Former NC public safety leader Shanahan had full calendar until end

cjarvis@newsobserver.comSeptember 5, 2013 


A December 20, 2012 photo shows then Governor-elect Pat McCory congratulating Kieran Shanahan after announcing Shanahan's appointment as secretary of the Department of Public Safety.


  • Shanahan’s business complications

    Former Department of Public Safety Secretary Kieran Shanahan said he left office because he had too many business interests to juggle.

    On May 11, The News & Observer reported that Shanahan had continued to do work for clients of his law firm since taking office in January. Shanahan said he had stopped handling criminal cases in state courts once he took office. He said the law firm had not represented clients before the General Assembly since he took office. He had also left the lobbying firm that he had started with his wife.

    On May 21, Shanahan announced he would no longer practice law and that he had taken a leave of absence from his law firm while he was a member of the McCrory administration. The next day, records show, Bob Stephens, the governor’s chief legal counsel, emailed Shanahan regarding the lobbying firm and his wife.

    Stephens had an appointment with Shanahan at the Department of Public Safety two days later, according to a text message.

    Although Shanahan had severed professional ties to his law firm, text messages show that in the week before he resigned, his assistant at Public Safety and his law firm were in communication, including over hosting summer associates for the firm at his house on the date he resigned.

    “While working at DPS, my law firm assisted me in handling my nonlegal business and family matters,” Shanahan said in a separate email to The N&O this week when asked about the communications.

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Kieran Shanahan’s unexpected resignation as head of the state’s public safety agency in July came as he appeared to be making long-term plans to remain in the job.

Three days before he resigned, efforts were underway to complete his clearance for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security so that he could be designated as the state official eligible to receive sensitive information in North Carolina about terrorist and other threats.

Also, the Office of State Budget and Management planned to have a “strategic” budget meeting with Shanahan on the day before he departed, which Shanahan indicated he would attend.

Those plans are mentioned in phone text messages between Shanahan and his administrative assistant, which The News & Observer obtained through a public records request from the state Department of Public Safety.

The scheduled plans underline just how abrupt Shanahan’s departure was after only seven months on the job.

Shanahan’s July 25 letter of resignation, and public remarks by Gov. Pat McCrory the same day, indicated Shanahan had decided to leave because he was unable to juggle his private business interests – law and lobbying firms and property management – with the responsibilities of running a 26,000-employee department. Shanahan also indicated he needed to support his wife in her advancing career in the U.S. Navy Reserves. Tina Shanahan was recently promoted to rear admiral based in Portsmouth, Va.

The resignation letter said the two men had discussed the possibility that he might not be able to leave his business interests when Shanahan accepted the appointment. McCrory told reporters they hadn’t discussed his actual resignation before July 25.

Shanahan and McCrory said they had decided that the end of July, when his resignation became official, was a good time to leave because the General Assembly had just concluded its session.

Shanahan, in an emailed response to The N&O’s questions about the text messages, reiterated those reasons without addressing the specifics.

“I maintained a robust, fully engaged schedule as DPS Secretary until the Governor and I agreed on a date for my departure,” Shanahan wrote.

As a whole, the text messages from March through July show Shanahan kept a routine schedule to the end. They reflect meetings with the governor, the governor’s wife, various committees and assorted ceremonies, along with public records requests and inquiries from The News & Observer for stories about Shanahan’s moonlighting legal work.

More than 50 text messages were redacted from the records taken from Shanahan’s and his assistant’s phones. The department said that is because they were not messages between Shanahan and the assistant.

There are no clues among the messages that he would resign. Rather, they show Shanahan focused on obtaining clearance from Homeland Security.

The federal Department of Homeland Security has a contact in each state who receives confidential information. In North Carolina, that has been the state’s secretary of public safety. Gaining that clearance – by filling out an extensive application form and detailed background check, along with submitting fingerprints – is important.

The former federal prosecutor met April 29 with a Homeland Security liaison at the federal courthouse in Raleigh, according to a copy of Shanahan’s calendar provided to The N&O in a previous records request.

On May 14, his assistant emailed “homeland questions” for his review, telling him to plan on completing it and having it typed and submitted by the end of the week.

On May 26, he sent a text to his assistant, asking her whether she had information on an upcoming annual Homeland Security conference. Two days, he later noted: “We need to get my homeland security clearance.”

On the afternoon of July 22, Shanahan’s assistant sent him a text that said she was working on getting the fingerprinting done. About half an hour later, she told him it would be done at the City-County Bureau of Identification in Raleigh, apparently on that date.

Three days later Shanahan resigned, along with Chief Operating Officer Edward “Sonny” Masso. There was no indication that their departures were related.

Jarvis: 919-829-4576