Governor calls for tougher ethics requirements

NC Governor Beverly Perdue (Steve Helber)

April 5, 2010 3:52:49 PM PDT
North Carolina Governor Beverly Perdue called for stronger ethical requirements for state employees, elected officials, and people serving on boards and commissions Monday.

At an afternoon news conference, the Governor spoke of executive orders that she can implement herself, and she proposed a legislative package that lawmakers would have to approve.

"The people of North Carolina should rightfully expect and deserve integrity from their public servants," she told reporters.

Perdue said she wanted to stop contractors from donating to office holders who oversee contracts and she'd like a cooling off period for state employees working in private business or registering as lobbyists.

The legislative package the Governor will send to lawmakers also includes:

· Removing appointees who are under felony indictment or who refuse to cooperate with an investigation.

· Requiring 75% attendance for appointees to Boards and Commissions.

· Requiring a gift ban and general conflict of interest standards for appointees.

· Creating a conflict of interest standard for certain Boards and Commissions not covered by the State Ethics Act.

· Securing the Governor’s power to remove any gubernatorial appointment to a board or commission at will, without cause.

· Creating a new process requiring full disclosure of an applicant’s background, including felony and/or misdemeanor criminal charges or convictions.

Ethics rules for state employees would be beefed up with an extension of the Governor's gift ban. Employees would also lose their pension if convicted of a felony related to their job. They would also be required to file electronic statements of economic interest and report any gift of over $100 from anyone doing business with the state.

Click here to read Governor Perdue's executive order and see the new application for boards and commissions (.pdf)

Perdue said Monday her proposals were in line with her ongoing commitment to clean up state government.

"This isn't the first step and it won't be the last step," she said.

The announcement also follows several scandals over influence at the state level. Former aide to Governor Mike Easley, Ruffin Poole, has been charged with 57 felony counts in which he's accused of helping move along state permits for coastal housing projects while receiving gifts and making money by investing in two of the subdivisions.

And there have also been problems with North Carolina ABC system which runs state liquor stores. Published reports exposed Mecklenburg County's ABC Board being wined and dined to a $12,000 dinner by a leading liquor distributor.

And in New Hanover County, the local ABC board approved compensation packages that paid its former administrator and his son more than $400,000 a year.

NC Senate Republican Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) said Monday that he'd like to see Perdue's reforms go further. He said in a news release that he'll propose reforms in the Senate that would to increase transparency and accountability in the state hiring process.

"We cannot restore faith in state government unless the presently accepted culture is firmly rejected. That will take action, including the adoption of serious and lasting ethics reforms. For too long Governor Perdue has offered lip service but no real support to clean up state government," said Berger. "Particularly troubling is for political appointees under investigation to remain in their positions without comment from the Governor. Press conferences will not end the pay-to-play culture infesting state government. Firm and consistent action from the Governor would be a step in the right direction. I hope to work with the Governor and have her support in pushing meaningful reforms in the short session."

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