July 19, 2007

North Carolina graded a 'D' for governor openness

The state of North Carolina continues to rack up low grades in many areas. The latest is a "D" from the Center for Public Integrity for financial disclosure laws for governors.

News and Observer
June 19, 2007
N&O Staff Reports

State earns "D" for governor openness

North Carolina received a 'D' from the Center for Public Integrity for financial disclosure laws for governors.

North Carolina ranked 22nd among the states.

The survey awarded points for disclosure form components and electronic access to records.

The state scored 66 points out of 100.

Washington was the only state to earn an 'A' in the ranking. Original source...

NC Politics and the Almond Coverup

The North Carolina legislators say they want to do more to improve ethics in politics yet continue to cover up some scandals and don't want to abide by the state's open information laws making public records available to everyone.

According to a July 19, 2007, News and Observer news commentary on the Almond incident "with (Almond's) resignation, whatever Almond did (or didn't do) is also swept under the rug. And for now, at least, that's where it will stay. Republican leaders described Almond's alleged misconduct, if true, as "serious improper behavior." What happened has been confined to the legislative rumor mill and nasty chatter on the Web."

Requests for copies of Almond's recent e-mail traffic have been denied by Joe Hackney, legislative staff and members of the Legislative Services Committee (a panel of lawmakers that oversees the administration of legislators and legislative staff).

An unofficial description of Mr. Almond's transgressions currently making rounds among legislative staff is that Mr. Almond invited his a 63 year old recently widowed Legislative Aid into his office, unzipped his pants and asked her for oral sex. When she refused he then proceeded to masturbate in front of her.

For some reason the rest of the Legislators refuse to offer this information or are too embarrassed to repeat it.

News and Observer
July 19, 2007
Ruth Sheehan, Staff Writer

Almond's sin swept under the rug

First of all, let's declare a moratorium on all the puns related to Almond: Almond Joy, Almond Crunch, Toasted Almond ... you get the picture.

The subject, of course, is former Rep. David Almond, a Stanly County Republican and former vice chairman of the House committee on children youth and families, who resigned under mysterious circumstances last week.

It's a case that gives new meaning to the term Southern exposure -- in part because it's being so carefully covered up.

House Republican leaders described Almond's alleged misconduct, if true, as "serious improper behavior."

But what exactly happened has been confined to the legislative rumor mill and nasty chatter on the Web. Read more...

July 18, 2007

NC DMV Commissioner Abruptly Resigns

Following allegations that the NC DMV commissioner helped a friend get legal title to a replica of a 1937 truck as an original vehicle, and a scandal following suspension of an employee for revealing the situation to the state and the public, the commissioner has suddenly resigned without a clear explanation.

Could this be an indication of a larger scandal in the making? This is the latest of a string of scandals in the NC DMV office...

News and Observer
July 19, 2007
Dan Kane, Staff Writer

Tatum steps down as DMV chief
The terse announcement of his departure follows a controversy over whether he helped a friend with a title matter

N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles Commissioner George Tatum resigned Wednesday, after documents and interviews with an agency staffer suggested that Tatum helped a friend get a replica of a 1937 Ford truck titled as the real thing.

Tatum could not be reached for comment, and a state Department of Transportation spokesman would say only that the resignation involved a personnel matter.

Gov. Mike Easley, who appointed Tatum commissioner in April 2003, said in a short statement that Tatum needed to resign.

"I believe it was appropriate," Easley said.

Mark Foster, the DOT's chief financial officer, will be interim DMV commissioner.

The DMV, which issues driver's licenses and vehicle registrations and conducts safety and emissions inspections, has been long known as an agency with numerous controversies and scandals. Tatum is not the first commissioner to resign following allegations that he misused his office. Alexander Killens quit in 1996 after an audit showed he used staff as drivers and personal security. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor obstruction of justice for impeding an investigation into whether a DMV employee misused a state car. Read more...

