Note: A previous version of this article stated that the impending audit of the NCAE would be determinative as to whether the teachers’ organization continues to receive its dues checkoff benefit. The Civitas Institute continues to believe that this is the case. However, a staff member from the Auditor’s office reached out to Civitas to clarify that the Auditor’s sole role is to impartially provide information, not to craft policy. The staff member was concerned that the previous version’s language could be read to mean that the Auditor has taken a position on the importance or outcome of the audit discussed in this article. To that end, this article has been updated to clarify that the State Auditor will be providing the audit as provided by statute, and it will be the job of state policymakers and law enforcers to decide what to do with that information.
Earlier this year, I wrote about how an impending audit of the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE) could spell trouble for the left-leaning organization. If, as part of an audit mandated by statute, State Auditor Beth Wood were to find that the NCAE has less than 40,000 members, the organization would lose its state-administered dues checkoff benefit. Teachers unions and associations in other states have taken massive hits in terms of membership and fundraising upon losing similar benefits.
As of late September 2015, this required annual audit was not yet complete. So, the Civitas Institute and the Center for Law and Freedom (CLF) sent letters to the State Auditor, the Wake County Public School System (WCPSS), and the NCAE, inquiring as to the status of both the audit and the NCAE’s membership level.
The first response came from Timothy Hoegemeyer, General Counsel at the Office of the State Auditor. In a public email to CLF, Hoegemeyer wrote:
“On behalf of the State Auditor I wanted to respond to your letter which we received yesterday, concerning the procedures required by N.C.G.S. § 143B-426.40A(g).
In regards to your question on the status of the audit I can tell you that we are in the process of finalizing the findings and drafting a report. However, I can’t tell you exactly when it will be published because I simply do not know. However having said that, I would say it should be in a matter of weeks, rather than months. As for your question concerning the methodology we used, that will be explained fully in the report and it would be premature for our office to comment on that until the entire process is complete.”
Next to respond was the Wake County Public School System. In a letter to Civitas Institute President Francis De Luca, WCPSS Chief Communications Officer Tim Simmons wrote:
“We are in receipt of your letter dated September 18, 2015, to Superintendent Merrill referencing N.C. Stat. 143B-426.40A(g). This statute does not impose a requirement on Wake County Public School System to verify and certify the number of members in an employees’ association. Rather, the statute states that audit responsibility rests with the Office of the State Auditor.”
We’ll avoid discussing, for now, Mr. Simmons’ conclusion that a state audit of a given government function relieves all other actors involved in that function of any duty to ensure compliance with state law.
And the NCAE? From them, we have not heard a peep, despite this being our second attempt to contact them about the issue. Granted, they are under no legal duty to respond to inquiries from the Civitas Institute. However, if the organization had clear-cut evidence that its membership was above the 40,000-member threshold, one would think that it would simply provide the public with that evidence and be done with it.
In sum, the State Auditor and the Wake County Public School System have responded, and it seems that the audit will be forthcoming soon. From the plain language of the statute, it would seem that if the NCAE is found to be below the 40,000 member threshold, they will lose their dues checkoff status — but the State Auditor has been careful to clarify that it is up to state policymakers to decide what to do with the information that she provides.
While the State Auditor provided us with no clear-cut answer on when the audit will be made public, it seems that it will be forthcoming very soon. Stay tuned for updates.