Why Kemp hasn’t yet replaced indicted insurance commish

Jim Beck. EMILY HANEY / emily.haney@ajc.com
Jim Beck. EMILY HANEY / emily.haney@ajc.com

Credit: Emily Haney

Credit: Emily Haney

It's been nearly four weeks since Insurance Commissioner Jim Beck was slapped with federal fraud charges, a searing indictment that forced him to voluntarily suspend himself.

And nearly four weeks later, the office charged with regulating the state's insurance industry remains in purgatory. It has no interim leader, and Gov. Brian Kemp is still searching for a more permanent replacement.

Kemp took a step toward finding Beck's successor when he signed a recent executive order creating a three-member commission to determine whether the indictment "adversely affects" Beck's ability to lead the office.

Assuming it does – and that’s a fair assumption, though Beck has denied all the allegations – Kemp will be cleared to appoint a new interim commissioner. But that hasn’t been a swift process, either.

“There’s no real timetable,” Kemp said in a recent interview. “We’re working through a lot of different folks we’ve been thinking about. We’re working as quick as we can, but we want to have a good choice to go in there and serve in that role while the rest of the process plays out.”

Kemp is among the chorus of Republican officials who called for Beck to resign, saying the indictment "severely undermines your ability to fulfill your official obligations." But he doesn't have the power to force him out.

By voluntarily suspending himself, Beck will continue to draw his $120,000 salary and receive state benefits. He also retains a bargaining chip for potential negotiations with federal prosecutors.

The governor is likely searching for a woman or a minority to bring diversity to a slate of statewide Republican officials that is nearly all white and all men. The lone exception: Public Service Commissioner Tricia Pridemore.

Another potential reason for the delay: Whoever Kemp picks would have to commit to not only filling out the rest of the term but also presumably running for a full four-year term.

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