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Stephen LaRoque will find out his fate tomorrow, as a federal judge decides whether he should spend time in prison for stealing  $300,000 from a federally-funded non-profit.

LaRoque, a former Republican state representative from Kinston who served in a leadership position, plead guilty earlier this year to the theft, shortly before a second trial was expected to start on criminal charges that he used two economic development non-profits he ran to fund a lavish personal lifestyle.

LaRoque-PCCourt testimony for this first trial, in which convictions were thrown out because of juror misconduct, showed that LaRoque transferred money to and from the bank accounts of the East Carolina Development Company to pay for things like cars, replica Faberge eggs for his wife, a Greenville ice skating rink and a Zamboni ice resurfacer.

LaRoque had denied any criminal wrongdoing at the trial. Instead, he said he was owed the money as part of his salary from the non-profit run by a board made up for several years of himself, his wife and brother.

The non-profit group was funded with millions in U.S. Department of Agriculture funding, as part of an anti-poverty rural lending program intended to offer loans to small businesses in rural area unable to obtain financial backing on their own.

The sentencing hearing will begin at 9 a.m. at the federal courthouse in Greenville, in front of U.S. Senior District Court Judge Malcolm Howard.

LaRoque, who was indicted on federal charges in 2012, following a 2011 N.C. Policy Watch investigation, agreed to pay back $300,000 in restitution in exchange for his guilty plea.

He faces a range of 2 years to 30 months in prison though Howard, the federal judge, could also opt to sentence LaRoque to probation, the punishment that LaRoque and his attorney are asking for.

“Stephen LaRoque is a broken man,” wrote Keith Williams, a Greenville defense attorney, in a memorandum asking for a probationary sentence. “After years of criminal prosecution, his political career is over, his financial standing has shriveled, and he and his wife face serious health issues as they advance in age.”

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UNC law professor Gene Nichol

UNC law professor Gene Nichol

The University of North Carolina’s Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity, in order to comply with a February decision by the university’s system governing board, shut its doors last week.

The privately-funded center based out of the Chapel Hill law school, UNC Board of Governor Chairman John Fennebresque explained in an editorial, “was unable to demonstrate any appreciable impact on the issue of poverty.”

But many had trouble believing that reasoning, speculating that the center’s closing was an attempt to censor Gene Nichol, the tenured law professor who heads the poverty center and a vocal critic of policies passed by the Republican-led legislature and Republican Gov. Pat McCrory.

The UNC Board of Governors gets its appointments from the state legislature, and its ranks include several major contributors to the political campaigns of state Republicans.

But the work at the poverty center isn’t finished, Nichol wrote in the Institute for Southern Studies last week.

Funding for the center’s work has continued, and even increased, after the controversial closing of the center, and Nichol will now head the N.C. Poverty Research Fund.

From Nichol, in the Institute for Southern Studies:

I’ve been blessed with a long and varied academic career. But none of my efforts has approached the extraordinary honor of working, side by side for the past seven years, with North Carolina low-income communities and the dedicated students, professors, advocates and providers who seek to serve them. Together, we have sought to focus a meaningful light on the challenges of poverty and to push back against policies that foster economic injustice. Those efforts, as you know, have led the UNC Board of Governors to close the Poverty Center. But poverty is the enemy in North Carolina. Not a tiny, privately-funded Poverty Center.  Heather Hunt and I have no words to match the gratitude we feel for the astonishing support the Poverty Center has received, in recent months, from thousands across North Carolina and the nation.

As the Poverty Center closes, the Law School now launches the North Carolina Poverty Research Fund. Thanks to the generosity of North Carolina foundations, and engaged and committed citizens from across the country, the new Fund will allow us to hire student, faculty and post-doctorate scholars to assist us in probing the causes of, and solutions to, economic injustice – and to publish, extensively, the fruits of our research. Donors have indicated repeatedly that they are unwilling to see the crucial work of the Poverty Center driven from the halls of the university. The Fund will assure that it continues, and that it continues in Chapel Hill. Censorship has poor track record. It won’t prevail here either.

Poverty is North Carolina’s greatest challenge. In one of the most economically vibrant states of the richest nation on earth, 18 percent of us live in wrenching poverty. Twenty-five percent of our kids. Forty percent of our children of color. We have one of the country’s fastest rising poverty rates. A decade ago, North Carolina had the 26th highest rate among the states. Now we’re 10th, speeding past the competition. Greensboro, the federal government tells us, is the hungriest city in America. Charlotte has the nation’s worst economic mobility. Over the last decade, North Carolina experienced the country’s steepest rise in concentrated poverty. Poverty, amidst plenty, stains the life of this storied commonwealth. Even if our leaders choose to ignore it.

You can read the rest of Nichol’s comments here.

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In a 5-4 opinion, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in an opinion released today.

Written by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, the court held that marriage is a fundamental right under the 14th amendment.

“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. … [The challengers] ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law,” the concluding paragraph of the majority opinion states. “The Constitution grants them that right.”

Here’s the opinion, please share your reactions and thoughts below:

 

14-556_3204.pdf by NC Policy Watch

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Doyle Parrish

Doyle Parrish

A member of the University of North Carolina’s Board of Governors is facing an assault charge related to a May domestic violence incident, the News & Observer is reporting.

Doyle Parrish, who heads the Summit Hospitality Group and was appointed by the state legislature to the university governing board in 2013, was charged with a misdemeanor charge of assault on a female in relation to a May incident reported to Raleigh police.

From the N&O report:

He was arrested last month after a woman said he slapped her and pushed her to the ground in his Raleigh home. Parrish, 61, was charged with one misdemeanor count of assault on a female on May 13, according to court records. The alleged victim, Nancy Parrish, reported the incident to Raleigh police. His wife is named Nancy Parrish.

The woman reported bruising and abrasions on her shin and foot, according to a court document.

Parrish could not be reached.

A magistrate ordered Parrish remain in the Wake County Jail on a mandatory domestic violence hold for two days. A district court judge on May 18 ordered Parrish released on his promise to appear at his next court date and ordered him to stay away from his wife.

The N&O article also mentioned a 2013 email from then-N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis to Republican lawmakers pointing out Parrish was “directly responsible for more than $100,000 in financial support through personal contributions to my campaign committee and other candidates and through the Hospitality Alliance.”

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Want to know what the University of North Carolina’s Board of Governors is looking for in its next leader?

Here’s the 46-page leadership statement (scroll down to read) adopted Thursday by a board subcommittee that spells out what qualifications, qualities and values are desired for whoever replaces outgoing UNC President Tom Ross.

The statement was developed by taking input from a number of stakeholder groups, from the board itself, as well as faculty, students, alumni, business leaders and the general public.

As would be expected, there was significant variety in what different groups are looking for in the next UNC president.

According to the lengthy leadership statement, students want an energetic leader, who “values diversity and accessibility in the UNC system.”

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