Perdue sidesteps appointed panel?

December 20, 2010 8:43:20 PM PST
In the wake of a series of scandals that rocked the Highway Patrol this year, Governor Bev Perdue promised major reforms at the agency and appointed a blue ribbon panel to advise her on what changes to make at the agency.However, that panel isn't close to finished with what it was asked of them and from what the governor said last week, it may not finish.

Perdue appointed the six member panel to make recommendations in four key areas; how to select the next colonel, structure and policy at the patrol, a potential change in the state law that requires a commander to come from inside the ranks and how to rebuild the integrity of the patrol.

The panel turned in an unfinished report asking for more time and left two questions on changing the law and integrity unanswered.

Perdue in return gave them more time to complete the work.

But since then, there have been some contradictions from the governor.

In October --ready to pick a new commander-- she said, "I'm led to believe the panel is very near the final product of its work and that they have had the concerns answered."

In fact, sources tell ABC11 Eyewitness News the panel was no closer to finishing the job.

Perdue went ahead anyway, selecting the second in command, Michael Gilchrist as the new colonel. The panel wasn't part of that decision, despite a statement from Perdue in September.

"I intend to ask them to be part of the review committee for the applicants themselves," she said.

Last week, ABC11 asked Perdue about the unfinished report and she said most of the panel felt there was no more work to be done.

"Will you be satisfied if they come back and say, we have nothing more to say," ABC11 asked.

"Well two of the questions, I can answer the one on the legislation myself," Perdue said. "I don't need somebody to recommend or not recommend that something be changed. I can do that on my own."

Perdue says regardless of whether the panel eventually weighs in on this, she likely will ask the legislature to change the law and allow the next commander to come from outside the ranks.

On the question of integrity, sources say the panel is split.

Two panel members have submitted additional recommendations in an e-mail, but it has not been released.

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