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The August death of a Bladenboro teenager found hanging from a swingset in a rural part of southeastern North Carolina is continuing to attract national attention.

Journalist Katie Couric recently profiled Lacy’s death, as part of her new reporting project with Yahoo and as the nation reacts to recent decisions not to pursue criminal charges in the deaths of two other black men, Eric Garner of New York and Mike Brown of Ferguson, Mo. (Click here to watch Couric’s video report.)

Lennon Lacy, 17, found dead in Bladenboro in August.

The Guardian, a newspaper based in London, wrote about Lacy’s death in October.

Lacy’s Aug. 29 death has been treated as a suicide, and local authorities have said they don’t have any evidence that he was killed.

But Lacy’s parents have said the high school football player showed no prior signs of depression at the time of his death.

The teenager, who is black, was found near a predominantly-white trailer park in the small town in Bladen County. Lacy, a star high school football player, had been in a romantic relationship with a 31-year-old white woman at the time of his death, and his family now question whether he could have been killed by someone angered by the interracial relationship.

The family, backed by the Rev. William Barber II of the North Carolina NAACP chapter have asked for a federal hate crime investigation into Lacy’s death.

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North Carolina’s privatized economic development group already has a new leader, less than two months after the group officially launched in October.

Christopher Chung,  38, an experienced economic developer from Missouri, will begin Jan. 12 leading North Carolina’s job recruitment efforts.

Christopher Chung

Christopher Chung

He will replace Richard “Dick” Lindenmuth, 62, a business executive hired last January to help shift North Carolina’s job recruitment efforts from the state Commerce Department to the new privatized set-up.

Chung, who has led Missouri’s version of the privatized economic development efforts since 2007, was announced Monday through a press release from the economic development group, and came as a bit of a surprise.

An Ohio native, Chung holds a bachelor’s degree in economics and Japanese from Ohio State University and oversaw $80 million in financial incentives when leading Missouri’s public-private partnership.

UPDATE: Details were released Monday evening about Chung’s compensation. He will make an annual salary of $225,000, and can earn additional bonuses of up to 25 percent of his salary if he meets benchmarks that the economic development partnership board will make in January. Public money will be used for $120,000 of his salary, in line with the legislation that created the partnership. Chung’s moving expenses will also be covered, and he’ll be given a car once he arrives in North Carolina.

The new 17-member board for North Carolina’s economic development partnership held its first meeting on Nov. 15 at its Cary headquarters and made no mention about the potential hire during the open session of the public meeting.

Lindenmuth, who made $120,000 a year as the CEO of the partnership, will continue working with the group on a contract basis working on projects that will include expansion of high-speed internet services to rural parts of the state, data analysis and recruitment of veterans to the state, according to Monday’s press release from the economic development partnership.

Richard Lindenmuth

Richard Lindenmuth

With most of his career spent managing or consulting for troubled companies, Lindenmuth came to the job with no economic development or public sector experience. An N.C Policy Watch investigation published earlier this year found that he’d been scrutinized by a federal bankruptcy judge for padding his expenses to a company in bankruptcy proceedings.

N.C. Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker applauded Chung’s hire.

“The Partnership is off to a strong start and is working closely with us to bring in new jobs,” Decker said, according to a news release from the partnership. “They have enjoyed strong leadership from day one, and now have in place a CEO and Board of Directors that will help ensure an excellent first year of economic growth in 2015.”

N.C. Policy Watch requested, but was not immediately provided, information about Chung’s salary , as well as details about Lindenmuth’s proposed contract work and his pay. (See update above for details about Chung’s salary)

North Carolina, through legislation passed this summer, shifted its tourism, marketing and business recruitment divisions in October to a the newly-created Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina. A central piece of Gov. Pat McCrory’s jobs plan, the public-private partnership is funded with $16 million in public funds and less than $500,000 in private donations. The quasi-public method of economic development has had mixed results in other states. Supporters say moving economic development efforts outside of state government allows for more effective recruitment of new employers while detractors point out that other states have seen conflicts of interest and a pay-to-play culture emerge.

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The N.C. Secretary of State’s office had a report out yesterday that found North Carolina residents are continuing a downward trend in their charitable giving.

The office, led by Elaine Marshall, a Democrat, monitors charities in the state and puts out a report each year about the how much of a charity’s incoming revenue goes to services and program and how much covers overhead costs.

