Following criticism for refusing to allow agency employees to be interviewed by private investigators hired by the legislature, Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration is requesting a public committee meeting where agency representatives would answer questions about the Atlantic Coast Pipeline approval process.
Cooper chief of staff Kristi Jones wrote to the legislative oversight committee probing the issue last week.
“We have provided you the requested documents, answered your questions and appeared before your committees numerous times on this subject, yet you insist that we answer even more questions from private Republican investigators who should be paid for by the Republican Party and not North Carolina taxpayers,” Jones wrote. Her letter was first reported by WRAL reporter Travis Fain on Twitter.
The Republican chairmen of the committee looking at the pipeline approval and a mitigation fund negotiated by the Cooper administration, Sen. Harry Brown of Onslow County and Rep. Dean Arp of Union County, responded to Jones on Friday.
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“Thank you for saying that public employees are permitted to speak in open committee hearings,” they wrote. “We expect public hearings on this matter will be necessary in the future. In the meantime, we remain gravely concerned about your order prohibiting public employees from voluntarily speaking to independent investigators in a forum of the employee’s choosing as part of the legislature’s oversight investigation into your administration.”
The letter does not provide a date for a committee hearing, arguing that “we will not alter the independent investigation simply because the subject of this investigation wants to dictate the terms of how it proceeds.”
The letter from Brown and Arp also provides an indication of where the committee intends to focus going forward. “The documents you provided to the legislature appear to reveal that your business partner asked you to personally intervene with Duke Energy on a matter impacting his solar company profits that is unrelated to the ACP,” they wrote. “You allegedly then met one-on-one with Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good and discussed your business partner’s request and the ACP permit.
“Several weeks later, as alleged, when your General Counsel informed you that he intended to sign a critical document related to the ACP, you asked, ‘Where are the solar boys on their deal?’ The deal with the solar boys was not yet complete. Finally, it also appears that the critical ACP agreement and the permit were delayed for weeks until the solar deal providing your business partner with increased profits was on more certain footing because of your intervention.”
The documents referenced by Brown and Arp were the subject of a WBTV News report last month that described pressure from the governor’s administration to get Duke Energy to complete a separate agreement with solar companies. Cooper told WBTV that the solar discussion was a separate, unrelated issue.
But in a text message, Cooper senior advisor Ken Eudy told general counsel William McKinney “not sure we should sign ACP agreement unless solar deal works.”
“Ok. Don’t disagree,” McKinney replied.