Politics & Government

Cherie Berry’s ‘fall guy’ says he got no help from the top

Val Eucare left the Department of Labor last December, believing that Cherie Berry had made him her fall guy.

When The News & Observer found problems within the Wage and Hour Bureau, Berry blamed them on the division’s former management, namely former administrator Eucare. She brought in a new administrator in March and, in a recent interview, vowed to make improvements.

Eucare said he resigned Dec. 31 after being told he would be demoted to an investigator, three steps below the rank he had achieved after 13 years with the division. Eucare said he was in trouble after a November story in The N&O outlining the department’s failure to seek unpaid wages for several workers.

Reached at his home in South Carolina, Eucare said problems within the unit had mounted for years, and despite his constant requests for help to the department’s top brass, he got none. “With (Berry), Wage and Hour … is at the bottom of the totem pole,” Eucare said.

Eucare said that in his two years as administrator, he was left to fend for a unit that didn’t have the resources or the technology to be as effective as he wanted. An audit in 2013 showed major inefficiencies within the division; Eucare took over shortly after.

“There was so much red tape that you can’t get anything done in that place,” Eucare said.

The N&O story last fall revealed other flaws in how the agency reports its collection rates.

“She (Berry) didn’t like the embarrassment,” he said.

Eucare said he had routinely sent cases to in-house lawyers for review, but at every turn, he was told the cases wouldn’t be litigated. He said he eventually stopped referring them.

The final blow to Eucare’s career, he said, came last December when the State Auditor reported that one of Eucare’s deputies had been reimbursed more than $9,000 in 11 months to commute from her home to the Raleigh office. Eucare said he finds it implausible that agency leaders didn’t know.

Berry declined to discuss Eucare’s tenure and departure. When asked what he thought of Berry’s performance as commissioner, Eucare gave her high marks for work with the safety programs and elevator safety.

“I would say, for Wage and Hour, the numbers you look at speak for themselves,” he said.

Locke: 919-829-8927 or @MandyLockeNews