Commentary

Editorials, conservative pol: The Governor’s explanation in prison contractor controversy doesn’t wash

If there’s yet to be a nonpartisan defense of Governor Pat McCrory’s behavior in the festering prison-contractor controversy, it sure has been hard to find.

Two days ago, his hometown newspaper (which endorsed him in 2012) called McCrory’s explanation his “latest dog ate my homework excuse” and essentially blasted his claim that he was in a “side conversation” when Graeme Keith made his explicit quid pro quo pitch as unbelievable.

This morning, the Greensboro News & Record termed his response to the story “unconvincing” and said the following:

“The governor’s response does not show that nothing improper or illegal was done. More investigation is needed to make such determinations. The appearance of impropriety is strong, however. If the governor arranges a high-level meeting on behalf of a donor who wants a state contract, that looks like the sort of pay-to-play access that has gotten politicians, such as former Democratic House Speaker Jim Black, in trouble in the past.”

But one of the most damning critiques of McCrory’s behavior and explanation comes from veteran arch-conservative politico Carter Wrenn. As Wrenn wrote on the blog he co-authors with veteran Democrat Gary Pearce yesterday:

“There were nine people in the room when the Governor and the donor met with Prisons Department officials and according to the newspaper, right off, the donor, Graeme Keith, said he’d given a lot of money and it was time he got something in return.

Keith later said he’d never said any such thing but four prison department officials said he had and the Department Secretary, who’s a retired FBI agent, who was sitting at the table said he heard Keith say it, himself, and that Keith said the same thing to him two other times – once in another meeting and once on the phone.

The Governor told the newspaper he didn’t hear Keith say it but added he believed the Prison Department folks were telling the truth….

Graeme Keith got his contract from the Prisons Department and there’s been a lot of squabbling over whether it was a good deal or a bad deal for the state but, at the end of the day, only one fact matters: Did Keith really say he’d made his donations and now it was time for the quid pro quo? Because if he did, that should have been the end of that meeting. And of that contract.”

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