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Governor Looking for Interim Insurance Commissioner After Beck's Suspension

  • State: Georgia
  • Topic: SOUTH
  • -  254 views
  • - Average time spent on item: 36 minutes
  • - Popular with: Legal
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Georgia will have a temporary insurance commissioner after newly elected Commissioner Jim Beck suspended himself from office following his federal indictment.

Jim Beck

Jim Beck

Beck, elected in November, was indicted last week on 38 charges of insurance fraud and money laundering in connection with an underwriting association he managed for high-risk homeowners.

The state Insurance Department said that Chief Deputy Commissioner Drew Lane would manage the department until the governor appoints an acting commissioner. Gov. Brian Kemp asked Beck to resign after the indictment, but Beck has proclaimed his innocence and said he would rather suspend himself until the prosecution is resolved.

The governor followed up with his own, official suspension order later that day, May 16.

At Beck's arraignment last week, a judge ordered a $25,000 bond and said Beck cannot leave the state, and banned him from conducting business with his former organization, the Georgia Underwriters Association, according to a local news report.

Prosecutors have said Beck used his position at the GUA to illegally funnel millions of dollars through companies he had a hand in creating. They say he pulled it off by sending fake invoices to the GUA, defrauding it of $2 million.

Beck, 57, then used the money to pay his personal expenses and help finance his campaign for insurance commissioner, federal prosecutors said. Financial disclosure forms show that Beck donated more than $330,000 to his campaign in the final weeks, according to Atlanta news reports. A former state ethics official said the donations raise questions, especially for Beck, who spent many years in and out of state government jobs and was not known to be wealthy.

"To be able to leave those positions and raise enough money that you can just contribute a quarter of a million dollars to his campaign, you're either really talented or it's going to raise some red flags,” said former state ethics head Rick Thompson.

Georgia law says that in the event of a vacancy in the office, "the chief deputy shall perform all the duties of the commissioner.’’ But a possible complication could arise with Lane taking over the commissioner’s duties because he has his own connection to GUA. He served as the organization’s staff attorney before he was named to his state post in January, news reports show.

Lane also was a prosecutor in Paulding County, a council member in the city of Dallas, Georgia, and director of fraud investigations for the state Insurance Department.

Lane earned a law degree from Mercer University in 1988.

The Insurance Department said it anticipates that the governor will soon appoint an acting commissioner who will serve until the case against Beck is resolved.

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