The Jan. 22 news article “Key aide: No recall of telling McCrory about side discussion” was patchwork reporting.
After having completed two hours of testimony at the General Assembly, I was standing in the hallway when asked by The News & Observer to respond to questions on a topic that I had already responded to extensively and amply with the newspaper and in public oversight forums.
I invited your reporter to come to my office on the following day for an interview, as my focus at that moment was elsewhere. The reporter did not take me up on that offer for an interview that day or the next.
The context of my comment in that hallway conversation with The News & Observer representative was that I did not recall “at that moment” all the details of an event that happened more than a year prior. I told The News & Observer that the governor told me he did not hear Graeme Keith’s comments. His claim is good enough for me.
There were many side conversations and interruptions at the Charlotte meeting, and this is a fact that I have consistently expressed to The News & Observer and others.
Therefore, it is not just unfortunate but also irresponsible that comments at an elevator became a headline that stated the governor and I have differing accounts about a private conversation. He and I had freely and candidly shared with The News & Observer during separate interviews our similar recollections of what transpired.
The article also stated, “Perry has said the memo, written by subordinates, is accurate.” Actually, what was said, twice, in a previous office interview on this topic with the same News & Observer representative was that it was “subjective.” The News & Observer was also present when I was asked about the memo at Governmental Operations.
I testified that the memo was a “subjective summary with some truthful points in it.” The newspaper’s reporting had comments patched together with other comments that were made in response to questions in other contexts. Many of the questions have not only been answered before but answered truthfully, completely and coherently.
For decades as an FBI supervisor and in recent years as secretary of public safety, I have had an open door to the media concerning questions about law enforcement administrative and operational matters. I believe the public has a right to know all issues involving law enforcement that can and should be discussed. But I also believe that representatives of the media have a strict obligation to report what is said and the context in which the words are spoken.
The facts are clear: Regarding the prison maintenance contract, every action taken by the governor and the public safety team, including me, was ethical and proper with operational and administrative policies followed.
Frank L. Perry
Secretary, N.C. Department of Public Safety
Editor’s note: In an Oct. 29 interview with The News & Observer, Perry confirmed the accuracy of each of three points in the memo. 1) Keith said “it was now time for him to get something in return” for his political contributions. 2) Keith said he had worked to persuade the legislature to give the secretary of public safety sole authority to expand private prison maintenance. 3) Keith wanted to take over maintenance at all 57 state prisons. The length limit was waived to permit a fuller response to the article.