We thought for a while there that the executive committee of the State Employees Association of N.C. had reconfigured a phrase from the old movie, “Love Story.” The most famous phrase from the film was, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”
SEANC leaders appeared to be conveying the message, “Being on the SEANC executive committee means never having to say you’re sorry ... at least until you’ve been completely, utterly discredited.” Now an apology has been offered to two individuals who dared to come forward with questions about SEANC Director Dana Cope, who has resigned.
This committee’s performance has been ridiculously bad. The 11-member committee backed Cope after embarrassing revelations in a News & Observer report about his spending habits and phony invoices and about Cope’s liberal use of SEANC credit for what appeared to be personal expenditures on everything from travel to eyebrow waxing.
SEANC leaders first called the article “not true” and labeled courageous whistleblowers Betty Jones and Art Anthony as “unethical.” At one point, some in the group even tried to talk The N&O out of running a story. Leaders also said they had conducted an investigation and found no problems with Cope’s performance.
Now, SEANC President Wayne Fish, a food services manager at a state prison, says uh-oh. “We apologize to Mrs. Jones and Mr. Anthony for mischaracterizing the motivations for their actions. Furthermore, we appreciate their willingness to stand up for SEANC and protect the organization that we all love and are proud to serve,” he said in a statement.
Fish should have been gone from his post weeks ago, along with all the members of SEANC’s executive committee.
It wasn’t that long ago that Fish vehemently defended Cope as he was criticizing the whistleblowers. And the investigation that the SEANC leadership said had cleared Cope? No details about it have been released, and no details are likely forthcoming.
Tom Harris, the in-house attorney for SEANC, says he concurs with the apology. He was one of the ones trying to dissuade The N&O from running the articles that led to Cope’s resignation. Cope now is represented by two prominent Raleigh lawyers, and SEANC is trying to get back the severance package it paid him.
The 55,000 SEANC members surely don’t buy the apology as being sincere in the least. The executive committee has been under justifiable fire as it has become clear it was little more than a Dana Cope fan club. Its oversight must have been virtually nonexistent as Cope solidified his power and used his position to criticize prominent officials such as State Treasurer Janet Cowell, who has done a good job overseeing the state pension fund, and Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman, who as Wake clerk of court criticized a SEANC program through which state employees could buy items on credit. SEANC endorsed Freeman’s opponent for DA.
Ironically, Freeman has rightly called for an investigation of Cope’s use of SEANC credit.
Apology? Too little, too late.