Under the Dome

Dome: Speculation swirls around Shanahan’s departure

July 28, 2013 

MCCRORY.122012.TI

Kieran Shanahan during a 2012 press conference.

TAKAAKI IWABU — tiwabu@newsobserver.com Buy Photo

Public Safety Secretary Kieran Shanahan’s abrupt resignation last week has the rumor mill spinning. Shanahan, who was appointed by Gov. Pat McCrory seven months ago, wrote a letter to the governor saying he couldn’t juggle the job with his outside business interests, which include real estate holdings and also a law firm and a lobbying firm. His resignation takes effect Wednesday.

Shanahan had been disentangling himself from those enterprises but decided it was unworkable. But his resignation giving less than a week’s notice – and it being unclear if he will be at work any day this week – has left some people skeptical.

Some political pundits have suggested his departure has to do with helicopter use. But DPS told The News & Observer on Friday that Shanahan only took one ride in the agency’s helicopter and provided a log to confirm it: an April 15 flight to the Statesville airport and back accompanied by two senators and a department legislative liaison. That also coincides with an entry in Shanahan’s calendar, which The N&O obtained earlier this year.

Shanahan periodically traveled the state, sometimes accompanied by Edward “Sonny” Masso, his chief operating officer, who also resigned abruptly the same day. At times they were promoting the governor’s safe schools initiative.

Questions have also been asked about a $10,000 a year raise he permitted for an assistant to the State Highway Patrol’s commander, at a time of budget austerity. In April, the human resources department at DPS reclassified the employee and jumped her salary from $36,359 to $45,878. But it’s not known if that was a problem with anyone – other than rank-and-file employees who haven’t had a raise or have been laid off.

McCrory on Friday insisted Shanahan’s departure was just about his business interests and wanting to support his wife’s career advancement in the Navy Reserve. Shanahan has not been reachable for comment.

Hagan alleges dirty tricks

Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan’s campaign is complaining about dirty campaign tricks even as her allies are doing similar things to her potential Republican opponent in Raleigh.

An opposition researcher from a firm called America Rising came to the North Carolina freshman senator’s open office hours Wednesday armed with a video camera, reports BuzzFeed. The tracker asked Hagan for her opinion on McCrory’s budget proposal. Such a move apparently breaks the unwritten rule of no tracking in the halls of Congress.

No such rule – unwritten or otherwise – exists in the North Carolina legislature, home to House Speaker Thom Tillis, Hagan’s most prominent Republican opponent. Unidentified operatives with video cameras record legislative meetings and the legislative sessions, and advocacy groups are known to film interactions with lawmakers, including a video showing Tillis “running” from state NAACP President Rev. William Barber.

Jordan Lake rules OK’d

Among the storm of last-minute legislation in the closing hours of the General Assembly’s long session last week, the House passed the Jordan Lake rules bill on Thursday night and the Senate approved it early Friday, sending it to the governor.

The bill leaves in place current rules governing environmental protections at Jordan Lake and delays for three years rules that have not yet been adopted. The state will pay for a water clean-up demonstration project involving mechanical devices.

Molly Diggins, state director of the Sierra Club in North Carolina, issued a statement after the final approval saying the three-year delay will pollute the lake further.

“We have a plan in place to clean up Jordan Lake,” Diggins said. “But now lawmakers in Raleigh have needlessly delayed that plan.”

She said the pilot project, at a cost of nearly $2 million, will not stop pollution from flowing into the lake, which provides drinking water for more than 300,000 people in the Triangle.

Legislative marathon ends

The Jordan Lake vote came at the end of a marathon day. As bleary-eyed senators waited for the final gavel to adjourn, Sen. Pete Brunstetter, a Republican from Winston-Salem, stood for a final crack.

“Sen. (Ellie) Kinnaird referred to Jordan Lake as an impaired body, and I think this Senate can now identify with Jordan Lake,” he said.

And at 1:43 a.m., the gavel cracked and the Senate went home.

Staff writers Craig Jarvis and John Frank

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