Under the Dome

State workers' reviews head back to Earth

August 23, 2010 

State employees are slipping.

As we reported last week, a 2008 review of state employee performance ratings showed that they were inflated, with 81 percent scoring above average. Well, in 2009, ratings were down slightly, with only 79 percent scoring above average.

The ratings are not tied to raises, which tend to be awarded by the legislature on an across-the-board basis. Managers have few perks to reward high performing employees, so the often-subjective performance reviews tend to be overwhelmingly positive, officials have concluded.

So given the fact that the state has a rating inflation problem, declining employee performance is actually a good thing.

"The last two years' ratings have been less positively skewed than has been the case for the prior 19 years," the Office of State Personnel reported in 2009.

So here's to bad reviews.

Pretty good marks

U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan is a regular in her district, according to a count of town-hall meetings by Congress.org.

The site counted meetings in which members of Congress made themselves available to constituents for questions.

Hagan, a Greensboro Democrat, didn't make Congress.org's top five, but she was included among a list of lawmakers who regularly meet with constituents.

Hagan's events tended to be smaller, round-table style sessions, but still fit Congress.org's definition of a town hall.

At the top of the site's list was Wisconsin Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold, who is holding meetings at a rate of one every three days.

A year after the summer of contentious town hall meetings, members of Congress are still hearing from constituents angry about health care. Hagan got a dose of that last week when an angry mother of two fussed at her at an event in Kernersville about the health care law Hagan voted for.

Ballantine bankrupt

Former Republican gubernatorial nominee Patrick Ballantine has declared bankruptcy.

The Wilmington Star-News reported last week that Ballantine, a former state senator and Wilmington resident, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The paper reported that he listed assets of $819,937 and liabilities of $6.2 million.

Ballantine was the party's 2004 nominee for governor. He lost to Gov. Mike Easley.

The newspaper reported that his debts include $3 million from a real estate development in Ocean Isle Beach and claims on his Waste Hauling Services.

Ballantine said he was a victim of the real estate bust.

"The real estate market collapsed, banks failed, lending froze, and the great recession came crashing down on all of us," he told the newspaper. "My family is just one of the millions of families" going through bad times.

By staff writer Benjamin Niolet

ben.niolet@newsobserver.com or 919-491-4401

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