There’s some more shakeup in the state legislature, with today’s announcement by powerful state Sen. Tom Apodaca that he won’t run again.

N.C. Sen. Tom Apodaca

N.C. Sen. Tom Apodaca

Apodaca, a Hendersonville Republican, told the Charlotte Observer that he was ready to leave the politics, given the changes the state has seen since Republicans took over both houses of the state legislature in 2010.

“We’ve come to a point where we’ve accomplished almost everything we set out to,” Apodaca told the Charlotte Observer Monday. “Politics has never been the driving force in my life.”

As the chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, he had the ability to decide which pieces of legislation made it to the floor for a vote, and which would languish.

N.C. Senate President Pro-Tem Phil Berger, in a statement released Monday, said Apodaca had been a key figure in bringing the agendas of the Republican senate caucus to fruition.

“Tom is not only one of my closest friends in the legislature, he’s one of my closest friends – period,” Berger said. “Tom was a steadying influence when we made big decisions, and someone the caucus could always count on to solve big problems.”

Apodaca’s announcement comes after state Sen. Bob Rucho, another prominent Republican in a leadership position, announced in early November he was stepping away from the legislature.

With Apodaca’s announcement today, a total of 13 lawmakers have said they won’t seek re-election in 2016 though many will stay on for the 2016 short session which begins in the spring.

Meanwhile, in Gov. Pat McCrory’s administration, there have been several end-of-year departures announcements as well.

Chief Information Officer Chris Estes announced last week he was leaving his state government post overseeing the state’s technology systems to return to the private sector. Dale Folwell, a former lawmaker, is stepping down from leading the state’s unemployment insurance system and is considering a run for the state treasurer office.


A Lake Lure charter school suspended all of its extra-curricular clubs last week after controversy erupted over a new club that supports lesbian, gay and transgender students.

The board of directors for Lake Lure Classical Academy, which serves students from kindergarten through high school in Rutherford County community, voted for the temporary suspension of extra-curricular activities Thursday.

Community members and parents spoke out at a school board meeting in support and against the newly-formed Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Club, according to the Daily Courier, a newspaper based in nearby Forest City.

From the Daily Courier’s article:

“I support the students who created the LGBT Club. I couldn’t be prouder to be a Raptor now,” parent Frances Brown said to the board. “My brother was bullied all through high school and I’m so grateful a club like this exits. This is about students feeling less alone and safe to be who they are. Thank you for embracing the difference in students.”

However, other parents expressed their concerns on the nature of the club since LLCA is a K-12 school. One grandmother said she had to explain the meaning of “gay” and “lesbian” to her elementary school student because the club put up a poster.

Another citizen told the board since it is a public school it has the ability to do away with the club. He said he did not have a child at Lake Lure, but if he did he would take them out immediately. He said the only diversity the school needs is the Bible.

Layne Long, a teacher who sponsored the club, said a student approached her about forming the club and was more than happy to have her classroom serve as a meeting place, according to the Daily Courier.

“This is not a religious club, this is a human rights club,” Long said.

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The governing board of the state’s public university system decided Friday to hand over audio recordings and documents to legislative leaders from a closed-door discussion last month raising the pay of a dozen chancellors.

Friday’s  meeting of the university system’s Board of Governors was called in order to deal with a request from Republicans state Senate leader Phil Berger and N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore for details on whether the board complied with open meeting laws when it decided  to raise the pay for 12 of the system’s 17 chancellors.


The UNC Board of Governors voted Oct. 30 to give pay raises of up to 20 percent, or $70,000, in a closed session portion of their meeting. Media outlets with reporters at the meeting, including N.C. Policy Watch, objected to the secrecy of the discussions and the vote behind closed doors.  (Click here to read more about the raises.)

UNC officials have also been called to appear at a Nov. 18 legislative hearing, to discuss open meeting concerns over the Oct. 30 vote.

On Friday, several board members made vague references to the October closed session discussion, saying discussions had been robust and the votes for pay raises close.  N.C. Policy Watch, and several other media outlets, has requested details about the votes, but no information has been released.

Friday’s meeting also included a request by acting chair Lou Bissette for a briefing at the board’s December meeting about its requirements under the state’s open meeting and public record laws.

Bissette said Friday he would release a summary of the closed-session vote to offer more information about what transpired.

Members of the state’ public university governing board also aired some of their differences Friday with each other and lawmakers.

Joe Knott, a Raleigh board member appointed this summer, said he was wary of interference from the political forces at the legislature and feared a “dangerous precedent” could be set by acquiescing to the lawmaker’s requests.

In his comments, Knott then said that a lawmaker pressured former UNC Board Chair John Fennebresque to favor a particular candidate in the search for a new president.

