Today’s “must read” – ECU chancellor-elect resigned Georgia Senate leadership position in aftermath of weird email scandal

ECU_StatonIf you haven’t already, be sure to check out reporter Billy Ball’s rather remarkable story about the new chancellor-elect at East Carolina University, former Georgia politician, Cecil Staton: “ECU chancellor-elect brings complicated, political past to new role.”

Not only was Staton at one time a champion of controversial voter ID laws, he also resigned from his state Senate leadership position after getting caught up in a bizarre email scandal.

Here’s an excerpt:

“And, strangely, Staton was embroiled in a puzzling email scandal during a state GOP flap in 2011 that spurred his temporary ouster as majority whip, a position that made him among the most powerful Republicans in the state.

The scandal, according to media reports and Georgia political observers who spoke to Policy Watch, centered around allegations that Staton used an anonymous email address and a fake name to bombard lawmakers and pundits with attacks on his political rival, Republican Georgia Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle.

After reports surfaced that the emails’ purported author, an unknown woman named “Beth Merkleson,” could not be tracked down, one GOP party activist publicly claimed he had connected Internet activity from both Merkleson and Staton’s email accounts to the same IP address. The activist also claimed that, during one email exchange with Merkleson, the author accidentally signed off as Staton once.

Days later, Staton denied the accusations but reportedly stepped down from his top party position for the remainder of the legislative session, claiming he did not want to be a “distraction,” even as critics lampooned him online (here’s a now-defunct site, courtesy of an Internet archives page, that includes a photoshopped “missing” poster for Merkleson with Staton’s face).

All of this from a newly-appointed, relatively unknown figure in North Carolina expected to assume a high-paying, nonpartisan position at one of the state’s largest institutions of higher education.”

Click here to read the entire story.

Commentary, News

BREAKING: ACLU and Lambda Legal ask court for immediate relief for transgender people in HB 2 lawsuit

As is explained below, there’s been another very hopeful development in the HB2 saga. Let’s hope the motion is granted promptly.

Today, the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, the national American Civil Liberties Union, and Lambda Legal filed a motion for a preliminary injunction asking the court to stop the enforcement of the provisions of North Carolina House Bill 2 that target transgender people for discrimination in single-sex facilities while the case proceeds through the court system.

The three organizations and the law firm of Jenner and Block are challenging House Bill 2 in federal court on behalf of six LGBT North Carolinians and members of the ACLU of North Carolina.

“HB 2 is causing ongoing and serious harm to transgender people in North Carolina and must be put on hold while it is reviewed by the court,” said Chris Brook, ACLU of North Carolina Legal Director. “The U.S. Justice Department has made it clear that HB 2 violates federal law. Governor McCrory and the North Carolina legislature wrote into state law discrimination against transgender people who just want to be able to use public facilities safely and securely.”

“Each day that transgender North Carolinians are singled out by this harmful law, whether they are at school, at work, or just moving through their daily lives in society is another day the state is causing irreparable harm to an already vulnerable community,” said Kyle Palazzolo, Lambda Legal Staff Attorney.

“As Attorney General Lynch said this week, ‘none of us can stand by when a state enters the business of legislating identity and insists that a person pretend to be something they are not, or invents a problem that doesn’t exist as a pretext for discrimination and harassment,’ and we couldn’t agree more,” said Palazzolo.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against North Carolina and Governor McCrory for violating Title VII of the U.S. Civil Rights Act, Title IX, and the Violence Against Women Act, just hours after North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice that asks a federal court to determine that House Bill 2 does not violate federal civil rights laws.

To view the court documents filed today, visit

To read more about the case:


HB2 hypocrisy alert: What NC officials would be doing if they really cared about child sexual abuse

In what may have been the best HB2 op-ed of the weekend, Ned Barnett of Raleigh’s News & Observer takes North Carolina elected officials to task for their blatant hypocrisy on the subject that is the supposed impetus for HB2: protecting children from sexual abuse. Here’s Barnett:

“North Carolina’s Republican leaders say the negative publicity and economic losses brought on by House Bill 2 are justified by the need to protect children from sexual predators. But when they were asked last year to do more to help children who’ve suffered from sexual abuse and to prevent more children from falling prey to it, they showed little interest.

That request came in February 2015 when the North Carolina Coalition for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse delivered the findings of a study requested by the legislature ‘to identify statewide goals to prevent child sexual abuse.’ The 11-member study group included educators, pediatricians and child welfare advocates. It made six recommendations. No legislation resulted.”

