Ilario Pantano an author and a former Marine from the Wilmington area who ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2010 and 2012 has been hired as the new director/assistant secretary for the State Division of Veterans Affairs, reports Patrick Gannon of The Insider. Pantano starts Sept. 5.
Gannon notes that the memo from interim director Wayne Peedin to Veterans Affairs staff includes a short biography of Pantano but makes no mention that he was once accused of murder after shooting two unarmed Iraqis during the Iraq War in 2004.
Nor does it mention that he was vice chairman of Veterans for McCrory, last year.
Christopher Mears, a Department of Administration spokesman, told Gannon the job was an exempt, managerial position. It pays $90,000. It was posted publicly and Pantano was hired after Department of Administration Secretary Bill Daughtridge interviewed four finalists, Mears said.
The department released a second memo from Daughtridge sent Monday to Veterans Affairs employees. In it, Daughtridge said Pantano has 23 years of experience. He is uniquely skilled at designing and implementing veterans advocacy programs, building public and private partnerships, achieving financial targets, and streamlining operations, Daughtridge wrote.
Pantano, a New Yorker who moved to North Carolina in 2003, won a Republican primary in 2010 in the 7th Congressional District but lost to U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre, D-Lumberton, in the general election. He also sought the GOP nomination for the seat in 2012 but lost a close primary race to former state Sen. David Rouzer of Johnston County.
According to Peedins memo, Pantano enlisted in the Marine Corps at age 17 and served in Operation Desert Storm as an anti-tank gunner. He left the Marines to pursue a career in finance and media but later returned to the Corps after witnessing the 9/11 attacks.
During the Iraq War in 2004, Pantano shot and killed two unarmed, suspected Iraqi insurgents who had been detained by his platoon. He maintained that the men made an aggressive move toward him before he shot them numerous times. He was initially charged with premeditated murder and could have faced the death penalty, but a military judge ruled that the prosecution should not proceed after a dayslong, highly publicized hearing in 2005 at Camp Lejeune.
According to the memo, Pantano worked as a New Hanover County sheriffs deputy and currently volunteers as a chaplain and post-traumatic stress disorder counselor.
Pantano, 42, is married with two sons. He declined to comment.
Last day to preregister
Friday is the last day that 16- and 17-year-olds can preregister to vote in North Carolina.
Earlier this month, Gov. Pat McCrory signed a law ending the preregistration program as part of a larger voter bill. North Carolina is the first state in the country to end the program.
Meanwhile, Colorado has recently become the ninth state to enact a law allowing pre-registration for high school students.
To mark the end of the program, Common Cause North Carolina will hold a news conference on Friday at Raleigh Charter High School where students will register and 15-year-old students will discuss not being able to register in the future.
McCrory defends law
McCrory defended North Carolinas new election law to a national audience Thursday, saying the changes brought the state into the mainstream of election laws.
In a column published in USA Today, McCrory noted that while a week has been cut off the early voting period, the hours have been extended.
Going forward, early voting sites will now be open longer, and uniform days of operation will guarantee every voter has an equal opportunity to cast an early ballot, McCrory writes.
In reality, the legislation I signed into law keeps North Carolina in the mainstream of election law, not the fringes.
That is not how USA Today sees it. In an accompanying editorial, the paper wrote, that as part of a package of plainly discriminatory voting restrictions, North Carolina cut its early voting from 17 days to 10, ostensibly to save money. Considering that 70 percent of blacks in the state voted early last year, according to the ACLU, the real motive isnt hard to deduce.
Staff writer Rob Christensen; Pat Gannon of the NC Insider.com
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