Georgia’s new insurance commissioner, John F. King, called Monday for the resignation of all board members of the Georgia Underwriting Association in the wake of the indictment of Jim Beck, the agency’s former chief.
Beck faces trial over a 38-count indictment, which contains allegations that stem from Beck’s tenure as general manager of operations for the Georgia Underwriting Association.
The indictment alleges Beck stole more than $2 million from the GUA through ‘’an elaborate invoicing scheme,’’ according to BJay Pak, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia.
According to the indictment, the scheme went on for five years and lasted until August 2018, after Beck won the Republican primary for insurance commissioner. Thousands of dollars of the alleged fraudulent payments went to Beck’s campaign fund, Pak said. Other money went to personal expenditures, investments and the payment of taxes, he added.
The Underwriting Association provides high-risk property coverage to Georgia homeowners. Beck, 57, served as the organization’s general manager for operations.
Beck has maintained that he is innocent of the federal charges. He was suspended from his commissioner post in May, and King was sworn in as his replacement in July.
King also called for a “complete audit of GUA’s books.”
“As Georgia’s new insurance and safety fire commissioner, my mission is simple: to restore trust in the department of Insurance. Today, we are taking a small – but deliberate step – towards accomplishing that goal,” said King in a statement.
“According to U.S. Attorney BJ Pak and his 38-count indictment, this organization fell victim to Mr. Beck’s alleged crimes,’’ King said. “This ongoing investigation has undermined the confidence that hardworking Georgians have in the Georgia Underwriting Association, its operations, and those who are responsible for its finances.”
The GUA board consists of twelve individuals. Four are appointed by the commissioner, and the remaining eight board members are appointed by insurance companies licensed in Georgia.
Georgia Republican Party Chairman David Shafer, a member of the board, told the AJC that he had already offered to resign.
“I have offered to resign every year for the last 20 years, and I have offered to resign to Commissioner King,” Shafer said.
On Monday morning, letters were sent to the four individuals appointed by Ralph Hudgens, whose term as commissioner ended in January, as well as the eight insurance companies who have a representative on the board, officials said.
“We have a duty to put people over politics and accountability over the status quo. It is my hope that fresh faces, who reflect our state and our values, will apply to fill the vacancies. I am confident we can address the organization’s shortcomings and restore its reputation,” King added. “We will work diligently in the months ahead to restore confidence in GUA, which serves as the last resort for many families and businesses looking for insurance.”
Andy Miller is editor and CEO of Georgia Health News