July 17, 2007

Edwards bashing in NC

You would think that when a candidate for president is a North Carolina resident that people from the state would rally behind him. If a candidate from NC were elected as either president or vice president the state would benefit greatly from direct ties to the president's office.

It's interesting that numerous articles such as Edwards' hair cuts both ways keep appearing in the News and Observer and other state newspapers effectively bashing John Edwards as a presidential candidate. The article highlighted below continues the effort to discredit Mr. Edwards and make him appear less than favorable as a presidential candidate. It's a shame citizens of the state can't recognize the potential of having a state citizen in the Oval Office, how it would bring much positive attention to the state and even allow a number of citizens to be tapped for government jobs should he win the election.

This hate based journalism continues to show how biased News and Observer articles are when discussing certain candidates, rather than expressing neutral story lines. This same attitude repeatedly shows up in News and Observer articles about Mr. Edwards. A July 13th article "Edwards campaign wears out welcome" suggests the campaign office for Mr. Edwards is not welcome and is a "burden" to Chapel Hill. Another one paints "Edwards is Esquire's latest cover boy" in a similar derogative tone.

It's a sad day for the state when news and media coverage departs from informative news to tread in negativism and plant seeds of bias in readers minds.
News and Observer
July 14, 2007
Peder Zane, Staff Writer

Edwards' hair cuts both ways

Americans may be ready to elect a woman or African-American as president.

Dandies, primpers and swells still face mighty obstacles.

As Hillary and Obama rise in the polls, John Edwards is being dragged down by reports that he paid a Beverly Hills stylist $175 and more to cut his lush brown locks. Could the price of vanity be the presidency?

This haircut affair has largely been seen as a political issue, with critics saying Edwards' pricey trims belie his populist message. But it is also cultural, involving Americans' deep-seated ideas about masculinity, beauty and whether those qualities are reconcilable. Read more...

July 8, 2007

Favoritism in NC Politics

Another example of favoritism in NC political circles was reported in the July 8, 2007, News and Observer about the leader of NC's DMV organization helping a friend get a recently built "kit car" titled as an authentic antique car.

According to a DMV staff member, a friend of DMV Commissioner George Tatum was allowed to get a vehicle title issued that says the owner's kit built car is an old 1937 Ford truck when it is not after the commissioner became aware the car owner's first attempt at getting a title failed. Titling the vehicle in this way "reduced what the vehicle's owner must pay in taxes and could inflate the value of the vehicle on the open market".

This blatant abuse of registration requirements allows the owner to pay far less in taxes than with a properly registered vehicle. According to the report the vehicle owner "paid $15 in highway use taxes on the truck because the DMV values a 1937 Ford truck at $500". In reality this tax amounts to 3 percent of the book value for the vehicle and the state and taxpayers lose out on lost taxes. "Tax on a newly built custom car is based on the cost of labor and materials, which is typically in the $10,000 to $30,000 range" ($300 to $900 in taxes).

It seems recently like many of Governor Easley's team members are being tied back to political favoritism, helping friends and friends family members get jobs, denial of responsibility for failures and blunders in state organizations and other involvements unbecoming to the Governor and his circle of friends.

Read the report and you decide...
News and Observer
July 8, 2007
Dan Kane, Staff Writer

Staffer says DMV chief favored friend
Commissioner calls charge a lie; staffer briefly suspended

DMV Commissioner George Tatum oversees the documentation of millions of North Carolina motor vehicles, but he has come under fire for a document attached to just one -- a kit car that looks like a vintage 1937 Ford truck.

Although the car isn't a real '37 Ford, it has a title from the Division of Motor Vehicles that says it is. The title might have reduced what the vehicle's owner must pay in taxes and could inflate the value of the vehicle on the open market.

How the fake '37 Ford came to be titled as a real '37 Ford has provoked a charge that Tatum wanted DMV inspectors to approve the title as a favor for a family friend. Read more...