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The Civitas Institute, a Raleigh-based conservative group, has filed a public records request for emails and correspondence of Gene Nichol, a tenured University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill law professor who has been critical of McCrory Administration policies.

Gene Nichol

Gene Nichol

The public records request for Nichol’s emails was reported Thursday afternoon by Sue Sturgis of the Institute for Southern Studies, a group which has closely tracked spending by Art Pope, a wealthy Republican donor serving as McCrory’s budget director. Civitas is funded almost entirely by a family foundation run by Pope.

From Sturgis’ post:

The Raleigh, N.C.-based Civitas Institute wants the email correspondence, phone records, and calendars of Gene Nichol, director of the UNC Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity and a Moral Monday protest participant. It seeks Nichols’ records during the period from Sept. 14 through Oct. 25, the day the request was filed. Civitas submitted the FOIA request the week after Nichol wrote a newspaper column critical of the McCrory administration.

FOIA laws were designed to ensure government information is available to the public. But in recent years, requests from conservative groups for the records of academics in Virginia, Texas, Wisconsin and Michigan have raised questions whether FOIA is being used for politically motivated harassment.

“For a crowd that talks so much about liberty, they sure love to shut people up,” Nichol told Facing South.

Civitas, which was also behind the controversial database of Moral Monday arrestees, filed the information request 11 days after Nichol published a column in The News & Observer of Raleigh in which he called North Carolina’s new election law imposing strict photo voter ID requirements and other limits on voting the “most oppressive in the nation” and likened Gov. Pat McCrory (R) to “a 21st century successor to Maddox, Wallace and Faubus,” referring to the segregationist governors of Georgia, Alabama and Arkansas.

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Nichol is also a board member of the N.C. Justice Center, an anti-poverty non-profit that N.C. Policy Watch is a part of.

A state environmental agency spokesman said a recent political appointment to head a water quality conservation program is qualified because he served on the Apex town council during a drought.

Bryan Gossage, who was hired Nov. 4 by the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources listed as the executive director of the Clean Water Trust Management Fund, despite only have run small communications and public relations firms in the past.

On Tuesday evening, DENR spokesman Drew Elliot indicated in an email that Gossage’s environmental conservation experiences stems from serving on the Apex town council for eight years, including during a drought.

Bryan Gossage, right, with Gov. Pat McCrory. Source: Gossage's LinkedIn page.

Bryan Gossage, right, with Gov. Pat McCrory. Source: Gossage’s LinkedIn page.

“He provided oversight of town water management and conservation efforts, including conservation efforts during the drought of 2007-2008, the worst drought in the recorded history of the region,” Elliot wrote in an email to N.C. Policy Watch.

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A political appointee without any apparent background in conservation work is running a state water quality restoration fund, a departure from statutory requirements of the job.

Bryan Gossage, of Apex, became the executive director of the Clean Water Management Trust Fund on Nov. 4, and will make $78,000 a year in that position, according to Drew Elliot, the communications director for the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

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Bryan Gossage, right, with Gov. McCrory. Source: Gossage’s LinkedIn page.

It is Gossage’s second job in the McCrory Administration in the last six months, and a significant drop in pay for the former Apex councilman. He was initially hired in May, at a $117,000 annual salary, to serve as a deputy secretary in charge of innovation support at the N.C. Commerce Department.

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North Carolina’s Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos announced an initiative yesterday to address how mental health and substance abuse is handled across the state, and how best to avoid using emergency rooms and jail cells as regular treatment options.

“We will ask this coalition to assess our existing structure in the state and recommend possible policy changes to help break down the barriers to care for our patients,” Wos said, according to the Associated Press.

But it appears the state agency already assembled a coalition and launched a similar effort two years ago, when DHHS released a comprehensive action plan to lessen behavioral health stays in local emergency rooms.

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As the state commerce department continues to incorporate massive changes to its unemployment system, questions came from legislators Wednesday about why Gov. Pat McCrory hasn’t assembled a board to review disputed unemployment cases

A three-member review board was created in 2011 by the legislature to serve as the final review board for unemployment insurance cases, where either employers or workers feel their cases weren’t handled fairly.

“The law was clear, that the governor is to make appointments,” said Sen. Bob Rucho, a Charlotte Republican, in a legislative oversight hearing Wednesday about unemployment.

But neither McCrory, a Republican, nor his Democratic predecessor Bev Perdue ever made those appointments.

McCrory’s press office  issued a written statement Wednesday afternoon saying that McCrory was reviewing the applications.

“The governor’s office is currently reviewing candidates and we will appoint the three members to the Unemployment Review Board,” McCrory spokesperson Ryan Tronovitch wrote in a written statement.

Tronovitch refused to answer questions about what was causing the delay, and when the appointments would be made.

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