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Stephen LaRoque responds….but not to us (with update from N.C. Dems)

N.C. Rep. Stephen LaRoque spoke to his hometown paper, the Kinston Free Press, about the N.C. Policy Watch investigation “Public money, personal gains.”

The investigation published on Wednesday looked into LaRoque’s management of two economic development non-profits that have received $8 million in federal funds from USDA. Among the findings were that LaRoque received up to $195,000 a year in compensation for running the public charity, he approved loans that went to close associate, and had a board of directors consisting of immediate family members.

LaRoque, a Kinston Republican, told reporter David Anderson that the recent investigation was off-base, and maintained that he doesn’t take compensation from public sources.

“The article was full of, at best, misstatements and, at worst, outright lies,” LaRoque continued. “Similar questions were raised by my opponent in the last election; there was nothing to it then and there’s nothing to it now.”

The nonprofit groups were created to make federally-backed loans to small businesses in rural counties in Eastern and Western North Carolina — ECDC, created in 1997, serves borrowers in eastern counties, including Lenoir and Greene, and the PDC, created in 2003, serves borrowers in the western part of the state.

“No federal money has gone to pay any of my compensation,” LaRoque said. “It has all come from interest and fees (paid by borrowers).”

LaRoque wouldn’t talk to us for our investigation despite several attempts and a list of detailed written questions sent to his legislative email address.

Calls to N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis spokesman Jordan Shaw for comment about the investigation also weren’t returned. Tillis also brought LaRoque onto his leadership team this year when making LaRoque a co-chair of the powerful N.C. House Rules Committee.

Tillis, for those keeping track, is in New Orleans for the American Legislative Exchange Council conference where he was named “Legislator of the Year” last night.

UPDATE: Not much of a surprise here, but the North Carolina State Democratic Party weighed in Friday afternoon and called for LaRoque to answer questions about his non-profit.

“Stephen LaRoque owes the voters of his district direct and honest answers about these serious and substantial allegations,” said David Parker. the state chairman, in a news release.

 

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