Under the Dome

NC Senate panel backs SBI director appointment

The N.C. Senate’s Committee on Nominations unanimously backed Gov. Pat McCrory’s appointment for State Bureau of Investigation director Wednesday morning.

The meeting was the committee’s first. It was created this year to conduct hearings on appointments that hadn’t previously required the legislature’s approval. Past SBI directors were hired by the attorney general, but McCrory and Republican legislators moved the agency to the Department of Public Safety – part of the governor’s administration.

Democrats criticized the change as a political move because Attorney General Roy Cooper is expected to run against McCrory in 2016.

For about 45 minutes, senators questioned McCrory’s pick to lead the SBI, longtime agent B.W. Collier. “I plan on being very engaged with the legislature,” Collier told senators. “I’ve been accused of having an office over here because I’ve been seen so often.”

Collier is already serving as acting SBI director. If his nomination is confirmed by both chambers, he’ll serve an eight-year term. Sen. Buck Newton, a Wilson Republican, said the new system is better because the SBI director can’t be fired anytime by a partisan attorney general.

Asked about the agency’s biggest needs, Collier said the SBI’s pay scale is too low and leads to turnover. He also said he needs more agents.

All senators on the committee backed Collier. “I believe B.W. is the right man for the job,” Newton said.