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NC General Assembly Moves To Block Ethics Investigations

A bill that would prohibit the state auditor from investigating violations of the state ethics act passed a key Senate committee Monday afternoon.

The bill would require the state auditor to turn over possible violations of the ethics act to the N.C. State Ethics Commission. The ethics act deals with possible conflicts of interest involving officials and their duties.

A similar bill in the House is scheduled for a committee Tuesday.

Lawmakers took up the change after State Auditor Les Merritt began investigating a senator over his son's business dealings. The N.C. State Ethics Commission sees no problem in the case. Merritt disagrees.

Source: Under The Dome

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Since Under The Dome did not link to the press release, I will post it here in it's entirety:

Auditor Believes Legislation is Unnecessary,
but Committee Acted in Good Faith

RALEIGH, NC – July 7, 2008

Today, State Auditor Leslie Merritt responded to the Select Committee on Government and Election Reform’s passing of SB1875. The bill entitled, “Clarify Auditor Hotline Authority/SEC,” seeks to clarify jurisdiction over Ethics Act violations and facilitate an increased flow of information between the Office of the State Auditor and the Ethics Commission.
“Respectfully, I believe that this legislation is unnecessary because two watchdogs, the State Auditor and the Ethics Commission, are better than one when it comes to uncovering abuses in State government,” said State Auditor Leslie Merritt.
Historically, a function of the State Auditor’s Office is to investigate fraud, waste and abuse in State government. Conflicts of interest between a State official’s public duties and private affairs are defined as “abuse” under well accepted government auditing standards. SB1875 may handcuff State Auditors from being able to release the results of investigations of “abuse” in a public report, despite the good faith efforts of this Committee to clarify the jurisdiction of the Ethics Act.
“I believe that any new legislation should allow for a public, transparent review of the facts of a case and not create a climate of strict confidentiality. But, the legislature makes the law and the Office of the State Auditor will respect it while continuing to provide an independent review of anonymous tips sent to our fraud, waste and abuse Hotline,” Auditor Merritt concluded.

Source: North Carolina Auditor
Senate Bill: 1875
House Bill: 2544


In North Carolina, we have had a long and storied history in corruption in our state government all the way down to the local level that is far worse than what once was in Louisiana.

The Jim Black Scandal is still paying dividends, and his associates are beginning to answer for their crimes.

John Hood discusses the NC General Assembly's inability to act:

If you are unfamiliar with the Jim Black Scandal, Carolina Journal has an excellent starting place to get an overview of how things went down.

The North Carolina General Assembly has shown itself to be unable to act against it's own members, especially those in leadership position. Does anyone need to be reminded of the corruption of Speaker of the NC House Liston Ramsey?

Liston B. Ramsey of Madison County, in the North Carolina mountains, had been speaker for four terms and was seeking a fifth. He was the first speaker of the House in this century to serve so long, and he ran the House in a classically autocratic way. In fact, he and a few cronies in the House and Senate together could be said to have run North Carolina. Laws in that state are enacted after passage by both houses of the legislature; the governor's signature is not required. Nor does the governor have the power to veto -- the only governor in the nation so handicapped.

Mr. Ramsey and his friends used their power with abandon. They held closed-door meetings to determine the state budget and to allocate appropriations. The "Super Sub," a group comprising Democratic legislators, made almost all critically important fiscal decisions. When bills were marked up in open meetings, members of the House leadership even spoke in numerical code and refused to distribute mark-up copies to the public or the press.

Mr. Ramsey's arrogance extended beyond procedural matters, however. He and his "old boys" constantly stood in opposition to the policies of North Carolina's popular and able Republican governor, Jim Martin. On those few occasions when the speaker and the governor agreed on an issue, the speaker merely sought to make Mr. Martin look politically irrelevant and impotent. This in spite of the fact that the governor was elected statewide and the speaker's legislative district has a population of just 100,000.

Source: When a Speaker Fell
By Ted Blanton. Wall Street Journal. (Eastern edition). New York, N.Y.: Apr 17, 1989. pg. 1

It was common knowledge that the North Carolina General Assembly was corrupt back then. The Democrats held all the power and were unwilling to act, until it became evident that the tide of public opinion was turning. GOP gains in the General Assembly, and an overwhelming victory on November 8th, 1988 by NC Governor Jim Martin (R) over Robert Jordan (D) [56% to 44%] moved the Democrats to act to preserve their hold on the General Assembly...and North Carolina. They have retained that hold ever since, and realize that an ethics investigator who is not under the influence and control of the General Assembly could upset their apple cart.

They are bringing everything they have to bear against Les Merritt, for they cannot afford to have him investigating their questionable activities...they are circling the wagons to protect District 49 Senator Martin Nesbitt. They know if he can be investigated, they all can.


Nesbitt Ethics Problems Surface Again

North Carolina Conservative Disavows Indictment

BREAKING-- NC Senator Nesbitt To Be Indicted?

More on Corruption in North Carolina Politics

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This used to be one of several political commentary blogs I ran until I got tired of updating several blogs, and consolidated them on Thunder Pig, and moved the group blogs to a Ning network.

These photos are a reflection of where I am throughout the day, and a celebration of life west of the Balsam mountain range in western North Carolina.


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