As the state commerce department continues to incorporate massive changes to its unemployment system, questions came from legislators Wednesday about why Gov. Pat McCrory hasn’t assembled a board to review disputed unemployment cases
A three-member review board was created in 2011 by the legislature to serve as the final review board for unemployment insurance cases, where either employers or workers feel their cases weren’t handled fairly.
“The law was clear, that the governor is to make appointments,” said Sen. Bob Rucho, a Charlotte Republican, in a legislative oversight hearing Wednesday about unemployment.
But neither McCrory, a Republican, nor his Democratic predecessor Bev Perdue ever made those appointments.
McCrory’s press office issued a written statement Wednesday afternoon saying that McCrory was reviewing the applications.
“The governor’s office is currently reviewing candidates and we will appoint the three members to the Unemployment Review Board,” McCrory spokesperson Ryan Tronovitch wrote in a written statement.
Tronovitch refused to answer questions about what was causing the delay, and when the appointments would be made.
The appointments were supposed to be made by November 2011, when Perdue was in office, and subject to approval by the General Assembly. (Perdue was having issues at the time with getting the Republican-led General Assembly to pay attention to other nominations she wanted to make, including three seats on the powerful State Board of Education ultimately filled by McCrory.)
The unemployment review board was designed to hear final appeals from the N.C. Division of Employment Security about unemployment claims, and make determinations about whether individuals were appropriately denied or awarded benefits. The law creating the board calls for one member to represent employers, one representing employees and a third who would be an attorney representing the general public and serving as board chair.
Dale Folwell, the assistant commerce secretary in charge of the state’s unemployment insurance system, said he’s been making the final decisions for the contested cases in the review board’s absence.
At Wednesday’s hearing, Folwell, a former Republican legislator, told Rucho that he has been conversing with McCrory’s office about the delays and offered to explain the impasse privately to Rucho.
“I’m in constant contact” with McCrory legal counsel Bob Stephens, Folwell said. “I’d be glad to talk to you about this offline.”
Rucho bristled at that suggestion, saying that any discussions about the board should be in public and later suggested the legislature would change the law and make its own selections if the governor planned on delaying the independent board’s implementation.
“You are expected to follow the law,” Rucho said to Folwell Wednesday. “The governor is expected to follow the law.”
After the hearing, Folwell said setting up the review board could cost as much as $1 million and referred questions about the appointments to Stephens, McCrory’s chief legal counsel
McCrory’s office did not answer additional questions about what was causing the delay in making the appointments.
Note: This post has changed from the original to include a statement from McCrory’s office.