State Secretary of Public Safety Frank Perry told members of the Joint Legislative Commission on Governmental Operations Wednesday that he was repeatedly reminded of the political donations made by a McCrory supporter, but said he did nothing to show favoritism to Graeme Keith Sr.

Sec. Perry told legislators that the $3 million private prison contract awarded last year to Keith was an effort to find savings in the budget, not a “quid pro quo” arrangement based on past campaign contributions.

Asked to explain the governor’s role at an earlier meeting with Keith in Charlotte, Perry said McCrory served to mediate “as he should do in bringing jobs, and more private sector jobs. I saw it completely proper and good of him.”

Still Sec. Perry made it clear his own staff did not feel the extension of the private maintenance contract would save the state much money, or improve safety at the correctional institutions.

As for his own actions, Perry, a former FBI agent, told the commission he did not feel a duty to report Keith’s comments seeking payback or favoritism for his political contributions:

“I know where the line is. I’ve worked those cases.”

The FBI continues to interview state officials about the contract. Perry declined to comment further about their investigation.

Click below to watch a portion of Sec. Perry’s exchange with House Minority Leader Larry Hall.

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As reported here this week:

“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.”

Today, the ACLU of North Carolina called on the school to reverse its decision:

“Lake Lure Classical Academy (LLCA) should promptly rescind its ban on all student-led noncurricular groups, including an LGBTQ+ student organization that was recently formed to promote tolerance and equality for all students, according to a letter sent today by the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Legal Foundation (ACLU-NCLF) to school officials.

At its November 12 meeting, the LLCA Board of Directors voted to suspend all student-run clubs after some community members challenged the new LGBTQ+ club. In today’s letter, ACLU-NCLF Legal Director Chris Brook explains that the federal Equal Access Act forbids schools from permitting some student groups while barring others. LLCA has a history of allowing noncurricular students organizations, including a campus Christian organization, Raptors for Christ, that has met on campus for five years.

“The LGBTQ+ club does not seek special treatment,” Brook writes in the letter. “They simply seek to be treated the same as other student groups on campus, a right guaranteed to them by the Equal Access Act.”

Read the entire letter by clicking here.


[This post has been updated — scroll down for the post script.]

As The Nation reports this morning, Gov. McCrory’s unfortunate posturing on Syrian refugees bears a striking resemblance to what other right-wing governors and politicians around the country are saying:

“The growing US backlash against Syrian refugees continued to escalate on Tuesday, as at least 27 governors announced that they would close their states to asylum seekers fleeing that country’s civil war.

GOP presidential hopefuls, meanwhile, sought to one-up one another in ways to limit the number of refugees the United States takes in from Syria and the greater Middle East. Senator Ted Cruz called for admission to this country to be limited to Syrian Christians, a position former Florida governor Jeb Bush seemed to adopt over the weekend. On Monday, Senator Rand Paul announced that he would be proposing legislation to suspend visas for refugees from Syria and 30 other countries.”

Meanwhile, as Sue Sturgis reports at Facing South, the Guv is already attempting to raise campaign funds off his stance.

“McCrory apparently also believes the issue makes for winning politics. The same day the governor called for a halt to Syrian refugees being resettled in his state, his re-election committee posted an appeal to its Facebook page calling for ‘NO SYRIAN REFUGEES IN NC’ and linking to the campaign’s contribution page.”

Sigh…this seems unlikely to get less ugly anytime soon.

P.S. on  a more encouraging note, the libertarian conservative website Reason is featuring an article that blasts the political fear mongering. To quote:

“When defending gun rights, conservatives point out that when guns are outlawed only outlaws have guns. The same logic applies to fleeing Syrian refugees: If ISIS victims are banned from America, only ISIS will enter.

But logic doesn’t seem to be driving the conservative response to the refugee crisis in the wake of the Paris attacks. Fear and naked politics is….

Simply shutting down the program won’t stop jihadis from finding their way to the United States. It’s their innocent victims who’ll suffer. This won’t make America, the land of the brave and free, any safer — just a whole lot more ashamed of itself when the fear abates and sanity returns.”

Commentary, News

App StateAs the General Assembly’s Joint Legislative Commission on Governmental Operations convenes this morning to review, among other things, the generous new pay hikes provided to various UNC system chancellors, it’s increasingly clear that rank and file university personnel will get no more than the one-time, across-the-board $750 bonus authorized by the new state budget.

According to a post on the Facebook page Aaup Appalachian (AAUP stands for American Association of University Professors) the Human Resources Director at Appalachian State informed staff on the Boone campus last night that plans to supplement the bonus with another $750 out of university funds has been nixed by the lawyers:

“Dear Appalachian Colleagues,

On November 5, I sent you an email indicating that: “This year, the university has identified non-state funds to provide all SHRA employees with an additional campus-based $750 bonus, doubling the legislated bonus to $1,500.” It was my belief that providing these one-time lump sum bonuses was within our discretion, since we were not increasing base compensation and were not committing any State funds, and I advised our campus senior leadership accordingly.

With deep and sincere regret I must now inform you that I have recently been told by legal counsel that we are not allowed to make additional lump sum payments to employees subject to the State Human Resources Act (SHRA), above the legislated $750 bonus. Unfortunately, my interpretation of Appalachian’s ability to provide an additional bonus for SHRA employees was incorrect. Any such payments fall exclusively within the purview of the North Carolina General Assembly, regardless of the source of funding.”

The letter goes on to apologize profusely and acknowledge the sorry state of campus salaries.

At least the folks in Boone are keeping their (dark) sense of humor about the whole thing. This is from the intro to the Facebook post:

“Good news: The pay raises have been withdrawn!!
Bad news: Not the $50,000 raise for App State’s chancellor, but the $750 bonus for App State’s staff (in addition to the $750 bonus all employees are receiving)”

David Lewis

Rep. David Lewis

Not that we needed one, but this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer offers yet another reminder of how state budgets are put together in Raleigh these days. As the story written by Patrick Gannon of The Insider details, Rep. David Lewis, the powerful chair of the House Rules Committee “took significant steps in this year’s legislative session to protect the state contract of a friend and campaign donor” by “tucking language into a technical corrections bill that became law in the final minutes of the session – ensured that contracts for those services would continue to be bid out to the private sector when they expire next year.”

In other words, a law was written secretly in the dead of the night to protect a campaign donor with no public sunlight or input.

Now, consider this fact in the light of yesterday’s edition of the Fitzsimon File, in which Chris reviews thePat McCrory press event expressed position of Gov. McCrory on such shenanigans in 2008, during his first run for Governor. As Chris notes, McCrory promised “to veto any state budget that includes items added in private sessions and not included by the House or Senate during the regular budget process.”

Sadly, of course, as Chris also notes, “Virtually every budget McCrory has signed would qualify for a veto under that promise but he has signed every one of them.”

Obviously, as occurred with his infamous repudiations of his 2012 promise to approve no further restrictions on access to abortion services, something changed between the 2008 campaign and McCrory becoming Governor in 2013 and it wasn’t good.

It’s too bad. Some of those 2008 promises made a lot of sense.