Under the Dome

Dome: Labor Day + lawmakers return = formula for more protests

September 1, 2013 

The weekly “Moral Monday” protests ended when the General Assembly left town. But protesters return this week, thanks to two coincidental events that make it hard for them to pass up: Monday is Labor Day and Tuesday is a special veto session of the legislature.

Consequently, the NAACP, the state chapter of the AFL-CIO and the Farm Labor Organizing Committee will have a news conference Monday that the Rev. William Barber II of the NAACP calls the 16th installment of the Monday protests. Expect to hear the worker point of view on earned income taxes, unemployment and other legislation.

That’s at 11 a.m. at the AFL-CIO office on Hillsborough Street in Raleigh. Organizers there will also announce “an action” planned for Tuesday, when lawmakers return to town to consider the governor’s veto of bills on immigration and drug testing welfare recipients.

Moeser’s mistaken

UNC School of the Arts interim Chancellor James Moeser last week thanked State Auditor Beth Wood for uncovering problems with an employee who had misappropriated a laptop computer for her son’s personal use. He also promised new procedures to prevent such state property misuse in the future.

“We believe that the fact that we have had only one financial audit finding over the last 22 years validates UNCSA’s serious efforts toward ensuring properly functioning internal controls,” Moeser wrote to Wood.

Of course, Moeser, the former UNC-Chapel Hill chancellor, is a short timer at the public arts conservatory in Winston-Salem. He’s been the interim leader for just a month. So Dome can forgive him for not remembering to mention UNCSA’s past problems on investigative audits.

UNCSA has been slapped in two previous investigative audits in the past decade. In 2003, an audit found that the school did not follow surplus property policy during a dispute with a contractor. In 2004, an audit tracked irregular financial transactions through the school and its foundation. The investigation found that thousands of dollars were diverted to secret accounts and spent on leases of luxury vehicles and country club dues.

The former auditor, the late Ralph Campbell, minced no words when he compared the school’s 2004 actions to “the debacle at Enron where money was shuffled between related entities to avoid detection.”

Kudos for benefits changes

The cuts in unemployment benefits have not been popular, and have been one of the focuses of the Moral Monday protests.

But now the principal authors are getting some love. Rep. Julia Howard of Mocksville and Sen. Bob Rucho of Charlotte, both Republicans, have been named the 2013 recipients of the Unemployment Insurance Integrity Award given by the UWC – Strategic Services on Unemployment & Workers Compensation. UWC is a national association that represents the business community on unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation issues.

“The North Carolina Chamber and its members commend the leadership of Rep. Howard and Sen. Rucho in reforming our state’s broke and broken unemployment system,” said Lew Ebert, chamber president. “We are pleased to see them be recognized for their hard work in shifting our focus from unemployment to re-employment.”

The legislature passed a bill early in the session that cut benefits to unemployed workers and slightly increased unemployment taxes on employers. Legislators said the changes were needed to deal with what was then a $2.5 billion federal debt on unemployment insurance.

Staff writers Craig Jarvis, Jane Stancill and Rob Christensen

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