern, I'll go do that.'"

Fisher came under investigation by state prosecutors after the Oklahoma Ethics Commission turned over its files on him "for action."

Assistants to the attorney general advise the state's multicounty grand jury on possible criminal charges and then prosecute any indictments.

The next grand jury could begin work this summer.

Assistant Attorney General Lisa Goodspeed said she could not comment.

Fisher said if he has to dissolve the foundation and give the money back to donors, "I'll do that."

"I don't really care. I just thought I was doing something nice for people," he said. "But it seems like in political life you're not able to be nice to people without being criticized."

Fisher predicted the audit will find that "every dime is accounted for."

"Every expenditure, whatever little bit there's been, such as paying for a mailbox and whatever, is right on target," he said.

He also said he is not paid any salary out of the foundation.

"Nobody takes any money out," he said. "That is so ridiculous."

Fisher said his goal is to raise $100,000 "so we could endow it" and use the interest to buy shoes for school children.

He said he was trying to negotiate contracts with shoe manufacturers, such as Reebok and Nike, to pay them the interest in return for certificates or coupons that could then be distributed to school children.

Fisher said he does not know how much the Fisher Foundation has raised.

He also refused to let the foundation's accountant, Randall Compton, disclose details to The Oklahoman about the foundation's finances.

A charitable organization must file a federal tax form and make the form publicly available if it raises more than $25,000 in a year.

The Fisher Foundation has not had to file such forms since its start.

"There really hasn't been hardly anything deposited in that account ... over the last couple of years," said Compton, the foundation accountant.

The charity also has yet to buy any shoes, he confirmed.

"Nothing's been purchased yet. It's all just sitting in the bank account," Compton said.

The foundation's only expenses have been a fee paid to the Internal Revenue Service to get its nonprofit status and the annual fee for its post office box in Oklahoma City, the accountant said.

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