Wake schools try to calm irate judge

From staff reportsJuly 22, 2009 

— The Wake County school board tried Tuesday night to still the anger of a Wake County judge upset by at least one member's criticism of how he handled a deal that allowed former House Speaker Jim Black to settle half of a $1 million fine with land instead of cash.

They asked staff to draft a letter to Wake Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens saying the board respects his actions. But the instigator of the criticisms, board member Ron Margiotta, stood by his sharp-edged words.

Margiotta, who represents District 8 in southern Wake County, said the school board was shortchanged in a deal that allowed Black to transfer undeveloped land in Mecklenburg County to the Wake County School System. Margiotta also complained that school board members were not notified of the negotiation.

"I had to read about it in the newspaper," he said Tuesday.

Stephens scolded the board at Black's sentencing Thursday over Margiotta's comments.

Black was convicted on federal and state charges for accepting thousands of dollars in illegal payments. He entered an Alford plea on the state charges, which allowed him to take responsibility without pleading guilty. Stephens ruled, as part of the plea, that Black must pay a $1 million fine to avoid an extra 19 to 23 months in jail.

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