Scalded: The Afterburn

A state fraud investigator says he was punished because he tangled with U.S. Attorney Kendall Coffey

In his memo to Wellborn, Smith suggested that his transfer was intended to break up the trio of investigators in his office. "There are continuing rumors about [sic] that they also intend to transfer my partner, Maureen Murphy, and Lt. John Askins," he wrote.

Don Pride, a spokesman for the Department of Insurance, maintains the rumors are false, and that Smith's transfer is anything but punishment. "I've seen that letter," says Pride, "and it's not based in fact. A vacancy came up in January and [Smith] was the logical person on the staff to move into the slot. It's a slot that's generally seen by investigators as a promotion."

According to Herb Yohner, chief of the department's personnel bureau, involuntary transfers "occur from time to time, but it's not the norm."

Smith, Askins, and Murphy declined to comment for this story.
In another possible aftershock to the Timor and Book investigations, the Division of Insurance Fraud's 48-year-old director Frank Doolittle took early retirement at the end of January. Don Pride says the resignation was "[Doolittle's] decision," but Smith mentioned in his PBA memo that several other explanations were circulating through his department. Among them: "He was forced out because he pursued two political cases . . . [and] he could not keep the Fraud Division under control."

Doolittle denies the gossip. "There's more rumors than work getting done based on what I hear," says Doolittle, who now works in the private sector as an insurance consultant. "I retired because an opportunity presented itself to me." As for Smith's transfer, which he engineered, he explains. "There was nothing whatsoever nefarious about it. It was a very simple and logical business decision.

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