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Talk of the Town - Searching for the truth July 01 2000

$100 reward offered to clear Oxendine's good name

Dear readers: I am gravely concerned about our state's Republican insurance commissioner, John Oxendine. In fact, I am so concerned that I am offering a $100 reward for information that may lead to his exoneration of allegations that he lied to a police officer. As you may know by now, since his election in 1994 Mr. Oxendine has had the misfortune of having personally destroyed nearly $40,000 worth of state-issued, taxpayer-purchased Ford Crown Victoria automobiles. The most recent case apparently involves some kind of snafu in which there is suspicion that he may have, well, let's just say deceived a Cobb County cop.

The story begins on a traffic-stalled morning in September of last year. Oxendine, like so many of us, was caught up in heavy traffic, idling restlessly near the I-285 and Atlanta Road interchange.

It was WAGA-TV investigative reporter Randy Travis who uncovered the rest of the story: Oxendine, apparently frustrated with traffic delays, flipped on the blue lights and siren in his Crown Vic (Ox, by title of his job, is also the state fire marshal) and roared around traffic at the intersection.

Driving crazily, he illegally turned in front of a moving pickup truck, which promptly T-boned Oxendine's car. Crash!

Nobody was hurt, but the truck required massive repairs and Oxendine's car was totaled. Witnesses told police a tale of Oxendine driving aggressively around traffic with the blue lights on and siren wailing. Ox excused his dangerous and illegal behavior by saying that he was responding in his official capacity as fire marshal to a hazardous materials alarm at the state Department of Insurance offices. It was, he said, an emergency.

Problem is, investigators with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation have been unable to find any records of a hazardous materials alarm that morning. Or a fire alarm. Or any other kind of alarm. In fact, the way the evidence looks now, there simply was no such alarm, meaning that Mr. Oxendine may have told a bald-faced lie to a police officer — which, it turns out, is illegal.

This allegation, if not refuted, could lead to widespread chaos down at the state Insurance Department. Oxendine would be preoccupied with his legal problems, and the poor insurance companies who have come to depend on Oxendine's rubber-stamp rate increases will be left out in the cold. Who will do the bidding of Big Insurance if Commissioner Oxendine is forced to hire lawyers to defend himself against the petty and rather pathetic allegation of having told a wormy little lie to a cop who was investigating a traffic accident?

As a proud Georgian, I am concerned about this stain upon governmental integrity. We simply must defend our commissioner at all costs. His good name and reputation are at stake!

Consequently, I have decided to offer a $100 reward to any person who can prove that a hazardous materials or fire alarm occurred on the morning of Sept. 29, 1999 at the state Insurance Department offices, or can provide the identity of any person who contacted Commissioner Oxendine on that morning to notify him of such an alarm.

This is a serious offer. I have posted the necessary funds in escrow at the office of my editor at Creative Loafing, and a check will be disbursed to any person who can prove as an irrefutable fact that there was a hazardous materials or fire alarm resulting in the evacuation of the Georgia Department of Insurance offices on the morning of Sept. 29, 1999. As a good citizen, it is the least I can do to try and salvage the reputation of our state's Insurance Commissioner.

It may not be a lot of money, but it's the thought that counts.??



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