Here’s a quick take on state Rep. Stephen LaRoque’s press conference, which he held today in Kinston in response to an NC Policy Watch investigation published earlier this month. We’ll have a more detailed piece up tomorrow.
LaRoque, a conservative Republican from Kinston, maintained at his hour-long press conference that he had done nothing wrong in the management of his two economic development non-profits, which have been funded with $8 million in federal dollars since 1997. The recent articles by NC Policy Watch were “political hit pieces” by a “liberal propaganda tabloid,” LaRoque said.
(The NC Policy Watch investigation, which can be read here, found that LaRoque received up to $195,000 a year, much more than what his counterparts received; allowed immediate family members on the board of directors that’s supposed to independently determine his pay; and loaned out federally-funded loans to personal and political associates, including two fellow GOP legislators.)
The press conference, held at the Kinston Visitor’s Center, was open to the public, despite LaRoque’s insistence last week that N.C. Policy Watch wouldn’t be allowed to attend. A dozen reporters and videographers attended the press conference, along with two dozen other spectators, many of them LaRoque supporters.
LaRoque defended his six-figure compensation by saying he was running a business, and was thus entitled to some of the profits.
“This is America,” he said. “I don’t think profit is a crime.”
(Applause broke out from supporters of LaRoque’s that attended the press conference at his mention of profit.)
He also compared his compensation with that of what similar non-profits pay groups of employees, and said that he was able to perform the same services at a lower cost to the taxpayers.
“It’s a win-win for everyone,” he said.
He went on to explain that the $100,000 to $195,000 in annual compensation he reported receiving didn’t just go to pay him, it also paid for other employees at his for-profit company LaRoque Management that was set up to solely manage the two non-profits. He said that he personally had a contract with East Carolina Development Company based on a portion of the non-profit’s assets.
When pressed during the questions and answer portion of the press conference, LaRoque clarified that he’s only had a total of three employees at LaRoque Management Group since 2004, and never had more than one working for him at one time. He didn’t have exact dates of their employment, and said he never brought the employees onto the payroll of the non-profit because he initially planned on creating a company that would offer similar management services to other economic development non-profits.
He declined to say how much he paid those employees, and how much he personally received out of the $100,000 to $195,000 in annual compensation he reported receiving each year to the IRS.
“It’s none of your business,” LaRoque said.
Finally, LaRoque also said he plans on keeping his wife and brother on the board of directors for his non-profits, unless they choose to step down. He says the two abstained from a recent vote to extend his contract with the non-profit, though did say after questioning that his family members hadn’t abstained from previous votes on LaRoque’s contract over the years.
We’ll have a more extensive report tomorrow, so please check back with us. For those looking for more, here’s a link to a copy of LaRoque’s Powerpoint presentation.