Georgia spends $200K a year on indicted insurance chief

Jim Beck (Image from WAGA-TV)

ATLANTA – Georgia taxpayers are spending nearly $200,000 a year in salary and benefits for an insurance commissioner who’s been suspended for nearly two years.

When Insurance Commissioner John King presented his budget to lawmakers last week, it included $194,899 for “one-time funds for one filled executive position.” King said that’s what the state is spending for salary and benefits for Jim Beck, who was indicted in May 2019, just a few months after taking office, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

The same amount was included in last year’s midyear budget to pay Beck, the newspaper reported.

Beck is accused of bilking his former employer out of $2 million. Gov. Brian Kemp suspended Beck from office a few days after his indictment. Beck, whose trial is scheduled for later this year, has vowed a vigorous defense.

“I am, in fact, innocent of these charges,” Beck wrote to Kemp after his indictment. “In these circumstances, it would be inappropriate for me to resign as commissioner of insurance.”

Because he remains suspended, the state is paying both him and King, who was selected by Kemp to replace Beck.

Beck, who’s a Republican and a former leader of the Georgia Christian Coalition, held jobs in several state agencies, including the Department of Insurance, before winning election to the top position at that agency in November 2018. He took office in January 2019.

Then-U.S. Attorney Byung J. BJay Pak announced Beck’s indictment in May 2019, saying Beck stole money to pay personal bills and taxes and to fund his 2018 campaign. Prosecutors said Beck lied to associates to have them form businesses and bill his then-employer for work that was never done, instead routing the money to himself. He also inflated his business expenses to reduce his net business outcome, allowing him to avoid income taxes on the embezzled funds, prosecutors allege.