Under the Dome

McCrory halts special paid leave for SEANC leaders

There will be no more paid leave for high ranking members of the State Employees Association of North Carolina to attend their annual convention.

Gov. Pat McCrory signed an executive order late Friday eliminating the provision that he said gave three days of administrative leave to roughly 800 SEANC officers and delegates to attend the annual convention held in September in Greensboro.

McCrory said in a press release that the order will save $425,000 annually: “This executive order provides fairness and equity for all state employees while saving taxpayer money at the same time.”

SEANC lobbyist Ardis Watkins said she wished the McCrory administration had contacted SEANC before issuing the order.

“At the least we could have prevented him from publishing such wildly inflated and completely inaccurate numbers,” Watkins said. More than half of the 800 delegates are retirees or employees not eligible for administrative leave, she said.

The McCrory press release said the policy change was in response to the financial crimes committed by former SEANC director Dana Cope, who pleaded guilty in November to stealing more than $500,000 from the organization he led for 15 years. The Cope probe began in February after The News & Observer reported that he used SEANC checks and a phony invoice to pay a landscaping company that had done work at his home. He also used SEANC credit cards to pay for electronics, expensive clothes and eyebrow waxing.

“Even as allegations mounted against the former executive director, the current President of SEANC held firm that that there was no wrong-doing,” the press release said.

President Ross Hailey conducted the botched internal investigation of Cope in January and found no wrongdoing. In his speech at the convention, Hailey decried the newspaper’s exposure of Cope’s wrongdoing as “attacks by The News & Observer.”

The executive order sets up at least one meeting annually with SEANC representatives and the governor.

Joseph Neff: 919-829-4516, @josephcneff