ATLANTA — Gov. Brian Kemp signed an executive order Thursday for the immediate suspension of Georgia Insurance Commissioner Jim Beck.
The move came shortly after Beck sent a letter to Kemp, saying he was going to voluntarily suspend himself from office after he was indicted in an alleged $2 million fraud scheme.
Right now, the state of Georgia has no insurance commissioner. Since the position is an elected office, it’s up to Kemp to appoint an acting commissioner for the duration of Beck's suspension.
Sources told Channel 2 investigative reporter Aaron Diamant that an appointment is imminent to head up an agency hit hard.
“A little bit of shock, you know. Disbelief definitely,” is how Georgia Department of Insurance spokesman Brandon Wright described the internal impact of a 38-count federal indictment this week against Beck. “It’s always there. You’re always thinking about it, but at the end of the day, there’s people … we’re an agency and there’s people here that need our help.”
The indictment charges Beck with fraud and money laundering during his time as leader of the Georgia Underwriters Association.
Prosecutors said Beck schemed the association out of more than $2 million and used the money to fund his election campaign, pay his credit card bills and his taxes.
Beck pleaded not guilty in federal court on Wednesday.
But in a Thursday letter to Kemp, Beck authorized the governor to suspend him, saying, “It will unfortunately be necessary for me to spend a significant amount of my time defending myself against these false charges. Preparing for that trial will be a significant distraction from my public duties.”
Minutes later, Kemp signed an executive order making the suspension official.
Wright said his agency’s staff is just taking things day by day.
“We’re pushing through and we still got an agency to run, and we’re just fulfilling our responsibilities,” Wright said.
Beck will continue to earn his $120,000 a year salary during his suspension.
Earlier in the afternoon Thursday, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger echoed Kemp's call for Beck to resign, but Beck said he has no plans to step down because he said he’s innocent of all the charges he faces.
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