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Illegal oil and gas commission postponed, one statement of economic interest still missing

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Jim Womack (File photo: Lee County government)

The state oil and gas commission, which had planned to meet, albeit illegally, in Sanford tomorrow, has been postponed for at least a month. Jim Womack, whose chairmanship is in dispute, told Policy Watch that he decided to cancel the meeting because the state ethics commission didn’t have adequate time to review the members’ statement of economic interest reports.

“We want to make sure there’s no legal challenge” to the meeting Womack said. The meeting has been postponed until late October or early November.

The ethics commission must review and approve SEIs, [2] as they’re known, before a board or commission can pass rules, take action or even call a quorum. Five of the six annual reports, including Womack’s, had been filed late.┬áStanford Baird filed his report yesterday afternoon after Policy Watch reported it was missing. Charles Taylor has yet to file his, according to the ethics commission website.

However, Lee County Manager John Crumpton said that last night county commissioners voted to make sure the oil and gas meeting was legal before allowing it to be held. Crumpton said he was still investigating the legality of the meeting when Womack decided to cancel it.

As Policy Watch reported yesterday [3], Chief Deputy Secretary of the Environment John Nicholson sent a letter to Womack questioning both the legality of the meeting his legitimacy as chairman of the nine-member oil and gas commission. Womack had originally been appointed to the commission by Sen. Phil Berger. But after a state Supreme Court case, the legislature created a new commission with new appointees. Womack was not one of them.

Womack told Policy Watch that Nicholson is wrong, and that he was “validly appointed by Sen. Berger.”

The governor appoints four members and the House and Senate leadership each appoint two.

According to a roster of the oil and gas commission, in July 2016, House Speaker Tim Moore appointed Ray Covington — who told NC Policy Watch yesterday he is no longer serving on the commission — and Karen Glaser. Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger appointed John Lucey in August 2017. He did not reappoint Womack.

Within days of leaving office last December, former Gov. McCrory appointed Randall Williams, Charles Taylor, Ronda Jones, Stanford Baird and Victor Gaglio to the commission. Williams resigned two weeks ago, after taking a job with the state of Missouri in March.