The recent track record of North Carolina’s government indicates that a change of course may be necessary to ensure public trust. Over the last few years, North Carolina government has shown that an erosion of public support is legitimate. Government leadership from the Governor’s Mansion to the General Assembly and down through the bureaucracy has deprived taxpayers of sound and trustworthy governance.
North Carolinians over the last year have suffered tremendous embarrassment as light has been shed on corruption in former Democratic Gov. Mike Easley and his administration. The fallout has resulted in numerous resignations to date. Meanwhile the investigation continues and the outlook for Easley is grim. Additionally, current Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue’s campaign was assessed a civil fine of $30,000 by the state Board of Elections for failure to report more than 40 campaign flights. The campaign is now also under criminal investigation for possibly failing to report the flights in order to circumvent campaign donation limits.
North Carolina’s bureaucracy, accountable to the governor, has also failed taxpayers. Ken Lay, the state Secretary of the Department of Revenue, has resigned after temporarily implementing a new department policy that would have made it more difficult for taxpayers who mistakenly overpaid their taxes to receive refunds. Perdue, who oversees the department and appoints its leader, claimed that she was unaware of the policy shift until after it became public. Additionally, hundreds of thousands of tax refund checks, worth many millions of dollars, were mailed out late as government suffered through cash flow issues.
The Employment Security Commission, also accountable to the governor, is guilty of overpaying longtime unemployed workers to the tune of $28 million. The Commission sent bills to those who were overpaid but has since said that any repayments would not be accepted as the department works through the issue. Further, the systemic glitch was a known fact four months before the overpayments stopped. Further, a report by State Auditor Beth Wood indicated that one Employment Security Commission employee has been fired, and another suspended without pay, for installing software to illegally duplicate copyrighted material on state-owned computers.
In August, Wood issued a report saying that “state supervisors could waste thousands of labor hours (millions of dollars in salaries) preparing and conducting performance appraisals that do not help the State achieve its goals.” The report criticized performance management systems in the state departments of Transportation, Corrections and Health and Human Services claiming that performance reviews did not provide for measurable goals by which to assess improvement. Furthermore, because of blanket pay raises for state employees granted by the Legislature, there is “virtually no relationship between performance and pay for state employees.” Thus the performance metrics are rendered useless and a waste of labor hours and funds.
An independent report commissioned by Attorney General Roy Cooper released this year indicates that in 230 cases the State Bureau of Investigation’s Forensic Laboratory either omitted, overstated or falsely reported blood evidence. Nearly 200 of those cases resulted in charges being filed; all must be reviewed. Seven of the cases in question were death penalty cases, four of which involved defendants on death row. The defendants in the remaining three death penalty cases have been executed.
Remember also that in the last 10 years, former Rep. Michael Decker, a Democratic member of the North Carolina House of Representatives, former Speaker of the House Jim Black and former Agriculture Commissioner Meg Scott Phipps have all been sent to prison.
A pattern of incompetent, corrupt and wasteful behavior has clearly been established by the leadership in Raleigh. Perhaps it is time for new leadership in the capital. Could it be worse that what the state currently suffers?
Jason Sutton is an intern at the Civitas Institute.