And, as Barnett, notes, the requests was actually pretty modest:

“The study group called for better training for public school personnel to recognize victims; education for children about healthy relationships; a minimum of $25,000 for every Child Advocacy Center in the state, recurring funding for the NC Child Treatment Program and throwing out ‘ineffective strategies,’ such as an overemphasis on ‘stranger danger’ when ‘up to 90 percent of incidents are committed by a friend or family member.’

State Rep. Nelson Dollar, a Wake County Republican and a chief house budget writer, said the legislature has boosted funding to promote child welfare at the local level and made improvements in the state’s foster care program. As for preventing child sex abuse specifically, he said, ‘Clearly we don’t have all the solutions in place. We’ll continue to work on that.’”

The problem, pretty clearly, is that the folks behind the requests are actually serious about helping children, while the demagogues behind HB2 have a different agenda. Again, here’s Barnett: Read more


Health activist Leslie Boyd schools McCrory: If only he would’ve listened

Leslie Boyd and Gov. McCrory - Image: The Daily Kos

Leslie Boyd and Gov. McCrory – Image: The Daily Kos

In case you missed it over the weekend, North Carolina health activist and past contributor to this blog, Leslie Boyd of Asheville, got a chance to have brief conversation with Gov. McCrory recently about, among other things, his opposition to expanding Medicaid. Boyd, as you may recall, has dedicated the last several years of her life to expanding Medicaid in memory of her deceased son Mike who died, in part, because he couldn’t afford health insurance. Click here to see her blog, WNC Health Advocates.

Here is her report of the exchange with McCrory (“It was like talking to a wall”), which appeared Saturday on the Daily Kos:

I had a choice this morning. I could stand with protesters outside the Governor’s Western Residence in Asheville or I could try to get into the open house to address him personally.

I decided to try and get to him.

We started driving to the residence, but when we turned up Town Mountain Road, we were told we’d never get in unless we went to First Baptist Church and waited for the shuttle.

We waited for almost an hour. The event was supposed to start at 9:30, but we didn’t get onto the shuttle until 10:20. When we got to the house, we were told we had 15 minutes, so I went outside, where the governor was standing beside the fire pit.

I approached.

“Hi, I’m Pat,” he said.

“I’m Leslie,” I said and lifted up the photo of my late son. “This is Mike, who died after being denied access to care.”

He noticed a microphone on my collar. Robin Carter had placed it there in case she was able to video the encounter. She wasn’t allowed.

“I’m not talking to anyone who’s miked,” he said.

“Well, perhaps you’ll listen,” I answered.

Read more


Editorial: “No excuse” for Richard Burr’s blockade of Judge Timmons-Goodson

Richard Burr 2There have now been dozens of editorials and op-eds in recent months and years calling on Richard Burr to end his absurd blockade of President Obama’s attempts to fill a decade-old vacancy on the federal bench in the Eastern District of North Carolina. Today, it’s the Winston-Salem Journal with a reprint of an editorial that the Greensboro News & Record featured last week.

“When Patricia Timmons-Goodson ran for a seat on the N.C. Supreme Court in 2006, she polled 58 percent of the vote. She’d already proven her mettle on the state Court of Appeals and as a District Court judge in her native Cumberland County.

President Barack Obama has nominated Timmons-Goodson to fill a vacant seat on the U.S. District Court bench in Raleigh. She is eminently well-qualified. She is a leader in the American Bar Association, a trustee at Guilford College and a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

But Sen. Richard Burr of Winston-Salem called the nomination “an election season stunt” and “a brazenly political nomination.”

If North Carolina residents want to know what Timmons-Goodson did that turned her from a distinguished, easily elected jurist to this political pariah, they won’t hear the reason from Burr. Instead, he issued a statement blaming Obama for breaking an agreement about appointments and not consulting with him before making the nomination.

There is no excuse for denying Timmons-Goodson a hearing, even if Obama failed to call him about the nomination. That might be a breach of protocol, but Burr is equally responsible because of his unreasonable positions on the Loretta Lynch and Merrick Garland nominations.

Perhaps election-year politics is playing an oversized role once again. On April 18, Timmons-Goodson joined a majority on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in issuing a strongly worded statement denouncing North Carolina’s House Bill 2. Maybe that action influenced Obama’s decision or Burr’s reaction. It shouldn’t have, because, as an experienced, fair-minded judge, Timmons-Goodson doesn’t let political considerations dictate her conduct on the bench. That’s what makes her a good choice for the federal court seat.

Burr should reconsider and support her confirmation, or else there may be political consequences for his recent pattern of obstructionism. It’s not likely he’ll do as well in November as winning 58 percent of the vote.”