Obey Open Meetings Law, Perdue tells boards

April 22, 2009 

Gov. Beverly Perdue has sent a letter to appointees on state boards and commissions reminding them that they must comply with the Open Meetings Law.

The letter was sent just days after news stories about whether the Wildlife Resources Commission is obligated to hold its committee meetings in public.

Perdue writes that she has promised to operate her administration "under the umbrella of openness."

"I expect every state board and commission to set the same standard of openness and transparency and to fully comply with North Carolina's Open Meetings Act," Perdue said in a letter dated April 16.

Included with the letter is a question-and-answer sheet on the Open Meetings Law prepared by the office of Attorney General Roy Cooper.

Perdue issued the letter just days after the N.C. Bowhunters Association complained about a lack of access to committee meetings of the wildlife commission, which governs hunting and fishing in the state.

A U.S. attorney and Easley

House and Senate Republicans said Tuesday that a federal probe into the dealings of former Gov. Mike Easley shouldn't stop just because a new U.S. attorney is appointed.

Senate Republican Leader Phil Berger and House Republican Leader Paul Stam said that Easley's use of an SUV and his land dealings are worth a look. Easley is a Democrat.

"I think it needs to be probed carefully, deliberately and promptly," said Stam of Apex.

Berger said staff members should be allowed to continue their investigation even after President Barack Obama, with the recommendation of Sen. Kay Hagan, selects a new U.S. attorney. "I would certainly call on the new U.S. attorney, whomever that might be, to retain the professional staff that's there," said Berger of Eden.

The state revenue numbers

The state revenue picture may be better than expected, Perdue says, citing early news on the April 15 tax returns.

After being briefed Tuesday by budget director Charles Perusse, Perdue said she was told that sales tax revenues for the last quarter are "fairly good" or "not as bad as it could have been."

But the governor said the tax returns have not yet been fully calculated, so it is difficult to get the full picture.

"I believe by Friday I will have a handle on the numbers and by Tuesday or Wednesday we can give you the numbers," Perdue told reporters after speaking to a luncheon of the state chapter of the National Federation of Independent Businesses in Raleigh.

The state is facing a $2 billion budget shortfall for the fiscal year ending June 30th and a $3 billion to $4 billion shortfall for the year beginning July 1.

Hagan's husband and water

A business partly owned by U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan's husband is suing the Piedmont Triad Regional Water Authority.

Charles T. "Chip" Hagan is a managing member of Hydrodyne Industries LLC, according to a Dec. 31 filing with the N.C. Secretary of State's office.

The Greensboro firm is one of four companies that own hydroelectric dams on the Deep River and that are suing the regional authority, contending they will lose money if it draws water from the river.

John Kime, the authority's executive director, told The Greensboro News & Record that plaintiffs are seeking millions of dollars in damages.

A trial is set for this summer.

NAACP watches budget

Perdue was urged by NAACP leaders this week to make sure budget cuts do not fall primarily on the poor.

"Our concern is that we can't balance the budget on the backs of the poor," said the Rev. William Barber, the state NAACP president.

Twenty-one NAACP members and their allies met at the Executive Mansion with Perdue Monday afternoon for about an hour and a half. The civil rights group had asked for the meeting so that the governor could hear their concerns directly.

Barber said the group stressed the need to make sure that some of the federal stimulus money goes to African-American businesses, that the governor's staff is racially diverse, that the public schools not become resegregrated and that the state have more black district attorneys.

The NAACP is pressing the governor to appoint an African-American to replace Howard S. Boney, who is retiring May 1 after 31 years as district attorney for the 7th judicial district that covers Edgecombe, Nash and Wilson Counties.

Other issues included ending the death penalty and pulling back on the program to deport illegal aliens who have been arrested for minor violations. The group also expressed concern about hate crimes, specifically a firebombing being investigated in Scotland Neck.

By staff writers Rob Christensen, Benjamin Niolet and Ryan Teague Beckwith.

rob.christensen@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4532

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