David Streifford: Problem is obvious

November 23, 2012 

Problem is obvious

Regarding the Nov. 13 letter “No ethics problem” from George A. Howard, it’s perfectly obvious why Howard, as vice chairman of the state Mining and Energy Commission, needs to defend commission member Ray Covington. Covington owns more than 1,000 acres of land in Lee County. He is a co-founder of NC Oil and Gas, an organization whose stated top goal is “We want this land drilled.” Defending Covington’s position on this commission is tantamount to defending the fox as guardian of the hen house.

If it isn’t bloody obvious that Covington has a conflict of interest, let’s read what the MEC chair reads at the start of each meeting:

“The State Government Ethics Act mandates that the Chair or agency inquire as to whether any member knows of any known conflict of interest or appearance of conflict with respect to matters before the Commission. Executive Order 34 requires any member to recuse her or himself from voting on any matter before this Commission which would confer a financial benefit on the member.”

Let’s not play a semantics game! The issue is not whether or not Covington is an honorable man. The only issue is whether his personal land holdings and leadership of NC Oil and Gas represent either a clear or apparent conflict of interest. This is a big ethics problem, Mr. Howard.

David Streifford

Cary

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