December 14, 2015
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Jim Tynen (919) 834-2099 firstname.lastname@example.org
RALEIGH — The Civitas Institute is calling for state government to take action against the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE) for defying the intent of state law and refusing to supply membership data to State Auditor Beth Wood.
“Legislators, the governor’s office, the Department of Public Instruction, and local school districts must act immediately to cut off the ‘dues checkoff’ privilege enjoyed by the NCAE,” said Elliot Engstrom, lead counsel for the Civitas Center for Law and Freedom (CLF).
Civitas policy experts and CLF have written extensively and asked questions about the auditor’s statutorily-mandated “dues checkoff” audit. State law requires the auditor to certify the membership numbers of the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE) and other groups that benefit from state-provided dues deduction privileges. Withholding membership dues from certain state employees association members’ paychecks is a special benefit that saves these groups time and money at the taxpayers’ expense. In the case of the NCAE, however, this withholding is only legal if the teachers’ group maintains a membership level of 40,000 or more.
But the NCAE has stonewalled the State Auditor’s investigation. From page 3 of the report:
We were unable to obtain the total membership count and type of membership count from the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE). After numerous requests, the NCAE refused to furnish the information. We do not have the authority to compel NCAE to turn over this information because, as a private entity, NCAE does not fall under the authority of the State Auditor
Civitas is highlighting three important conclusions:
- As Dr. Bob Luebke has written, it has for some time been likely that the organization is below the threshold to receive the checkoff benefit. The group’s refusal to comply with the auditor’s request makes it obvious that its membership level is below the threshold. There is no other rational motive for the NCAE’s refusal to comply with a legally required audit.
- Any withholding of dues for the NCAE must cease immediately. The organization benefits from the expenditure of state resources, yet at the same time refused to comply with the Auditor’s certification of their numbers. They cannot be allowed to take advantage of the government’s helping them collect dues, but then claim that as a private entity they are under no responsibility to comply with statute.
- In the coming legislative session, the General Assembly legislature must at the very least enact a better system of overseeing state-provided dues checkoff benefits. The NCAE refused the auditor’s requests based on the fact that she does not have the statutory authority to subpoena documents from private entities. Either language needs to be added making the dues checkoff benefit conditional on complying with State Auditor investigations, or the state should move towards a contractual system where organizations negotiate with the state for dues checkoff benefits rather than receive them via statutory grant.
“All this underscores the problems with state government’s granting a private group such a benefit under state law,” Engstrom said. “The best solution would be to eliminate withholding dues entirely, for the NCAE and all other organizations holding this special privilege.”
The Center for Law and Freedom (CLF), a nonprofit public interest law firm housed within the Civitas Institute, provides free legal representation to North Carolinians facing governmental violations of their constitutional or other legal rights. CLF represents North Carolinians in cases such as administrative agency actions, constitutional litigation, and transparency lawsuits. The Center is part of the Civitas Institute’s overall mission to implement conservative policy solutions for the benefit of all North Carolinians.