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The standoff between Baker Mitchell Jr, whose company runs four Wilmington-area charter schools, and North Carolina’s education agency is continuing.

Baker Mitchell of Roger Bacon Adademies, with students.

Baker Mitchell of Roger Bacon Adademies, with students.

The state has demanded – but has yet to receive– details from Charter Day Schools, Inc. about the salaries paid out to Roger Bacon Academy employees who work in the four public charter schools run by the company.

Owned by Mitchell, Roger Bacon Academy has exclusive contracts to manage and run four schools in Southeastern North Carolina — Charter Day School in Leland, Columbus Charter School in Whiteville, South Brunswick School in Bolivia and Douglass Academy in Wilmington.

The board chair of the non-profit in charge of the schools recently claimed that the private company owned by Mitchell won’t give the salary information to the schools’ board of directors.

John Ferrante, a Wilmington lawyer and chair of the non-profit Charter Day Schools, Inc., told Phillip Price of the N.C. Department of Public Instruction last week that the non-profit board of directors can’t get detailed salary information of headmasters and assistant headmasters from Roger Bacon Academy.

Price, DPI’s chief financial officer, summarized his Oct. 17 conversation with Ferrante in an email to State Board of Education Chair Bill Cobey and several DPI employees. N.C. Policy Watch received a copy of that email through a standing public records request it has with DPI.

“He [Ferrante] indicated that he had requested that information and they had responded that it was confidential and not available,” wrote Price in the Oct. 17 email. “Mr. Ferrante was concerned that his schools would be punished for something that was out of their control (and parents were expressing concern).”

The Charter Day Schools, Inc. board of directors governs the four charter schools –– and has the ability to hire and fire Roger Bacon Academy, Mitchell’s private company. Mitchell also owns another company that leases land and buildings to the charter school group.

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North Carolina’s new economic development partnership– a quasi-public group funded largely with public money – started up in earnest last week,  a significant move that privatized how employers are recruited to the state.

The Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina has received $500,000 so far in private donations and $17.5 million in public dollars.

Partnership leaders have not yet identified the donors, as was reported this article published yesterday.The new group is subject to public record laws, as well as various reporting requirements.

John Lassiter, a Charlotte attorney appointed by Gov. Pat McCrory to chair the partnership’s interim board, spoke with N.C. Policy Watch Wednesday after the piece was published.

He reiterated that the group will likely release the identities of donors before the end of the month – but may not specify how much each person or company gives.

That’s because enabling legislation requires the group to keep a list of donors and an “aggregate amount” of donations, he said.

He said he viewed releasing some of the donor information now, instead of at the end of  the year, will be going beyond the transparency requirements.

“Let’s strive to exceed what’s required in statutes,” he said.

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After last night’s historic ruling legalizing same-sex marriages in North Carolina, one county register of deeds says the McCrory administration unnecessarily delayed releasing gender-neutral marriage license forms.

Wake Register of Deeds Laura Riddick (photo from Riddick's office)

Wake Register of Deeds Laura Riddick (Photo from Riddick’s office)

Laura Riddick, a Republican first elected to county office in 1996, released a statement Friday saying that the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services refused her earlier requests for a copy of an existing gender-neural marriage license. DHHS is led by Aldona Wos, a Greensboro physician and wealthy Republican fundraiser appointed by Gov. Pat McCrory in January 2013.

Riddick kept her office open until after 9 p.m. Friday evening to issue marriage licenses after U.S. District Court Judge Max Cogburn Jr.’s order at around 5:30 p.m. that night declaring North Carolina’s ban on gay marriages unconstitutional.

Some of the first legal gay couples to marry in the state did outside Riddick’s office, including Wake County Sheriff Department employees Chad Briggs and Chris Creech who exchanged their vows as local news stations broadcast the union on live television.

Riddick, along with other Registers of Deeds across the state, hoped to have her department’s computer systems updated and ready when the expected federal court order legalizing same-sex marriages came down. (Click here for background on issue.)

DHHS withholding the form was “neither justified nor professional,” Riddick said in a statement.

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U.S. District Court Judge William Osteen Jr. has given N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper and attorneys representing same-sex couples until 3 p.m. Monday to respond to requests by state legislative leaders to intervene.

Couples around the state had been waiting in courthouses to see if Osteen would rule North Carolina’s ban on same-sex marriages unconstitutional. A similar federal case regarding whether religious leaders’ rights to perform same-sex marriages is still pending.

 

N.C. House Speaker (and U.S. Senate candidate) Thom Tillis and state Sen. President Pro-Tem Phil Berger asked to intervene in the case and stop couples from marrying earlier today.

Tillis and Berger are hoping to intervene by arguing that their interests opposing same-sex marriages were no longer being represented by  Cooper, who announced earlier this year that his office would no longer defend North Carolina’s ban on same-sex marriages after a federal circuit court found a similar ban in Virginia was unconstitutional.

Cooper is a Democrat and Berger and Tillis are both Republicans.

In his order, Osteen indicated that he would make his decision quickly.

“The parties are advised that this court will proceed to ruling an order on the motion to intervene and a final order as soon as reasonably possible following receipt of the briefs from Plaintiffs and the State of North Carolina,” he wrote. “Movants should not anticipate a lengthy proceedings in this court in ligth of the applicability of the Bostic and these cases will not be delayed unnecessarily.”

Osteen’s order is here:

 

osteen10.10 by NC Policy Watch

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Some difficult news came today to Raeford, where the poultry processing company House of Raeford announced it was shutting down its remaining factory in the town it was named after.

raefordThe company announced it would close the the Hoke County plant that cooked and processed frozen food in the next 60 days. Approximately 400 people will lose their jobs, according to this report from the Fayetteville Observer. The company attributed the closure to a 250 percent increase in the cost of turkey and other ingredients used for the food products at the plant, the Observer reported.

The town, located 20 miles west of Fayetteville, and  surrounding area is still reeling from the summer 2013 closure of a House of Raeford processing plant, where close to 1,000 worked on assembly lines slaughtering and disassembling turkeys. As N.C. Policy Watch reported last year, many of those who worked at the plant came from the surrounding counties in a a part of the state dealing with  already-high rates of unemployment and poverty in the state.

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