The State Employees Association of North Carolina, a long-time critic of state Treasurer Janet Cowell, has called for her resignation – one way or another.
SEANC reported on Monday that its board of governors has unanimously approved a resolution urging her either to resign from the two corporate boards she recently joined or, alternatively, to step down from her position as state Treasurer.
Cowell issued a statement defending her decision to join the pair of corporate boards and indicating that she has no intention of ending her board service or resigning as treasurer.
Although the State Ethics Commission has ruled that serving on the boards doesn’t violate the state Government Ethics Act, SEANC contends that Cowell’s role as the sole fiduciary of the state’s $86.6 billion pension fund – and as chair of the state banking commission – conflicts with her new role on the boards of two publicly held companies.
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Ethics experts also have criticized Cowell for joining the corporate boards.
“Janet Cowell has a choice to make,” Ross Hailey, SEANC’s president, said in a statement. “Either she can finish out the last eight months of the job the state’s voters elected her to do free from outside influence, or she can resign and focus on making millions in the private sector. She can’t do both.”
Cowell is being paid a $50,000 annual retainer and restricted stock valued at $150,000 for serving on the board of Morrisville e-commerce technology company ChannelAdvisor. She also is being paid $75,000 per year plus $25,000 in restricted stock by James River Group Holdings, a specialty insurance company that is based in Bermuda but has a U.S. headquarters in Raleigh.
Cowell isn’t seeking re-election to a third term in November.
“I have worked hard during the last seven and a half years as Treasurer to enhance accountability in the office,” Cowell said in a statement. “In that spirit, I vetted any opportunities with the state Ethics Commission and voluntarily recused myself from any potential decision-making that involved these companies, neither of which are in the state pension funds.”
The candidates seeking to succeed Cowell, Democrat Dan Blue III and Dale Folwell, a Republican, have promised not to serve on corporate boards if they are elected. Blue initially said he would consider such opportunities “on a case by case basis,” but altered his stance when a controversy erupted over Cowell’s board seats.