Opinion

Speaker Moore’s outside work merits Wake DA’s review

NC House Speaker Tim Moore’s legal contract with start-up raises questions

Recent reports have raised questions over whether North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore has mixed his legal work with his legislative responsibilities.
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Recent reports have raised questions over whether North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore has mixed his legal work with his legislative responsibilities.

Serving in the North Carolina General Assembly is a part-time job and that’s especially true of House Speaker Tim Moore’s approach to it.

Part of his time, he runs the state House of Representatives. He also serves as Cleveland County attorney. And he also works as a private attorney serving more than 100 clients.

Moore’s ability to multitask is impressive. It’s also cause for concern. How does the House Speaker, one of the three most politically powerful figures in the state, keep all his work from overlapping?

He doesn’t get any help — or hindrance — from state ethics laws. There’s no requirement that lawmakers who are also attorneys disclose their clients, even when they receive substantial payments on matters that could involve state legislation.

Moore, a Cleveland County Republican, insists that he’s meticulous about avoiding conflicts, but his actions suggest he’s created at least the appearance of such in two matters.

The News & Observer’s Dan Kane reported recently on how Moore was retained to do legal work for a developer who benefited from an unusual bill sponsored by Moore.

The special legislation overrode the City of Durham’s objections to a south Durham mixed-use land project and boosted a high-end residential community next door. One of the developers involved later hired Moore for four months at $10,000 a month to review federal business regulations that could affect a start-up pharmaceutical company he co-founded, an area of the law in which Moore does not appear to have special expertise.

Meanwhile, an anonymous complaint to the Wake County district attorney’s office has drawn attention to Moore’s work in 2012 on behalf of the North Carolina Bail Agent’s Association. Moore, who became speaker in 2015, was then chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee.

The Bail Agents Association, which collects fees for training those in the bail bond business, paid Moore a $10,000 “legal retainer fee” at a time when it was seeking to block a for-profit company from also offering the training. Moore told Kane he worked for the association for that sum of money in early 2012, but said the allegations in the letter are “full of lies.”

A few months after Moore worked for the association, legislation was inserted into a gutted Senate bill, which gave the association sole control of bail bond training. The bill passed easily, but Moore excused himself from voting on it.

“At no time did I do anything relevant to that bill, because I would have a conflict,” Moore said.

A court later struck down the law after the for-profit company challenged its legality.

Wake District Attorney Lorrin Freeman has decided these interactions between Moore and his clients need a closer look.

“Certainly, the allegations in both of these (cases), if they bear out to be true, seem to suggest a pattern of the use of public position for personal gain,” she said.

This is only a review by the Wake DA, not a criminal investigation. But it’s good to see an outside authority assess whether North Carolina’s House speaker is juggling part-time jobs or making one job part of another.

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