Under the Dome

Budget lets Lt. Gov. Dan Forest choose his guards

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest
Lt. Gov. Dan Forest N&O file photo

State lawmakers are moving to require a security detail for the lieutenant governor, but their plan isn’t an expansion of state trooper protection. It’s a long-standing practice for troopers to guard North Carolina’s No. 2 statewide elected official.

What’s notable is that the lieutenant governor would, by law, pick the people guarding him rather than taking who he’s assigned.

The Senate and House budgets create the Lieutenant Governor’s Executive Protection Detail. The officeholder, now Republican Dan Forest, would choose three members of the Highway Patrol to be part of the detail. He would be able to remove a member without cause.

Former Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton, a Democrat and now a community college president, said he was assigned two troopers for most of his term, with a third coming on when he ran for governor. The two lieutenant governors before him had protective details as well, Dalton said.

Decisions on who is part of a protective detail rest with the Highway Patrol commander, said Pam Walker, spokeswoman for the Department of Public Safety, and assignments are made “based on skills, training, and experience.”

Rep. Allen McNeill, an Asheboro Republican and co-chairman of the House budget committee on public safety, said the budget provision originated in the Senate and the House kept it intact. McNeill said he was not privy to all the reasons for it, but understood that when the Cooper administration came in, Forest’s troopers were replaced.

“Let him pick his own people,” McNeill said.

Jamey Falkenbury, Forest’s spokesman, said lieutenant governors in the past have been able to choose members of their detail.

“There were instances where we were beginning not to be able to decide who we were able to choose,” Falkenbury said.

Lynn Bonner: 919-829-4821, @Lynn_Bonner