Earlier this week, Boyce Hudson, a former official with the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) pled guilty to charges of extortion. Part of what Hudson received in payment as part of that extortion was a lucrative two year consulting contract with the company that was the target of his extortion and which benefited from his actions while he was at DENR . Hudson’s behavior is extreme but it does help highlight two key problems in North Carolina government.
Our state employees, most of whom work very hard to provide us with essential services, keep the state functioning and keep us safe, frequently earn far less in their jobs than they could working in the private sector. Too often, people come and learn their crafts while working for the state and then move on to private companies.
Unfortunately, even with the ethics reforms done in the last three years, there is still an open revolving door which allows someone to work for the state of North Carolina on Friday and on Monday morning be at work for a private company lobbying the people with whom they used to work. Our legislators and state agency heads have to wait at least six months after they leave public service before they can lobby their former colleagues. US Senators have to wait two years before they can do the same.
There needs to be a cooling off period for top level state employees before they can go to work for the businesses they have been regulating, supervising and granting contracts to. In 2005, Senator Rand included a cooling off period of in Senate Bill 612, the first of the major reform bills. It is time to enact that legislation and not wait for another example of misdeeds to pop to the surface.