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It was just a couple of weeks ago that the McCrory administration was up in arms and demanding blood as a result of a new and critical audit of the North Carolina Rural Center. Indeed, judging by their statements and actions then and since, you’d have thought the Rural Center had been revealed to be some kind of organized crime outfit.

Of course, the whole thing was a bit of an overreaction. As we noted at the time:

“Troubling as some of the reports from the audit are, the plain truth is that the main accusation is simply that the Center has been doing what Governors and Departments of Commerce of both parties have been doing for decades: promising that amazing job growth and economic development would result from their investments of state funds and then sometimes failing to deliver (or keep good track of whether they delivered).

That’s not to say we shouldn’t reform the Center, but to simply ax it overnight as State Budget Director Art Pope has apparently decided to do smacks of something more than simple good budgeting practices — namely a partisan effort by Pope and his cronies to punish a group that they’ve always hated, mostly because of their perception that it has always been staffed predominately by Democrats and maintained close ties to Democratic politicians.”

Now flash forward to today and the release of a new audit — also from the State Auditor. This one, however, is not directed at a group hated by some for its historic ties to Democrats, but at the Department of Commerce itself. Read More

For years, North Carolina progressives have frequently been critical of what might properly be described as the state’s “good ol’ boy economic development establishment.” This skeptical attitude — which has been constant under both Democratic and Republican leadership — was/is born of the rightful perception that too much of the money the state spends in this area (be it on tax breaks and loopholes for corporations, direct handouts to businesses by various governors and their Departments of Commerce or on nonprofit economic development agencies) is subject to favoritism and lack of rigor when it comes to demanding real results. 

Given this backdrop, the recent attention on the North Carolina Rural Center is not unwelcome. The recent examination of the Center by the state Auditor provides strong evidence that the Center had many “good ol’ boy” tendencies and didn’t always get all the bang for its buck that would have been desirable (and that it probably led many to believe it was actually generating). In addition, the compensation package for the Executive Director was way too high. 

 All that said, this morning’s editorial in Raleigh’s News & Observer is absolutely right about the need to avoid rash action on the Center’s future. As the editorial puts it: Read More

There’s more discussion over at the News & Observer about some of the troubles facing the N.C. Rural Center, the public-private economic development group that’s been a mainstay in North Carolina politics and rural parts of the state.

An audit released today by the N.C. State Auditor found that longtime N.C. Rural Center Director Billy Ray Hall had a plush retirement severance of nearly a quarter of a million dollars waiting for him when he leaves the non-profit funded by the N.C. General Assembly. That’s on top of a $221,000 a year salary and a separate retirement account.

The audit determined that Hall’s $221,000 salary was “not reasonable,” according to the News & Observer.

From the N&O’s Andy Curliss:

Auditors also found that leaders of the nonprofit Rural Center have put nearly a quarter million dollars into a special account to pay president Billy Ray Hall, 65, a severance when he leaves the rural agency, which emphasizes its efforts to help poor and struggling pockets of the state.

The severance account for Hall was started in 2003 and board members have put $10,000 to $40,000 a year in it since, according to the audit. The severance account held $241,856 on June 30, 2012.

You can read the actual audit here.

Read More

Maybe there’s something missing from the news reports regarding the recent hubbub over State Auditor Beth Wood’s report on the Alcohol Law Enforcement Section of the state Department of Public Safety, but it sure does seem that, at the least, the folks over at ALE could use a little public relations advice (and, perhaps, a strong word from on high).

Again, maybe I’m missing something, but since when do the heads of state offices like ALE get to hire lawyers who would presume to tell the state Auditor what she can and cannot do about auditing and reporting on that office? And even if they thought Wood was doing something inappropriate, aren’t there some channels to work through? After all, ALE is a section of a state agency that reports to the Governor

I know the Guv has a lot more important things to deal with, but it would seem that she might want to have her staff send a little memo over to ALE folks telling them to get with the program or, at least, come to them first before picking a public fight with another constitutional officer of the state.