State Politics

Ethics panel reverses conflict caution for Cabinet pick

New N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper makes two Cabinet post picks

North Carolina natives, James Trogdon and Michael Regan were selected by the Governor to head up transportation and environment offices. Trogdon will be secretary of the Department of Transportation with Regan taking the reigns at the Department
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North Carolina natives, James Trogdon and Michael Regan were selected by the Governor to head up transportation and environment offices. Trogdon will be secretary of the Department of Transportation with Regan taking the reigns at the Department

The state Ethics Commission has revised its evaluation of Gov. Roy Cooper’s pick for environmental secretary, finding Michael Regan’s past employment does not pose a potential conflict of interest after all.

The panel evaluated all eight of the Cabinet members chosen so far, and determined that none of them have a conflict of interest that would prevent them from serving in their positions. The commission cautioned that three have the potential for conflicts. Letters evaluating each official were sent to the governor.

The commission initially flagged Regan because he owns an environmental consulting firm and was a former official with the Environmental Defense Fund nonprofit advocacy group. Subsequently, Regan dissolved his firm, prompting the commission to revise its letter.

In a news conference last week, Senate leader Phil Berger noted the letters, raising the potential for conflict as one reason the Senate should have the authority to approve the governor’s Cabinet selections. Berger says Senate review provides a more transparent process.

Cooper has sued to block that authority, which the General Assembly enacted in December after Cooper defeated the incumbent Republican governor, Pat McCrory.

Larry Hall, the secretary of the Military and Veterans Affairs Department, resisted appearing before a Senate committee three times, prompting the Senate to subpoena him. Hall appeared on Thursday after a judge declined to act on Cooper’s request to delay the subpoena. Two committees recommended him for approval; the full Senate will vote on Monday.

The three who have the potential for conflict are Dr. Mandy Cohen at the Department of Health and Human Services, Susi Hamilton at the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources and Tony Copeland at the Department of Commerce.

A Senate spokeswoman said Friday that a new schedule would be set for confirmation hearings. A court hearing on Tuesday could determine whether the Senate confirmation process will continue.

Video: Senate Bill 68 combines the current State Ethics Commission and State Board of Elections into a single board. It is headed to the desk of Gov. Roy Cooper, who has said he would veto it.

Craig Jarvis: 919-829-4576, @CraigJ_NandO

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