In 2013-14, North Carolina charities received $21.4 million, a drop of 33 percent from the $32.2 million in donations that came in the year before. This year was also the lowest amount that’s been donated in the past four years.

It also comes as the effects of the recession continue to linger in North Carolina, and more families and residents are turning to charities for help.

Nearly one in every five families in the state aren’t making enough to cover their basic living expenses as the state’s manufacturing base has been replaced by low-paying jobs in the service and tourism industries, according to a  report published in June 2014 by the N.C. Justice Center’s Budget and Tax Center.

Employment levels have been on a slow climb out of the recession, and last month North Carolina finally saw its employment numbers match the number of jobs there were in the state before the recession began in 2008.

“Clearly, we are seeing that North Carolina households are still under a great deal of economic pressure,” Marshall said, in a written statement. “I thank everyone who is continuing to finds ways to support the non-profits out there that are trying to accomplish good works.”

The figures don’t cover all of charitable giving in the state – only those charities that use professional fundraising services, pay officers of the charity and raise more than $25,000. Educational institutions, churches and other religious groups and groups like volunteer fire departments also don’t have to report their information to Marshall’s office.

You can read the report here, and search to see what individual charities collected, and what went to overhead costs.

 

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Several protests will be held today in response to a Missouri grand jury’s decision not to indict a Ferguson police officer who shot and killed a teenager last August.

Mike Brown

The shooting death of Mike Brown, who was black, by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, who is white, touched off protests and unrest across the nation. N.C. Policy Watch’s Sharon McCloskey has this post , “What you need to know about Ferguson” with links to some of the most in-depth reporting so far on the grand jury’s decision.

The St. Louis prosecutor in charge of the grand jury investigation also took the highly unusual move to release the evidence and transcripts of testimony heard by the grand jury, whose proceedings are, by law, secret.

All of that, including Wilson’s testimony, is compiled here.

You can watch a press conference beginning at 10 a.m. from North Carolina NAACP President William Barber here about the grand jury and tonight’s protests.

The state NAACP will hold an vigil and interfaith event at 6:30 p.m. tonight at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church, 1801 Hillsborough St. in Raleigh.

There are several other North Carolina events, all beginning at 6 p.m., scheduled for tonight to protest the grand jury’s decision not to indict Wilson.

Tonight’s protests (with updates) are supposed to be held at:

  • Chapel Hill: corner of Elliot Road and Franklin Street
  • Charlotte - Marshall Park, 3rd and McDowell streets
  • Durham: 501 Foster St.  Blue Coffee, 202 Corcoran St.
  • Greenville: Pitt County Courthouse, W. 34d and Evans streets
  • Greensboro – Governmental Plaza, 110 S. Green St.
  • Pittsboro – 1085 Mitchell Chapel Road, Pittsboro (hosted by Mitchell  Chapel AME Zion Church)
  • Raleigh: Moore Square, Martin and Blount streets
  • Rocky Mount: City Hall, 331 S. Franklin Street

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mccroryThere’s a hard-hitting report out today from the Center for Public Integrity peeling back the layers behind the Outer Continental Shelf Governors Coalition, a group of primarily Republican governors pushing to allow off-shore drilling in Atlantic waters.

The coalition is chaired by Gov. Pat McCrory, and the Center for Public Integrity report (also published in Time magazine) details how a private firmed backed by oil and energy industry representatives are providing research and information to the group of governors. (Click here to read the entire article.)

From the report:

While the message from the governors that morning [a February meeting with U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell] would have come as no surprise to Jewell, less clear, perhaps, was that the governors were drawing on the research and resources of an energy lobbying firm acting on behalf of an oil industry-funded advocacy group.

Indeed, the background materials handed to the governors for the meeting, right down to those specific “asks,” were provided by Natalie Joubert, vice president for policy at the Houston- and Washington D.C.-based HBW Resources. Joubert helps manage the Consumer Energy Alliance, or CEA, a broad-based industry coalition that HBW Resources has been hired to run. The appeal for regulatory certainty, for example, came with a note to the governors that Shell, a CEA member, “felt some of the rules of exploration changed” after it began drilling operations in the Arctic.

McCrory, a former Duke Energy executive, does not come off looking very good, with a mention of his spokesman contacting the private industry-backed firm to ask how to answer a reporter’s questions about the group led by McCrory.

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