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Monday, January 24, 2011

Doak: Saving Taxpayer Dollars

Okie Doakie
Reducing the size and scope of government.  Returning power to the taxpayers.  Following the Constitution...these were all issues championed by the Republicans in the tidal wave that took place back in November.  And Okie Doak is wasting no time saving some taxpayer dollars by laying off fraud unit personnel.

In a spectacular piece written by the Oklahoman, six investigators will be unemployed at the end of the month (any coincidence that Doak hired three former legislators is, well, coincidental) and will save taxpayers a bunch of money (emphasis, mine):
The six layoffs will save the department about $323,000 a year, Doak said in a news release.
Dan Ramsey, chief executive officer of the Independent Insurance Agents of Oklahoma, said he had not heard of Doak's plan to stop investigating allegations of policyholders committing fraud against their insurance companies.
Wondering if the savings is a net savings or if that is factored prior to the hiring of three former legislators?

HVAC Guy Randy Brogdon
The Insurance Commission, however, had a quick and well-planned response that should immediately silence any critics:
Some insurance department investigators told The Oklahoman they believe they were laid off so Doak could use their salaries to hire friends in executive positions, including three former legislators who are being paid $99,000 each to serve as deputy commissioners in his administration. The investigators requested anonymity, saying they were afraid of retribution if their names appeared in the newspaper.
Assistant Insurance Commissioner Rick Farmer denied the allegation, saying Doak saved money elsewhere to pay the deputy commissioner salaries of former state Sen. Brogdon, R-Owasso; former state Rep. Mike Thompson, R-Oklahoma City; and former state Sen. Owen Laughlin, R-Woodward.
Ah, well.  There is our answer - nothing to see here, folks, move along.  Doak saved money elsewhere to pay the deputy commissioner salaries of Brogdon, Thompson and Laughlin.  No worries.  We believe you.  Sort of.  We even believe the following:
Doak started out with 124 agency employees and the number will be down to 108 once employees who have been terminated go off the payroll, Farmer said. Doak campaigned under a promise to reduce the size of state government and would like to eliminate a “handful” of additional employees once other positions are evaluated, Farmer said. Reductions so far should save the department about $503,000 a year in payroll costs, plus an additional 25 percent or so in benefit expenses, he said.
Wonder if District Attorney Prater is watching this develop...

Fire some employees so you can hire former legislators.  Makes sense to me.  And there is a savings to the taxpayers of Oklahoma because clearly, previous Insurance Commissioners rarely thought of saving taxpayer dollars or reducing staff size.  Neither did they hire former legislators who are real estate professionals or HVAC guys to be "Deputy Commissioners."  They are more than qualified and experienced to do the job and are already showing their abilities...regardless of what the Oklahoman thinks:
The department receives hundreds of insurance fraud complaints a month and only a small portion could be investigated — even with a staff of nine, an investigator said.
Deputy Commissioner Brogdon, an unsuccessful candidate for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, will oversee the reorganized anti-fraud division, Farmer said.
Brogdon ran a heating and air-conditioning business before becoming a state senator.  
Some investigators questioned Brogdon's ability to lead an effective fraud unit, saying it takes a while even for trained law enforcement investigators to learn how to work insurance cases.
I hope that you've picked up on some of my sarcasm because I have been laying it on pretty damned thick.  The True Believers in the Republican Party will support Doak in his quest to keep the unemployment rate low for former legislators and they will point to these layoffs as "saving taxpayer dollars."  The rest of us, however, will see it for what it is:  Cronyism.

And by the way, there is rumored to be some stories about the new Labor Commissioner and his political hires coming down the pike pretty soon as well.  That will be fun.