Knott, when asked by reporters, would not provide details about how he obtained that information, nor the name of the lawmaker allegedly involved. Fennebresque, whose leadership of the board was marked by discord, resigned days after former U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings was hired in mid-October.

Thom Goolsby, a Wilmington attorney and board member who previously served in the state Senate, said he has not faced any pressure from his former colleagues.

“Nobody told me who I should vote for,” he said. He also added that he welcomed scrutiny from lawmakers. The UNC Board of Governors consists of 32 members, all of whom received their appointments from the state legislature.

“They should be looking at us,” Goolsby said.

Marty Kotis, another board member from Greensboro, said he objected to Knott’s allegations, and that the board has the duty to act in a transparent manner with lawmakers as well as the public as a whole.




Lawmakers want to know more about the closed-door session held last month by the governing board of the state’s public university system, in which most chancellors received significant raises during a secret portion of the meeting.

“On behalf of the Speaker and the President Pro Tem, pursuant to G.S. 120-19, I am writing to request any and all records in the University’s possession regarding today’s UNC Board of Governors’ meeting,” wrote Andrew Tripp, an attorney in Senate Leader Phil Berger’s office, in an email sent the same day as the University of North Carolina Board of Governors’ Oct. 30 meeting.

Tripp asked for any audio recordings, as well as draft minutes and agendas for both the open and closed portions of the meeting. (Scroll down to read his email.)

The 32-member UNC Board of Governors announced this week it will hold a previously unscheduled meeting in Chapel Hill Friday to discuss the legislative request, as well as to get an update on faculty compensation.

Meanwhile, an agenda for the Nov. 18 joint legislative committee on government operations has the UNC system listed for a report, as well as an update about the recent controversy over the McCrory administration’s decision to award a prison maintenance contract to a campaign contributor over correction officials’ objections.

The chancellor raises, which included pay bumps as high as 20 percent or up to $70,000, came as rank-and-file employees have seen little movement in their own salaries in recent years, other than a $750 bonus that all state employees are slated to receive this year.

It also comes shortly after the UNC Board of Governors, who all received appointments from the Republican-led legislature, announced its hiring of former U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings at a base salary of $775,000, much higher than the $600,000 that outgoing UNC president Tom Ross received as a base salary.

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The University of North Carolina’s Board of Governors raised the salaries for 12 of the system’s chancellors during a closed session meeting Friday, giving pay raises of 8 to 19 percent to the top campus administrators.

UNCsystemThe salary amounts were released publicly Monday, with the heads of the state’s two flagship campuses receiving $50,000 and $70,000 raises. (Scroll down to view the entire list of raises.)

Five chancellors, all but one who were hired in 2014 or 2015, received no pay increases. The head of the N.C. School of Science and Mathematics, the prestigious public high school run by the UNC system, received a pay increase as well.

System officials would not release the salary information Friday, despite objections from several reporters at the meeting that the changes should have been disclosed publicly at Friday’s meeting.

Mike Tadych, a lawyer who works on public record and open government issues for the N.C. Press Association and media companies, told WRAL Friday that the salary information should have been acted on in open session, and disclosed immediately.

“At the end of the day, their ultimate decision needs to be voted on in open session,” Tadych told WRAL, adding that N.C. public records law does not allow public bodies to withhold salary information.

NCSU Randy Woodson

NCSU Randy Woodson

N.C. State University Chancellor Randy Woodson received a $70,000 pay bump, according to the information released Monday. His base salary of $590,000 is now the highest in the UNC system, and a private foundation connected to the Raleigh university will chip in an additional $200,000 each year for Woodson.

Carol Folt, the chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, received a $50,000 pay increase, and will now make $570,000 a year.

Other substantial pay jumps include UNC-Charlotte Philip Dubois, who is now making $387,500 after a $63,050 raise; East Carolina University’s Steve Ballard, who will make $385,000 in base salary after a $62,400 raise and Western Carolina University Chancellor David Belcher, who will make $335,000 after a $54,500 raise.

The legislatively-appointed UNC Board of Governors indicated the raises approved during a closed-session vote were to align with a policy approved earlier this year to increase the ranges of chancellor and top administrator pay.

But staff and faculty in the UNC system have seen little changes in their paychecks since the start of the national recession, with only nominal raises approved in some years as the legislature has tightened the university system’s budget and mandated more than $500 million in cuts to campuses since 2010.

UNC employees, like all state employees, are slated to receive a $750 bonus this year.

It’s not clear if any on the 32-member board objected to the pay increases. N.C. Policy Watch has asked for more details about the vote taken Friday behind closed doors.



Chancellor Increases – BOG Approved Sheet1-1 by NC Policy Watch