Dome: McCrory's transition costs going to salaries so far

FROM STAFF REPORTSJanuary 9, 2013 

Pat McCrory’s transition costs total less than $200,000 so far, with the bulk covering salaries for his top aides. The figure is detailed in public records obtained by The News & Observer.

The Republican legislature gave him $660,000 for transition costs, double the amount of his Democratic predecessor. McCrory said he would try not to spend it all. Not all costs are accounted for yet, and the total doesn’t include any expenses related to the inauguration.

Four key aides made the most money: Thomas Stith, Kelly Nicholson, Charles Duckett and Pattie Fleming, documents show. Stith made $10,894 a month in the transition. Nicholson took home $13,895 a month. The total projected for transition salaries – $192,000 – goes through Jan. 18, suggesting the final number may be less because some staffers are moving to state payrolls before then.

More than a dozen staffers were hired at hourly wages, largely to work on policy initiatives, press operations and legislative outreach. Among them, the highest paid is Chris Walker, McCrory’s communications director who made $45.47 an hour.

Outside of salaries, the team kept expenses to about $4,200 through Dec. 31. The cost includes about $3,500 on hotels and meals for Tony Almeida and Johnathan Rhyne, two transition staffers who live outside Raleigh, records show. Walker said he didn’t know what hotel they stayed at in Raleigh.

The group spent about $622 on office supplies in the first six weeks of the transition.

Guice gets promoted

Former state Rep. David Guice will be the new head of the state Division of Adult Correction. Department of Public Safety Secretary Kieran Shanahan made the hire on Wednesday.

Guice, who has been section chief of community corrections, succeeds Jennie Lancaster, who left the post on Jan. 1.

Guice is a former probation officer. While still a lawmaker last session, he steered a massive piece of bipartisan legislation that revamped the state’s probation and parole systems, emphasizing prevention by keeping closer tabs on ex-convicts through community programs.

Guice is a Republican from Brevard.

“With his long term commitment to the state and public safety, as well as his expertise in Community Corrections, I am certain he will continue to serve the state and the department well in this extraordinarily important role,” said Shanahan, DPS secretary.

DENR boss makes some nervous

John Skvarla, the new head of the state’s environmental protection department, continues to make environmentalists a little nervous.

On Tuesday, he issued a mission statement cautioning that environmental science “contains a diversity of opinion” and that “all public programs and scientific conclusions must be reflective of input from a variety of legitimate, diverse and thoughtful perspectives.”

Skvarla has previously made comments in news media interviews that indicate he believes climate change is a controversy that remains unsettled.

Although most scientists think the earth is warming and doing so as a result of human activity, there are some who dispute both claims.

On Tuesday afternoon, Skvarla emailed employees of the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources introducing himself and praising the agency. He acknowledged DENR’s core mission remains protecting the environment.

He added that the department will be driven by three principles: customer service, balancing costs with benefits and making sure that diverse opinions are considered. He attached a copy of the mission statement, which calls for a “collaborative stewardship” among citizens, businesses and regulators.

Dustin Chicurel-Bayard, communications director of the state Sierra Club, had this to say: “It would be good to know how the new administration determines what is to be considered a legitimate scientific perspective. We hope this new directive is not picking up on last year’s debate on the sea level rise bill, where mainstream science was disregarded.”

Staff writers John Frank and Craig Jarvis

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