State lawmaker, agency chief spar over NC unemployment board

dranii@newsobserver.comJune 4, 2014 

— The controversy over who will make future appointments to the state Board of Review, which rules on appeals of unemployment board decisions, has gotten personal.

Rep. Julia Howard, a senior Republican lawmaker from Mocksville, and Dale Folwell, head of the N.C. Division of Employment Security and himself a former Republican legislator, harshly criticized each other in comments to reporters following a House Finance Committee meeting Wednesday morning.

Howard charged that remarks Folwell made during the session were “very disrespectful” to the committee.

Folwell contended Howard was angling to get herself appointed to the Board of Review. Howard denied the accusation.

The three-member Board of Review was created by a 2011 law that called for board members to be appointed by the governor. But, for a variety of reasons, then-Gov. Bev Perdue never appointed board members and Gov. Pat McCrory didn’t appoint the board until December. Last fall Sen. Bob Rucho, R-Mecklenburg, publicly complained McCrory was dragging his feet on the appointments.

Last month, a legislative oversight committee endorsed an unemployment bill that included a provision to take away the governor’s sole authority to appoint the board. Instead, the provision called for the leaders of the Senate and House and the governor to each appoint one member. Moreover, the bill would stagger the board members’ terms, with the term of one member set to expire at the end of this month.

That provision was opposed by McCrory. Folwell spoke against the measure on the governor’s behalf last month.

That provision was pulled from the unemployment bill before the Finance Committee endorsed the bill by a voice vote Wednesday morning. But Howard said afterward that the deletion stemmed from some concerns about the language and that a similar provision would be inserted into the bill when it moves to the Senate.

During the committee meeting, Folwell complained his agency had been "bullied" with regard to the Board of Review. His remarks were limited by the committee chairman, Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, who disallowed discussing a provision that wasn't in the bill before the legislators.

"I thought that was totally out of place," Howard said later of Folwell’s remarks. "I would have never said that in a committee like this. It was very disrespectful."

"But," she added, "it is what it is."

Folwell said of his "bullied" comment that Howard "has constantly told me that I got this job because of her" and that the Board of Review issue "continually comes up."

Howard "continues to try to get herself appointed to the best part-time job in North Carolina's history," Folwell said of the Board of Review. "It pays $120,000 a year."

Folwell said Howard sought an appointment to the board last year, but Howard said she hadn't.

“Nor would I," she added.

Last year, Howard said, she did file a government application required for appointments "in case something comes up," but it wasn't for any particular position.

"You have to have your information on file," she said.

Howard later said in an email message that “just for the record, I have never, ever said (Folwell) got the job because of me.”

The governor’s office had no immediate comment on the dispute.

Ranii: 919-829-4877

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