Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John Doak has assembled an advisory board to oversee his department's Anti-Fraud Unit in the wake of criticisms about spending on the investigative unit.
The new advisory board will help the Insurance Department develop strategy with the help of law enforcement, state lawmakers and other experts on everything from training to expenditures and case development, Doak said.
The Insurance Department has tried to listen to criticisms of spending on everything from uniforms to law-enforcement style equipment for the Anti-Fraud Unit, Doak said.
“I think that any time you are in the private sector or in government, you have to listen to the dialogue and be receptive to that,” Doak said.
Deputy Insurance Commissioner Owen Laughlin said Doak has expanded the agency's effort to crack down on fraud because the costs can be passed on to consumers as higher insurance premiums.
“A lot of this work has not been done before and it takes a little bit of thrust to do that. We have to hire the right people and get the right equipment to do that.”
The board will meet twice a year with the agency's Anti-Fraud Director Michael Copeland and Laughlin to discuss investigations that resulted in criminal charges and collaborate on statewide anti-fraud efforts.
Sen. Harry Coates R-Seminole, who has been a critic of Doak, said the advisory board did little to address his concerns about the Anti-Fraud Unit.
“I think (Doak) is feeling the heat as the result of his missteps and feels there is strength in numbers,” Coates said.
Coates has criticized Doak and the Insurance Department for buying shotguns, body armor and vehicles outfitted with law-enforcement style equipment for the Anti-Fraud Unit.
“He wants to expand his department into some type of law enforcement agency when he's the insurance regulator,” Coates said. “I think he's gone off the deep end.”
Coates plans to introduce legislation in the Legislature next month to curb what he calls wasteful spending at the Insurance Department.
The bills include one that would ban state elected officials except the governor and lieutenant governor from chartering state aircraft.
The Anti-Fraud Unit advisory board will include: Sen. Bill Brown, R-Broken Arrow; Rep. Dan Kirby, R-Tulsa; Rep. Mike Christian, R-Oklahoma City; Rep. John Bennett, R-Sallisaw; Thom Parr, criminal justice professor at East Central University and CLEET instructor, Robert Scott, dean of College of Education and Technology at Fort Hays State University; Tulsa County Undersheriff Tim Albin and Miami Chief of Police George Haralson.
The board will hold its first meeting later this year.